A Single Dog in a Swimming Pool for Eight Minutes…
Its like a fish story. Every time you hear it, the number in the second half of that analogy seems to grow and grow. I remember the first time I heard it I was told “A dog in a pool for 8 minutes has the same impact on water chemistry/quality as 20 people in a pool for 8 hours.” I think the highest number I have heard was 100 people for 12 hours, and that was fairly recent. Without conducting the proper research, I can’t tell you which is true – if any at all. I can tell you that, as a Pool Operator, maintaining a pool that a dog swims in is not without its challenges.
“Dog Hair!!! Clogs the filter, reducing circulation, sticks to pleats of cartridges, gets stuck in clumps in the skimmer basket, clouds up the water, puts demand on chlorine, phosphates…” – Andrea Lynne, Adventures of the Pool Girl
Then, of course, there is the threat of waterborne zoonoses (diseases of animals that people can get). Dogs do carry several things that people can contract. The majority of these, just as illnesses that are spread person to person at recreational water venues, are easily and quickly inactivated in properly maintained swimming pools. Still, the Health Department does prohibit a dog from not only swimming in a public pool, they are not even permitted to be within the confines of its barrier (fencing). No matter how this introduction may sound – I am a huge fan and I think watching dogs swim about the backyard pool, or jumping in to retrieve a ball, is awesome. We should encourage folks to find unique ways to spend time with their pets and simply unplug from the day to day drama so many of us face. I personally don’t mind spending a little extra time cleaning the pool each week if it means a four-legged fur baby will get to enjoy the water as well, but all of this left me wondering…
How Safe is the Pool for the Dog? ?
To find the answer I reached out to Anna Ligman DVM, long time friend and owner of The Veterinary Center at Hunter’s Crossing in Gainesville, Florida. Here is what Dr. Ligman had to say:
Summer is here and most people have already experienced their inaugural swim in the family pool for the season, but should your four-legged family members have been included in the fun? Let’s highlight some of the benefits and risks of pool time for Fido.
Swimming is a low-impact, joint friendly workout that may help your pet to sustain or build muscle mass without the concussive forces associated with running or jumping. However, if your pet is fearful of water, you should never force your pet into the pool as stress and anxiety will likely negate most health benefits. Also, always monitor your pet around the pool as drowning is a real threat- especially in young puppies, elderly pets, pets with impaired vision, and in pets that suffer from seizure disorders.
Similar to people, some dogs will experience skin dryness, irritation, or allergy secondary to contact with pool water. Chronic exposure to pool chemicals can strip natural oils from your pet’s skin and result in flaking, dryness, and red, irritated skin. Damage to the skin barrier can progress to skin infections and potentially worsen underlying allergic skin disease. Pets can also show irritation of the eyes with increased redness, tearing, discomfort, and possible scratching at the eyes. Additionally, trapped moisture within the ears may lead to painful ear infections. It is very important to develop a regular routine of rinsing your pet thoroughly with water and cleaning the ears after each swimming session.
video courtesy of laura mickas & brian slate
Pool water ingestion can cause a range of clinical symptoms, depending on water quality and filtration. In an unbalanced pool, high chemical levels can cause GI irritation resulting in vomiting, diarrhea, and decreased appetite. Insufficient chemicals and filtration can increase the risk of viruses, bacteria, and parasites that may potentially infect people and animals.
video courtesy of kelly & charlie sudano
What about the effect of your pet on your pool? Pets usually carry small amounts of fecal material on their fur(in addition to other debris). Having pets in your pool will likely increase the amount of chemicals necessary to balance your pool’s delicate equilibrium- not to mention the added debris and hair. Additionally, sharp pet nails can cause damage to pool liners, costing considerable money in repairs.
According to the American Kennel Club, the following dogs are most commonly associated with being strong swimmers (though we know there are quite a few others that should be on the list ?):
- American Water Spaniel
- Boykin Spaniel
- Chesapeake Bay Retriever
- Curly-Coated Retriever
- English Setter
- Flat-Coated Retriever
- Irish Water Spaniel
- Labrador Retriever
- Lagotto Romagnolo
- Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
- Portuguese Water Dog
- Spanish Water Dog
- Standard Poodle
Dr. Ligman added: Overall, swimming can be a fantastic, healthy activity for your pooch. Just keep in mind that having your dog in your pool may necessitate extra pool care time and extra after-pool pet care time.
What do you think about letting dogs swim in the pool?