Proper Lighting, Heating, and Humidity for Iguanas

Lighting & Heating

Hot rocks are not recommended for iguanas! Not only are hot rocks inadequate in providing heat, but they are dangerous. There have been numerous cases of iguanas obtaining serious burns from hot rocks. Heat and light should come from above, since in the wild iguanas bask in the sunlight. Ordinary incandescent light bulbs work great to provide both heat and light. You do not need to purchase expensive “basking bulbs” from the pet store. These are no different than ordinary bulbs.

What wattage of bulbs you will need depends upon the ambient air temperature of the room and the size of the enclosure or basking area. Do not guess when it comes to temperature! It is imperative that you install a few good, reliable thermometers at various places in the enclosure to give you an accurate temperature readout. You can also hook up dimmer switches to your lights, which will allow for minute temperature adjustment.

Hooded clamp fixtures work well for basking lights, come in a variety of sizes and can be positioned in various ways within an enclosure. Be sure to use fixtures that are designed to accommodate the bulb wattage you are using. If you are using high wattage bulbs (150-250W), you must use a fixture with a ceramic socket to prevent fire hazard. Be sure to place the fixtures in such a position that your iguana cannot climb on or touch them.

If you place the fixtures inside the enclosure, it is a good idea to add a wire “bulb guard”, such as you see in the photo below, to prevent your iguana from coming into direct contact with hot bulbs. Bulb guards can be made from hardware cloth or other safe types of wire. If you have a smaller iguana that is likely to climb up on and/or cling to the light fixtures, consider placing the fixtures outside of the enclosure.

This simple bulb guard was made from a small piece of hardware cloth, which is held in place by the simple guard that came with the fixture. The edges of the wire have been bent under so that no sharp edges are exposed.

Nighttime heat – Like all other animals, iguanas must have a day/night cycle. We recommend a 12:12 or a 13:11 cycle. This means that you must shut your iguana’s lights off at night for 12 or 13 hours, or better yet, have them on a timer that turns them off at night and on again in the morning so you do not have to remember to do it. This allows the iguana to regulate behaviors and rest peacefully when necessary. Not providing a day/night light cycle can stress an iguana, causing behavioral changes such as feeding, pooping and unnecessary aggression.

Iguanas can and should have cooler temperatures at night, but they still need ambient air temperatures to fall no lower than 75-78ºF. How then, do you provide best heat lamp for iguanas, if you use light bulbs to heat the enclosure? There are a few methods of providing nighttime heat. One of the best is to use Ceramic Heat Emitters (CHEs), which screw into an incandescent light fixture and give off only heat, not light.

These are available in different wattages. It is possible to have a set up where the lights come on in the morning and turn off at night, and the CHEs come on at night and turn off in the morning. Another possibility is to use a low wattage CHE 24 hours a day in addition to the daytime lights. Since iguanas can and should have cooler temperatures at night, a CHE of the appropriate wattage should provide adequate nighttime warmth.

A word of caution about CHEs – they get very hot and can be fire hazards and/or dangerous to your iguana if not used correctly. Be sure to use them only in fixtures with porcelain or ceramic sockets, and keep them away from dry wood or fabrics that are flammable. Be sure to place them in a way that will not allow your iguana to come in contact with them, because their surfaces get very hot and can cause severe burns.

Use only the appropriate extension cords that can handle the amount of wattage you plan to plug into them. A CHE can be an efficient and safe source of heat for your iguana, but only if you use them properly. Be sure to read all of the directions and cautionary statements supplied by the manufacturer. Be safe, use your common sense, and above all, be careful – not only with CHEs, but with other heating and lighting devices as well.

In addition to CHEs, there are other methods of providing nighttime heat, such as letting your iguana sleep on a human heating pad wrapped in a soft towel. It can be dangerous to use heating pads for long time periods unsupervised, so CHEs are probably the better way to go.Some people use nighttime blue or red light bulbs to provide warmth at night. Some iguanas do not mind this at all, while others are bothered by the light and have trouble sleeping. You may want to watch your iguana carefully for signs of stress if you decide to try these nighttime bulbs.

