Thursday, June 24, 2010

Pet Pool Dangers

I'm sure there are many dog owners out there with pools or those that take their dogs to their friends house who own a pool. Well, just as you have to be careful with kids and pools, you MUST keep a close eye on your dogs as well.

But all dogs know how to swim right? Why would they have trouble if they fell in a swimming pool? Well, for the most part they all know how to swim. The danger actually comes when the pool has steep sides and does not have a shallow area or easy access to get out. This is of most concern in small breed dogs and puppies, they get tired, cant get out and drown.

For those that must know, when water is inhaled the natural coating of the lung surface (surfactant) is compromised and it allows for the air sacs within the lungs (alveoli) to collapse. Collpased lung tissue can't replenish oxygen in your blood or get rid of carbon dioxide that has built up. Many severe metabolic changes occur in the body. Inflammation of the lungs can also occur and the tissue becomes leaky resulting in more fluid building in the lung (edema) and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

Most pool accidents are witnessed but some are not although it is easy to suspect when you find your dog soaking wet and having trouble breathing. Sometimes coughing is noted, they can be in shock, have changes to their behavior and they can even be in a coma. A recent study of fresh water drowning revealed that level of consciousness at admission was not associated with outcome and showed full recovery even of animals presenting in a coma. So call your veterinarian immediately and take your pet in!

Depending on your dogs condition they may be too unstable to do further tests and must be placed in oxygen immediately, sometimes a ventilator is needed if they are not breathing on their own. If stable enough blood samples to check metabolic status and chest radiographs will be obtained. If your pet seems ok, it is recommended to keep your pet hospitalized for at least 24 hours of monitoring as things may worsen and the initial tests may not show the real extent of the damage.

Not too long ago I had the first pool incident of the year. Although the owner did not observe the incident, she found her new puppy wet and having difficulty breathing. Chest radiographs were consistent with what is expected in a near-drowning. He was placed in an oxygen cage as part of his treatment and luckily survived. I saw him just last week to finish his vaccine series and he was doing great!

I had one client bring her puppy in for vaccines and told me that her puppy was playing and fell in the pool. She was swimming around but the tiny little thing couldn't get out. Luckily the owner was there and took her out of the pool. To avoid this, I recommend that my clients who own pools purchase a floating ramp that they can connect at one end of the pool and teach their dog what it is and how to use it. It can save their life, especially for the little ones!

What about just keeping the backyard door closed? Well some have doggie doors for obvious reasons, sometimes the phone rings and we stop watching our pets (and kids), the pool party conversation becomes very interesting or sometimes we don't even realize someone followed us out and we close the door on the way in. I have left my poor dog out only to wonder why the house was so quiet and who was barking outside!

So when it comes to pools be very careful with your dogs access to it when unsupervised and I recommend you make sure they can get out or make adjustments so that they can! Nothing is more sad than an accident that could have been prevented!