As you prepare for the middle of the summer and plan your Fourth of July festivities, a pool is probably somewhere in your immediate future. 

The dog days, they call them. And this veterinarian knows why they get such a bad rap. Eight years ago I lost my first French bulldog to drowning. Ever since, I’ve been hyper-aware of the dangers pools pose...and extra-determined to make sure as few pets suffer the fate my Marcel did the day he died. 

All it takes is the knowledge that this tragedy could happen to you, too...and a few friendly tips to help keep tragedy as far off your radar screen as possible. Here goes:

#1 Fence your pool when you know you can’t supervise. Alternatively, keep dogs inside if you know you can’t be vigilant.

#2 Teach your dogs to swim, if possible. Enlist the help of a trainer should you have a dog that’s especially fearful of the water. But know that some dogs cannot swim at all (bulldogs and barrel chested breeds, especially). 

#3 Consider a life vest for those who absolutely cannot swim––or when they’re in unfamiliar surroundings. Even if you know your pool is OK, you can’t know when your friends’ might prove a unique hazard (which is what happened to Marcel). But never rely on the vest for 100% safety (they’re not perfect).

#4 Invest in a Safety Turtle. This water safety tool means that an alarm rings when a collar your dog wears hits the water. Keep the “base station” ringer close by. This way, even when everyone else is hitting the water, you’ll know when your non-swimmer does, too.

#5 Dogs, pools and alcohol don’t mix. Keep your dogs safely indoors when you’re not in tip-top shape.

#6 Beware hot tubs. Even these can be a problem, especially when your pets aren’t used to them. One of my clients lost a cat this way. So always keep them covered when not immediately in use. 

#7 Try out a SkamperRamp. This helps pets get out, especially when they fall in at the less familiar deep end.

#8 Have your vet check out your dog’s vision every year. Though you can keep tabs on this, too, know that vision loss is a prime contributor to pool drowning.

#9 Take extra care with some pets. Older pets with arthritis, puppies, short-legged dogs, pets who suffer seizure disorders and those who are debilitated for any other reason should receive special attention around the pool.

#10 Know how to perform CPR! It can save lives––more so with near-drowning situations than with other cardiopulmonary arrest situations. 

Dr. Patty Khuly