Pet First Aid: Drowning in Dogs

Claire Dunling

Throughout the warmer months, most dogs love nothing more than swimming to cool off. What’s the harm in that you may ask? Well, with increasingly unpredictable weather conditions from gale-force winds to extreme rainfall – the safety of water can change drastically in a short amount of time. Regardless of whether you live by the sea or around a network of waterways and rivers, being alert to and prepared for a potential drowning in dogs situation is wise so read on to find out how your pet can be safe around water.

drowning in dogs

While sea swimming is the most likely activity where you’ll have to consider strong currents, swimming in large rivers and waterways or canals can be dangerous even for the strongest of swimmers. It’s especially important to be cautious after heavy rainfalls – the surface of the water is often misleading to how fast the water is passing.

If your dog loves a paddle in the sea, be wary of strong currents which can pull your dog further out to sea. Most beaches that are known for dangerous tides will have flags on the beach to signify if the water is safe is swim in. it’s also worth noting that many beaches in the summer only allow dogs on a lead, this is usually between May and September so check out if your desired beach is dog-friendly before setting off!

What to do if your pet is drowning

Wild animals

Meeting a wild fish whilst taking a dip may be fairly uncommon around the British Channels but could become a surprising hazard for your pet. Fishes such as Pike can grow enormously and are known to attack small dogs. It has also been reported that dogs are occasionally attacked by river rats if threatened. If your dog gets into a scuffle with an aquatic being and becomes panicked, this can also pose as a danger. Always keep a close eye on your dog while swimming in rivers, lakes or the sea.


Unfortunately, it isn’t uncommon that unwanted items are disposed of in rivers and lakes. Cans, bottles, plastic bags, shopping trollies and plenty of other sharp and dangerous items find their way into UK waterways. Your dog can easily become tangled in rope or string and be unable to break free. Another hazard is cutting their paws or coming into contact with dirty needles.

Pet First Aid: How to Help a Drowning Dog


Any dog can become tired mid swim but having enough energy to reach shore can be another matter entirely. Older or much younger dogs can tire out easily. It’s important to keep an eye on them to check they aren’t out of their depths.

Swimming is a great form of exercise ad even better way to cool down in that fluffy fur coat! But it’s imperative to be cautious around bodies of water. Check the conditions of the water, is it clear or murky? Is the water flowing faster than usual? Always keep your eyes on your dog when they’re enjoying a dip. Anything can change in a matter of minutes. Most importantly? Enjoy this time in the great outdoors as much as your four-legged friend is!

This article is for guidance only and if you have any concerns about your pet you should always seek the advice of a qualified vet.

If in doubt contact your veterinary practice

And always keep your vet's phone number handy - just in case!