Summer means swimming for many pet owners and their adventurous pups, but unless you have access to a freshwater lake or stream, you’re most likely going to be swimming in a pool. While pools are generally free of the bacteria and diseases that could be lurking in natural bodies of water, they do play host to a number of chemicals, including chlorine.
Chlorine is important in keeping residential pools free of microorganisms like bacteria and algae. Without it, pools can get dirty and unsafe quite quickly. Although there are other methods for keeping pools safe and clean, chlorine is the most abundant and usually quite cost-effective.
But is chlorine really safe for pets? Can it result in skin or coat problems due to its harshness after a summer full of swimming? Here’s what you should know.
Chlorine’s effect on skin and fur
Some dog’s skin can be sensitive to harsh chemicals, meaning continued access to chlorinated pools may cause minor irritation. This generally happens when dogs have been swimming in chlorinated water for extended periods of time or if they have very sensitive skin. Skin irritation could lead to dryness and itchiness that persists for a short while after getting out of the pool.
Chlorine may also dry out your dog’s coat after prolonged exposure, stripping it of its natural oils. This can make the fur more brittle and dull looking.
Dry skin and fur could cause your dog to scratch or over-groom to relieve itchiness, potentially leading to hair loss, skin infections or hot spots. However, these side effects aren’t a major threat.
In fact, protecting your dog’s skin and coat is quite easy. First, limit the amount of time your dog swims in chlorinated water each day to prevent its skin from becoming irritated from prolonged chlorine exposure.
Once your pup gets out of the pool, give it a thorough rinse down with fresh water. This will rinse the chlorine from its skin and hair, helping to maintain its quality and keep it free of irritants.
If your dog’s fur is susceptible to drying out, you can even condition it deeply every so often throughout the summer to ensure it maintains good moisture in the face of drying chlorine. Additionally, providing your dog with lots of vitamins and minerals, including skin- and hair-boosting omega-3 fatty acids, can help keep your dog’s skin and coat looking and feeling healthy.
Omega-3 fatty acids are also useful in alleviating itchiness caused by irritated or dry skin, in case your dog does spend a little too much time in the pool this summer.
Are there other health risks of chlorine?
Because chlorine can be a potent chemical, many pet owners also worry about the risks chlorine can pose to their dog’s health. Is chlorine very toxic? Can it cause chemical poisoning?
Swimming in a pool with chlorine should be generally safe for dogs, as long as the chemicals in the pool have been properly balanced. During pool maintenance, owners should carefully measure and apply chlorine and other pool chemicals according to the instructions to prevent improper dilution.
When these instructions are followed, chlorine is usually diluted to safe levels for both people and pets, and it should not cause toxic poisoning in your dog.
If pool chemicals are not measured appropriately, they could cause irritation to the dog’s skin, eyes and airways. Chlorinated pools can release chlorine gas if the dilution is not appropriate, which can affect your dog’s ability to breathe easily.
However, even though pool water is generally safe, you should not allow your dog to lap up tons of water when it is thirsty. Always encourage your dog to drink clean, fresh water from a bowl instead of pool water. The chemicals in the pool could make your dog sick to its stomach if enough water is ingested.
Additionally, dogs that swim often are more likely to develop ear infections. Some people believe this is caused by chlorine; however, this is often due to the continuous presence of moisture in the ear. Make sure to clean your dog’s ears with a cotton ball after swimming to prevent ear infections.
Ultimately, the biggest threat to dogs when it comes to swimming in chlorinated pools is a lack of pool safety. Undiluted chemicals should always be locked away where pets can’t reach them. Safety covers should be in place when the pool is not in use. And, when swimming, your pup should always be supervised to prevent drowning or injury in the water.
By following general pool safety tips and properly maintaining your pool’s chemical balance, your chlorinated pool should be a source of fun—not safety risks—for you and your pup.