What to Do for Your Pet After a Near Drowning

A previous blog post focused on keeping your pets safe around pools. This time we want to share what you should do if your pet does manage to fall into the pool, despite your best safety measures.

Many pet owners mistakenly believe that dogs and cats are born knowing how to doggie paddle, and while many do have an innate ability to swim, the trouble is being able to get out of a pool or hot tub. Teaching your pet to swim to the steps of your pool is a vital precaution to take, so that your pet doesn’t swim aimlessly around the pool, attempting to pull itself up the sides, and tiring out in the process. Exhaustion is usually always the cause of drowning.

Puppies and wide chested dogs with short muzzles are some of the most vulnerable to drowning. If you find your pet unresponsive in the water, try not to panic. Resuscitation is possible if rescued in time. It’s best to try to resuscitate while someone is driving you to the vet, if you can do so safely.

The first step is to clear the pet’s airway of water. Puppies and small dogs can be held upside down to allow water to drain from the lungs. For larger dogs, lay them on their side and elevate the upper body so that the water can drain out of the nose and mouth.

Check for a pulse. If the heart is beating, but your pet is not breathing, start artificial respiration immediately. Gently close the pet’s mouth and extend the pet’s neck to open the airway. Cover your pet’s nose with your mouth and exhale until you see the pet’s chest rise. Repeat until the pet is breathing on its own and then transport to your veterinarian.

If the pet does not have a pulse, pet CPR can be performed. Here is an informative video teaching the basics of pet CPR. In addition to the instructions contained in the video, the American Red Cross recommends laying deep-chested dogs on their back to perform CPR. They also offer certification in pet CPR.

But what if your pet has fallen into a pool and suffers a near drowning? It's important to remember that your pet may still suffer some serious health related after effects of a near drowning. Your pet has likely inhaled water into its lungs, and even after coughing it up, or after observing water draining from the nose or mouth, there could be residual water remaining in the lungs, which could lead to pneumonia.

Secondary drowning has been known to occur, even up to three days after the initial near-drowning. Your pet may seem fine, but you should continue to watch for signs of lethargy, coughing, difficulty breathing, distress, or anxiety. Symptoms can progress very rapidly, due to a lack of oxygen. We recommend any pet that has experienced a near-drowning be evaluated by your vet. X-rays can determine if fluid in the lungs remains and your pet can be started on antibiotics to prevent pneumonia, if needed.

Always keep an eye out for your pets when they’re near any body of water. And for more safety tips, be sure to read the first blog in this two-part series.

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