With the sweltering heat of summer coming on strong, many of us are hitting the waters of Woodruff Lake* (and beyond) to cool off and have a little fun. But taking your dog out on the water requires many of the same safety precautions you would afford your friends and loved ones, plus a few more.

Snakes, pests, parasites, and more are also a very real threat to your dog’s health and safety when playing in the water. And, as always, prior planning and prevention is key in protecting your pet from the potential dangers that await them. The following tips can help keep everyone safe, happy and healthy while playing on the lake.

Look Before You Leap

The waters of Woodruff Lake, and indeed any lake, river, or stream, are home to a wide variety of creatures, not all of which are pet-friendly. Wildlife ranging from snakes and squirrels to bobcats and wild hogs can be found along the banks of the Woodruff and can pose a serious threat to the safety of your pet. Yes, even a squirrel. (Sharp claws and the threat of disease make squirrels not-so-dog-friendly.)

As such, it’s vitally important that your pet is current on his or her vaccinations before heading to the wetlands. Likewise, be certain that your pet is well trained and will obey your commands without question. If you’re uncertain about your dog’s ability to do so, keep him or her on-leash as much as possible.

The Unseen Threat

In addition to your pet’s regular vaccinations, it’s wise to consult your vet on what other preventatives may be prudent for your adventures as well.

The waters of the wilds play host to a variety of nasty parasites that may wreak havoc on your pet’s health. A common parasite for your dog (and even you) to pick up from the water is Giardia, a common, microscopic intestinal parasite that is typically contracted by drinking contaminated water in the wild. This parasite can cause extreme diarrhea, gas, abdominal discomfort, nausea and vomiting, and is really just not pleasant in the slightest. In an effort to keep your dog safe from this evil parasite, be certain to have plenty of fresh, clean drinking water available for your hound throughout the day, so he or she isn’t tempted to drink from the natural water source.

Another “unseen” threat found on the waters of Alabama is heartworms. Carried by our natural nemesis, the mosquito, heartworms can be fatal for dogs (and both risky and expensive to treat, if possible at all), but are easily preventable. If your dog is not current on his or her heartworm preventative, please call us for an appointment.

Water Safety and PFDs

To any water enthusiast, the term PFD immediately translates as Personal Floatation Device. But, for responsible pet owner, PFD translates to Pet Floatation Device as well.

Not all dogs are natural swimmers, and often a PFD is the best way to keep your dog safe while at play in the water. The PFD is not all that different from the life jackets we wear; the only difference is that they are designed to fit our pets and their natural buoyancy.

When choosing a life jacket for your four-legged friend, here are a few key considerations:

  • Fit. Make sure the PFD fits securely. It’s best to have a professional check the fit in the store, before you buy.

  • Lifting handles. To make retrieving your pet safer and easier, seasoned boaters will tell you that a back handle is best, especially in rough waters.

  • Comfort. Check to see where straps and buckles fall to make sure they won’t cause your pet any discomfort.

  • Color. Choose a bright color to make it easier to spot your dog in the water. Reflectors are also wise if you’ll be on the water after dark.

Given that, and with an estimated 40,000 dog deaths reported annually from drowning, the PFD is an invaluable piece of life-saving gear for any pet-friendly water outing, regardless of the breed.

With a little prior planning and common sense, spending a day or two at the lake with your dog is a perfect way to beat the heat and have a little fun this summer. And, we might just see you there.