Dry Drowning: Could it Happen to Your Dog?

You’ve probably heard the shocking news about young children dying from “dry drownings;” but did you know that your canine is also at risk of dry drowning?

If your dog loves to swim, keep reading to learn more about this unusual medical phenomenon.

Most dogs love swimming and if left on their own, would probably never come out of the water. But when they become fatigued or unable to get out of the pool, dry drowning can become a real, life-threatening danger.

What makes “dry drowning” so unusual is that it can happen hours – or even days – after swimming!

What IS Dry Drowning?

While the term “dry drowning” is an outdated medical term, it is still a present-day danger. Dry drowning involves inhaling or swallowing water which:

• Irritates – and fills – the lungs hampering the dog’s ability to breathe; or
• Causes the dog’s vocal cords to spasm and close the airway making breathing increasingly more difficult (in this case, the water does not even make it into the lungs).

Dry drowning can also happen with swallowing sand which can then become impacted requiring life-saving surgery.

Symptoms of Dry Drowning in Dogs

• Struggling to breathe
• Coughing, hacking or choking
• Clear to frothy red spit-up
• Wheezing
• Drooling
• Crackling sound from the chest
• Irregular heartbeat
• Bluish skin and gums
• Extreme lethargy (due to lack of oxygen to the brain)

Suspect Dry – or Near – Drowning?

Remember, dry drowning – and any related complications – can happen hours to days after swimming!

So, keep a very close eye on your dog if you observe unusual behavior or any of the symptoms listed above. If you must leave them unsupervised, take them to your vet for observation and immediate medical intervention if necessary.

Avoid Dry Drowning: 7 Steps

Prevention goes a long way in protecting your pup from a disastrous dry drowning with the following steps.

1. Teach your dog how to swim and exit the pool.

  • Make sure your dog learns where the steps are (marking it with a pot or cone) and how to use them. This simple step will help your dog save his own life if you can’t get to him fast enough.

2. Keep very young puppies and inexperienced dogs away from the water.

3. If you’re not sure your dog is a strong swimmer who can get out of the pool on his own, have them wear a well-fitted, dog life jacket, preserver or vest to keep them safe.

4. Always make your dog wears a life jacket when boating.

5. If you have a pool, install a sturdy fence (that your dog can’t jump) and a locking gate to keep your dog out of the pool when you can’t supervise him. If you’re swimming in lakes or the ocean, leash your dog to control his access to the water especially as he tires.

6. Keep your dog away from strong tides and currents which could pull and hold him under the water.

7. Use only low-profile toys in the water like a bumper or flexible Frisbee which allows your dog to open it’s mouth less which decreases the chances of inhaling water!

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