In addition to these heating methods, many herp supply stores carry items such as “pig blankets”, radiant heat panels, and heat tape, which may be appropriate nighttime heat sources for your iguana’s enclosure. It is a good idea to explore all options to help you decide what will work the best for you.

UV Light

Iguanas require a source of UV radiation, specifically UVA and UVB. UVA is used by the iguana, just like humans, for a general sense of well-being. UVA is necessary to keep the Iguana happy and feeling good. UVA is easily supplied to your iguana through window glass or your standard room lighting. Providing a source of UVA like window exposure or room lighting will satisfy the UVA requirements for your iguana.

UVB is the tougher of the two to supply. There are many fallacies concerning UVB sources and it is very important that you know quite a bit about it and how it works. Being a diurnal creature (awake in the daytime), iguanas are basking reptiles that require a strong source of UVB (in a very specific range) in order to properly synthesize Vitamin-D, which allows them to absorb calcium from their digested foods.

Without proper calcium metabolism, the iguana’s system will begin to use calcium from the bone structure in order to satisfy the requirements that keep their nervous system functioning properly. This leeching of calcium from the bones weakens them over time and causes a serious and often fatal set of illnesses including nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism, fibrous osteodystrophy, rickets, osteomalacia, and metastatic mineralization, all relating to the common term Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD). To better understand the way UVB is used by your iguana, please read Calcium Metabolism in Iguanas by Dominick Giorgianni.

Remember – the absolute best source of UV light is the sun. When using natural sun exposure be sure to follow these guidelines:

UVB from natural sunlight is filtered out by most window glass and significantly reduced by obstructions like screen or mesh.

Preferably the ambient temperatures outside should be close to optimal. Do not leave your iguana outside if temperatures are lower than 80 degree and higher than 100 degrees.

Be sure your iguana is secure in its outside basking location, preferably a basking cage. Unprotected or unsecured iguanas can fall prey to birds and other wildlife or run off and are rarely ever found again. You should supervise the iguana while outside until you are sure there is no possible way him it to get harmed, injured or escape.

Be sure to provide plenty of shade for the iguana while outdoors. Iguanas need to thermo-regulate to protect against excessive heat. Half of the basking cage should be sunny, the other half well shaded, allowing the iguana to move from sun to shade at will.

Be sure to provide a good source of water during the basking time. Iguanas can quickly dehydrate and will need access to clean water at all times while outdoors.

Provided there is a shaded area, the iguana will stay at a comfortable temperature and the amount of sun exposure will be determined by the iguana. As little as an hour a day will provide the iguana with all the UVB it requires.

The use of artificial UV bulbs or lamps in your iguana’s basking area is strongly recommended – especially if you live in an area where your iguana cannot bask in the sun every day. UVB lamps are a hotly debated topic and the better educated you are, the better off your iguana will be. It is important to remember that not all UV lamps are created equal! In this regard the old adage, “Let the Buyer Beware” is very pertinent. Many ill-advised or unscrupulous companies will advertise that their lamps provide the proper levels of UVA and UVB for basking reptiles. While these lamps can provide a source of useable UVB, they vary greatly on the amount and how long it will last.

There are currently two types widely available of lamps that will emit enough UVB light to be beneficial to your iguana: Fluorescent tubes and Mercury Vapor lamps. Both of these types of UV lights can be purchased at pet stores and can be ordered from herpetological suppliers such as those listed on our Companies and Stores page.

Fluorescent Tubes

By far the most widely used and accessible type of UV bulb or lamp is the fluorescent tube. Just like natural sunlight, these tubes need to be set up and used responsibly in order to provide your iguana with the life-sustaining amount of UVB it needs to live a long, happy and healthy life. Several brands of fluorescent UVB lights are available, but not all brands are of equal quality. The Green Iguana Society recommends the ZooMed Iguana Light 5.0 (also called Reptisun 5.0).

