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Written by leading veterinarians to provide you with the information you need to care for your pets.

The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.

Pet Safety Precautions for Lakeside Living

Every summer, I make an annual pilgrimage to western Massachusetts to visit my parents and extended family. My father and mother live on a lake where I’ve been going for the majority of my childhood and adult years. It’s a place where I can really detach from the hectic reality associated with my busy life and clinical practice in Los Angeles.

The lake is also a site where my canine companion, Cardiff, greatly enjoys summering. Sometimes, in seeing the sheer glee Cardiff exudes upon bounding through the vast expanse of lush grass and chasing the boat-made waves, I feel a twinge of guilt that we lead such an urban existence in West Hollywood (then, reality hits when I recognize that suburban life isn’t really for me).

In venturing to the humid and buggy New England summertime climate from our seemingly perpetual dry and low-insect burdened environment of southern California, I have to take a variety of preparations in ensuring that Cardiff doesn’t contract regionally specific illnesses or incur any major trauma (or death).

Preventing Arthropod-Borne Disease

Extra precautions are made to prevent flea, tick, and mosquito bites, as the timing of the application of Cardiff’s topical anti-parasite medication (Revolution) is vital in ensuring he stays highly protected.

As it’s only an hour from Boston’s Logan Airport to the lake, Cardiff needs to be treated at least 24 hours in advance so that the medication appropriately absorbs through his skin and is less likely be partially or fully washed off.

Additionally, I keep Cardiff under close observation with his activities primarily being running at the lake’s edge or on the well-manicured lawn or swimming. He’s kept away from the dense foliage that lines the property and no deep-woods excursions are taken. If needed, Cardiff stays on leash to control his behavior and access to potentially injurious situations.

Avoiding Water Borne and Wildlife Associated Infection

Much like the time we spend on the Pacific Ocean’s edge on Southern California’s beaches, Cardiff’s inherent water-loving tendencies really shine at my parent’s lake.

The majority of our outdoor time is spent participating in water-related activities, including (seemingly) obsessively chasing waves, retrieving a golf ball from the shallow water, and pursuing any recreational swimmer who appears in Cardiff’s mind to need saving.

Fortunately, the underground spring-fed lake is extremely clean, as evidenced by the large population of healthy fish and plants. So I’m not overly concerned that Cardiff will contract a water-borne parasite or bacteria from consuming lake water during his sessions of play. Additionally, my parents strive to keep geese and other wildlife off of the property, which also benefits Cardiff’s heath as it reduces the likelihood that microorganisms will be encountered and cause infection.

I also bring plenty of medication, nutractueutical (supplement), and other ammunition should digestive tract ailments (Metronidazole, pre-/probiotic combinations, etc.), skin inflammation/infection (topical ointments, MultiRadiance Laser, etc.), or even a recurrence of his Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (Azathioprine, Prednisone, Doxycycline, Famotidine, etc.) occur.

Averting Lake-Associated Trauma and Death

As Cardiff is so enthusiastic about his “lake watch” responsibilities, it’s often challenging to take his energy down a notch to prevent fatigue, injury, and even an accidental drowning. Just when he seems snuggled into a towel for some much needed and occasionally enforced rest, he’ll suddenly be called to action by the splashing waves.

His natural swimming tendencies also frequently emerge, as he’ll follow any person down the lake’s declining shoreline and stroke along at a comfortable pace.

Additionally, Cardiff has a high interest in partaking in all Stand Up Paddle (SUP), kayak, or boat outings. Leaving him behind is not an option, as concern for his safety isn’t always as highly prioritized by others. Once aboard, Cardiff is prone to falling off or wanting to jump to the neighboring person’s watercraft (if available, especially on SUP or kayak).

As a result of his intense attraction to water, I frequently outfit him with a snugly fitting and pet-appropriate life vest (Outward Hound version from Kygen). It keeps him completely afloat and even has a convenient handle so that he can be easily picked up and brought back onto watercraft. The vest also fits him so well that his ability to partake in his wave chasing responsibilities isn’t inhibited, though his ability to urinate occasionally is.

This was the seventh year I’ve brought Cardiff with me on this trip. Fortunately, he’s never suffered from any significant illness or injury as a result of careful planning and precautionary measures. How do you prepare your canine (or feline) companion for out-and-about adventuring?

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Cardiff in his safety vest.

pet water safety, dog swimming

Swimming on the lake. Dr. Mahaney on right, Cardiff on left.

Dr. Patrick Mahaney


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