Everybody loves cooling off on a hot summer day by taking a dip in the pool. And this doesn't just apply to humans. Animals are drawn to the water in just the same way as us humans when it comes to cooling off. But the question of allowing pets in the pool raises an array of additional questions for pool operators. Is it safe for a dog to swim in your community's swimming pool? Are doggie swim days something we as operators should be advocating? Are swimming pools safe for dogs? In this article we are going to discuss the following information in regard to doggie swim days:
- Health Benefits of Doggie Swim Days
- Health Risks Of Doggie Swim Days
- Protocols To Follow With Hosting A Doggie Swim Day
- Protocols To Follow After Hosting A Doggie Swim Day
Health Benefits of Doggie Swim Days
Dogs need exercise and one of the best ways to provide that exercise is by allowing Fido to take the plunge and paddle around in the water. Just like with humans, water provides a very low impact way to recreate, get the heart rate up, and have a ton of fun! There isn't a veterinarian who wouldn't agree that swimming for dogs is a great activity, so long as the dog can swim and doesn't have any anxiety surrounding water activities. But just because the act of swimming is healthy for a dog doesn't make swimming in a swimming pool a healthy choice for your pooch or for other swimmers.
Health Risks of Doggie Swim Days
Though dogs are wonderful pets who provide endless amounts of love and companionship, dogs can also pose quite a health risk to our swimming pools. Dogs bring with them a vast array of foreign contaminates that wreak havoc on the delicate chemical balance within our pools. Even a small amount of dogs in the pool can obliterate the chlorine residual in your pool. This chlorine is crucial in the elimination of communicable diseases. And it is good to note that there are a variety of diseases that can be transmitted from dogs to humans:
- Cryptosporidium (extremely chlorine resistant)
- Giardia (very chlorine resistant)
- Ringworm (a contagious fungal skin disease)
- Sarcoptic Mange
Theses illnesses can be spread to humans through the water that comes in contact with a dog who is a carrier. But, dogs are also susceptible to a myriad of other dog-to-dog risks and illnesses such as:
- Canine distemper
- Canine hepatitis
- Kennel cough
- Brucella canis
It is good to note that chlorine will inactivate many of these issues, but as stated earlier, maintaining sufficient chlorine residual is difficult, if not impossible with a large amount of dogs in the pool. But chemical balance isn't the only issue that a dog swimming a pool can pose.
Dog fur can also cause major problems in regard to our filtration equipment. Course hair can lead to clogs and backups within out filtration systems which can lead to poor, unhealthy pool water after the doggie swim day is over.
Conversely, our swimming pools can provide a health risk for our dogs. Chlorine, though a great disinfectant, can cause a dog's naturally oily coat to dry out, causing dry skin, rashes, and other uncomfortable situations for your dog. But, as mentioned before, swimming in a pool that contains zero disinfectant can cause problems of its own.
Should I Host A Doggie Swim Day At My Property?
Clearly, doggie swim days provide somewhat of a conundrum when it comes to whether or not we should host one at our property. In the opinion of the highly trained professional instructors and experts on staff at Pool Training Academy, there are far more health and safety risks than benefits when it come to hosting a doggie swim day. There are a ton of options for dogs when if comes to taking that summer dip, lakes, rivers, streams, and even the ocean. In these settings, so long as the water quality is deemed safe, dogs can play and splash around to their heart's content without the fear of skin and coat issues related to chemicals inside the swimming pool. The sheer size of these bodies of water also provide another layer of mitigation in dog-to-dog illness transmission. As they say, the solution to pollution is dilution.
Now there is even the option to take your pooch to a pet swimming pool. Businesses are popping up all over that provide a healthy and safe swimming environment designed exclusively to dogs.
In the end, swimming pools are designed for human swimmers, not four-legged friends. But these natural bodies of water or pet pools aren't always readily available where our properties are located. As such, doggie swim days have become a huge marketing tool that businesses will use to entice renters, owners, etc. to a given property. And if you find yourself operating the pool at one of these properties, it is good to make sure you are equipped to host a doggie swim day as safely as possible.
Protocols To Follow With Hosting A Doggie Swim Day
1. Schedule Your Swim Day After The Last Day of Human Swimming
By scheduling your doggie swim day after the last day of human swimming, this will help lower the risk of animal-to-human transmission of illness.
2. Keep Your Chlorine In Check
It is recommended that you raise your free chlorine levels to 2ppm at least 24 hours prior to the event and maintain a minimum of 1ppm of chlorine during the event itself. This will lower the chance of illness transmission within the water. Please Note: It is still entirely possible to spread illness on the deck of the pool be it surface transmission or dog-to-dog transmission even if proper chlorine levels are maintained.
3. No Humans Allowed
Under no circumstances is a human allowed to be in the water with their dog. This means that the dog must be confidently trained to swim and have no anxieties around water to participate. Dogs must also be able to enter and exit the pool on their own. This may require a ramp or device that allows them to exit the pool.
4. Watch For Fur
Keep all drains, skimmers, and other drain outlets free of hair. Some will choose to disable the pump from running during the event in order to keep the hair out of the drain outlets, but this practice is highly discouraged. Without circulation, it is impossible to safely maintain proper chlorination levels.
5. Keep Tabs On Who Is Swimming
All participants should be registered tenants, owners, etc. and have a copy of their pet's vaccinations. Any puppies or dogs who's owners cannot show the proper vaccination documentation should not be allowed to participate.
6. Pre-Pool Showers Are A Must!
Hose off dogs in order to remove any feces, urine, or excess skin oils before entering into the pool.
7. Properly Trained Staff
It is recommended that staff members who are trained in animal CPR and other safety training be on site for the entirety of the event.
8. Canine Fecal and Spill Response
Dogs may poop or have other bodily spills in the pool, on the deck, or the grassy areas around the pool during the event. You will be required to act accordingly to a fecal incident. Click here to learn more about what that response should look like.
Post-Doggie Swim Day Response
You will want to be sure to raise your free chlorine levels extremely high to inactivate any pathogens that may exist in the water after the doggie swim day. You can find those chlorination level requirements here.
2. Clean All Surfaces
Make sure you sanitize the deck and any other areas where fecal remnant might exist.
3. Close For The Season
It's crucial that you close for the season right after a doggie swim day due to the unfriendly environment found within the pool after the event. It also goes without saying that you will want to make sure to drain the pool and fill it with fresh water at the beginning of the next season. Starting with fresh water is always the best way to ensure your water is as healthy as possible.
What Else Do I Need To Know?
Operating a swimming pool is simply not simple, especially when hosting a doggie swim day. To safely operate and maintain an aquatic facility it truly does take more training than you can find on YouTube or read in an article like this. Thankfully you have options to help you become more knowledgeable about how to keep your swimmers safe. One of these options is taking a CPO Class with Pool Training Academy. Becoming CPO® Certified is one of the best ways to truly become a pool expert. And in many states this certification is required to operate a pool or spa. Pool Training Academy is the #1 CPO® Certification provider in the world and our classes are specially tailored to be fun, engaging, and most of all relevant to your needs. Click here to sign up for the next class in your area or to take a completely online course and learn everything you need to know to make your pool the best it can be.
*Please note that much of the information in this article is provided by the State Of Indiana's Health Department. This information is scientifically based and has been vetted by leading health authorities.