This bulb has been on the market for some time and has been shown through studies to provide large enough amounts of UV light to keep your iguana healthy. We recommend that you mount two ZooMed 5.0 bulbs in a high-quality fluorescent fixture to get the best results. Ordinary “full-spectrum” fluorescent bulbs (such as plant-grow bulbs) do not produce adequate amounts UVB! Only bulbs especially made for reptiles do. When selecting a fluorescent lighting solution, please be sure to choose one that is specifically made for basking reptiles and all is rated for high UVB emissions.

There are several factors that are important to remember when setting up fluorescent lamps:

The fixture should be no more than 8” from the basking spot where the iguana spends its time basking. UV wavelengths only travel up to 8″ or so from the bulb, so if your iguana sits any further away than 6-8″, it will not get the benefit of the UV light.

Light, heat and ambient air temperatures should all be balanced and monitored to ensure a safe environment for your iguana.

Tube output should be periodically tested using a Solarmeter 6.2 Spectral radiometer. For more information about the Solarmeter 6.2. Solarmeters are also available through Carolina Pet Supply.

Without a meter, it is best to replace the tubes every six-nine months because after this time, the UV degrades to the point that it is no longer useful, although the bulb still produces visible light. One bulb changing schedule that works well is to put fresh bulbs in around the time when real sunlight basking time is becoming scarce, such as in the fall for those that live in northern climates. The bulbs are then at their full strength when your iguana is relying more heavily on the artificial UV source. Then, when the bulbs’ UV output in dwindling in the spring and summer, your iguana is getting plenty of access to real sunlight.

Multiple tubes may be necessary to emit the proper levels of UVB.

The ballast contained in your fixture may affect the UVB output. High-quality fixtures with an electronic ballast will get the best performance out of an UVB tube.

There can be no obstruction of the light emitted from the fluorescent tubes. This means that no glass or plastic cover or shield should be used. The light must go directly from the tube to the iguana. Glass and plastic filter out UVB wavelengths.

Merycury Vapor lamps

Mercury Vapor lamps (bulbs) are a newer way to provide your iguana with UVB rays. Mercury Vapor (MV) bulbs screw into an ordinary light fixture like an incandescent bulb. MV reptile lighting technology has advanced by leaps and bounds recently and is now a cost-effective, viable solution for an artificial UVB source, and in some cases is even better than fluorescents. MV lamps produce up to three-times more UVB in the 290-300 nanometer range (D-UV, the most beneficial to the iguana) of the total UVB output than tube-style bulbs. There has been great debate over the safety and usefulness of this type of lighting source. As the technology continues to advance, manufacturers are beginning to address safety concerns and stability and significantly decrease the “hazards” of mercury vapor lamp use.

It is important to realize that there are two types of MV bulbs: those with an internal ballast, and those with an external ballast. Although both give off high amounts of UVB, these two types of bulbs are actually quite different in their properties. The internally-ballasted bulbs are the type more commonly sold at pet stores and include brands such as Mega-Ray, T-Rex Spots and ZooMed Powersuns. Internally-ballasted MV bulbs give off heat as well as UVB. In this way they are convenient because you can provide your iguana with both heat and UVB from one bulb in one fixture.

However, the internally-ballasted bulbs have a high failure rate, regardless of the bulb brand. Because the bulb gets so hot, the fragile filament breaks easily if the bulb is jiggled while it is on. The externally-ballasted bulbs are not as easy to find, but they are sturdier and have a much lower failure rate than the internally-ballasted bulbs. This is because they do not give off much heat, so the filament does not get as hot. In this way, the externally-ballasted MV bulbs are more similar to the traditional fluorescent tube, and therefore additional, separate heat bulbs must be used in the enclosure.

Based on current research, the Green Iguana Society strongly recommends the Mega-Ray MV bulb by Westron lighting/Mac Industries. Of the different types of mercury-vapor UVB bulbs available, the Mega-ray consistently gives off high amounts of UVB and has a lower UVB decay rate than other bulb brands. In addition, externally-ballasted Mega-rays are also available.

