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Casper Critters

Swollen Creeks, Fast Rivers Pose Danger for Dogs

07/01/2011 - By Gayle Irwin

Summer's heat can make a running river appear refreshing for people and pets, however, racing waters pose dangers for both. Therefore, pet owners, BEWARE!

Contrary to what many people think, not all dogs swim or swim well. Dogs can and do drown. Even the best of swimmers, like Labrador retrievers, can lose their life in the water, especially a swollen, fast-moving river or stream.

In the early part of May, when rains fell and snows melted in the Rocky Mountains, a lab fell into a creek near Salt Lake City, was swept away by the cruising current and drowned. Owners need to keep their dogs on a leash when walking near racing water and keep their dogs close at hand so the animal is not as apt to fall or jump in.

Like many people, most dogs enjoy a great swim – it's good exercise and helps alleviate some of the summer heat. However, swimming is also dangerous, especially when the water is high as it has been this year. As snows continue to melt in the higher elevations, our state's rivers and streams may continue to pose hazards to both people and pets. So, when you're camping, hiking or fishing this summer, keep your dog close at hand and restrained so that you control how close s/he gets to that fast-moving water.

Lakes and ponds have their own dangers, including blue-green algae, chemicals and motor oil. Take special note if you see blue-green algae or chemical pollutants in the body of water, and hose off your dog or bathe it when you get home. Boating with your dog can also cause concern. Just as people should have personal floatation devices (PFDs) [and remember, children are required to wear them while in the boat!] PFDs for dogs are also available.

According to outdoor gear specialists REI, the U.S. Coast Guard does not certify canine PFDs, however, these doggie life jackets can be life savers. The device should fit snugly so your dog cannot twist, step or swim out of it, and it should have easy-release buckles and a handle so you can lift your four-legged friend out of the water if necessary.

Pools are another area of concern. Although not many Wyomingites have installed swimming pools like folks in Arizona and California might, some people do have pools here. Therefore, if you have a pool and own a pet, again, be cautious. Make sure your dog doesn't swallow chlorine and make sure your dog knows how to get out of the pool – be sure there are steps into and out of the pool and that your dog knows where those steps are located. And, keep the pool covered when adults are not around, both for the safety of your pets and your children.

For more information and tips on dogs and water safety, visit

http://www.everydayhealth.com/pet-health/dog-and-water-safety.aspx or talk with your veterinarian.

Gayle Irwin is a freelance writer and a speaker in schools and libraries. Her publication credits include two children's books about her blind dog, Sage and two stories in different Chicken Soup for the Soul books. She also has an ebook with tips and encouragement for blind dog owners available at www.blinddogbook.com. Learn more about Mrs. Irwin and her stories and presentations at www.gaylemirwin.com.

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