As with any lighting solution, there are several guidelines that must be followed when using any type of MV bulbs:

Set up your MV lamp according to manufacturer’s guidelines and instructions concerning placement and distances.

Closely monitor the iguana and enclosure to ensure proper temps are maintained.

Be mindful of the bulb’s direction and placement in a room so as to minimize the exposure to humans. Because they produce high UVB levels, treat a MV lamp like natural sunlight. Excessive and prolonged direct exposure by humans is not desirable.

Monitor the UVB output using a Spectral Radiometer (UVB meter). Strong MV lamps should only be used in conjunction with a radiometer to measure UVB output on a regular basis.

As with fluorescents, there should be no obstruction of light between the lamp and the iguana.

Yellow Fungus On Bearded Dragons

Bearded dragons have been a favored house pet by many pet owners for quite a number of reasons. These docile pets are not only quite tamed, but they are also easy to look after. Once they have settled in their new habitat, you only need to do a few things to maintain their health. If they are provided with adequate and proper nutrition, provided the right level of heat and humidity, as well as cleaned regularly, they may stay with you for the next 10 or more years.

That does not mean that they are free from any sickness that may cause their health to deteriorate. Like any other animals, they are also susceptible to disease-causing microorganisms widely distributed in the environment.

Yellow Fungus: A Lethal Bearded Dragon Disease

Yellow Fungus bearded dragon

One of the diseases that most bearded dragons fear is called Yellow Fungus. It is colloquially known among hobbyists as the Yellow Skin Disease. This fungal infection can cause severe skin infections or fungal dermatitis. If not treated properly, the condition can be fatal to a birdie. Such a skin condition has been proven to be lethal to other reptile species as well.

This skin condition is clinically known as Chrysosporium anamorph of Nannizziopsis vriesii or CANV. It is a skin condition that is caused by aggressive flesh-eating fungi. The fungi attack both the superficial and deep layers of the skin. The infection will first appear as yellow, brown or grayish patches on the surface of the scales. It is normally seen as a small spot that gets bigger in time. More spots may appear on other parts of the body as time passes by. As the disease progresses, the color of the patches will become dark. It will also be cracked or crusty.

The discoloration of the skin is accompanied by the formation of necrotic lesions. This formation will eventually scrape the outer layer of the skin and reveal sensitive ulcerated tissues underneath the scales. It can also spread painful swelling and inflammation under the skin. In more severe cases, hyphae of the fungus (main mode of vegetative growth of the fungus),  can extend deeper into the body cavities and internal organs of the reptile. This often causes marked pathology and the eventual death of the beardie.

Symptoms of the Yellow Skin Disease

Bearded dragons are quite active during the day if they are healthy. However, if they are infected with the Yellow Fungus, they may be quite restless.You may also observe them to lose some weight, have a poor appetite, have sunken eyes, shed irregularly. When they shed, what is left behind are dull or discolored scales with a rough appearance. They may also have wounds that have discolored scales around them. These wounds may also be swollen badly, with a discrete puss, and with a foul smell. A bearded dragon that is sheds constantly but does not gain any weight can be manifesting early signs of yellow fungus.

Causes of the Yellow Skin Disease

1. Dirty enclosures. Bearded dragons may be exposed to elements within the enclosure that are already contaminated. Choose the best Bearded Dragon enclosure.

2. Overcrowding. When too many dragons are housed and handled together in a single enclosure without proper quarantine measures. Yellow Fungus is a contagious disease. A new bearded dragon needs to go through a quarantine phase until it is considered clear of any health issues. This ensures that only healthy dragons are added to the crowd.

There are many instances, however, that an infected dragon in a pet store, breeding facility, or rescue center is also kept and becomes a host that can carry the disease and infect the other animals within the facility.

3. Stress. Stress, in this case, pertains to the quality of living condition provided for the bearded dragon. If the dragon is not provided the right amount of heat, for instance, it might not be able to maximize the heat it needs to do its normal activity. In the same manner, if other elements within the enclosure hinder the dragon to live as it is meant to, it may create stressful situations for the reptile. This may drastically lower the efficiency of its immune system and make it vulnerable to infections.

4. Bites, cuts, and other lacerations. When an infected dragon or other reptile bite another dragon, the disease could pass on to the other. Also, if a dragon gets to be wounded or lacerated frequently as it moves within the enclosure, it may be more susceptible to infectious diseases.

5. Yellow fungus antibiotics. Many bearded dragon owners discover that pets that are given constant dosages of antibiotics are more likely to develop Yellow Fungus. Antibiotics can destroy the dragon’s natural defense system if used too much. Eventually, they will be more likely to be vulnerable to infections. Experts advise to keep a bearded dragon healthy, probiotics should always be given every time antibiotics are administered to the reptile.

Treatment For Yellow Fungus

As already mentioned earlier, there is no cure for this disease. There are several treatment methods available that can help keep your dragon in a “healthy state” longer, however. These treatment methods include the following:

1. Antifungal drugs. This can be a combination of oral medications like Itraconazole, Terbinafine, and so on.

2. Antibiotics. Antibiotics are also used at times to treat or guard against secondary bacterial infections.

3. Topical cleaning with Chlorhexidine. This skin treatment is also recommended. This is done together with the application of topical antifungal agents like Miconazole or F10 ointment.

Note that you can not just use any of the treatment methods mentioned above. A consultation with a licensed veterinary is first required. The vet will first diagnose the condition of the beardie.

He may need to scrape a portion of the affected skin to rule out mites, parasites, skin conditions, and any other kind of infections. A blood test may also be necessary to give an accurate prognosis.  This will also allow the vet to determine if the blood analysis has picked up any underlying diseases that the dragon may have. Once the vet has determined the stage of the illness, he will prescribe the appropriate dosages for the recommended medications.

At this early, it is best that you add to your dragon’s diet a daily dose of probiotics. This will help boost the beardie’s immune system. Other supplements may also be added to his food to help build his immune system. For any changes in your pet’s diet, always consider a specialist’s advise.

How My Seatbelt Saved My Life!

Right before Christmas I was minding my own business, sleeping in the back of my human’s car when all of a sudden I was abruptly awoken when I started spinning and bouncing all over the place!

My human said something about there being a problem with the vehicle but I just think he needs to get his eyes checked! After a ton of bouncing and crashing the car finally stopped at the bottom of this big cliff. All the windows shattered and shrapnel all over the rocky cliff face.

Pretty much everything in the car was thrown, his luggage, christmas gifts, and even my toy! But I was still stuck in the car attached to this annoying harness that my human insists that I wear while driving. The thing is uncomfortable and I always find myself tangled up in it but he always says that someday it may save my life.

As if MY life needs saving! I am a Malamute, nothing can defeat me! But even so I think it just might have protected me quite well! From the photo I am sure you can tell that it was a pretty big mess and somehow I was able to crawl out almost completely uninjured! The darn harness held me in place firmly and protected me while the car rolled down the mountain side so I guess it really did help me!

There were really only two things that didn’t ejected from the car during it’s tumble and both of them were seat belted in. It led to a pretty scary couple days but both my human and I are mostly unhurt and I even got to still spend Christmas with the ones I love!

So listen up! I was always pretty skeptical about these car harness things. They are so very annoying but without mine I probably wouldn’t be here giving you this lesson so get your fur-less human bottom out to the store and buy a one for your beloved pooch because you never know when something is going to go wrong!

The (Death) Back-Up Plan

Humans talk about a lot of things, sometimes rambling on for hours and hours about nonsense. One thing they don’t seem to talk about much is death. While this isn’t a fun topic to discuss, sometimes it’s necessary. When humans do talk about death it is usually because someone has died or they are putting a will together. Most are making sure that their house and bank account is properly taken care of when they die. You know what humans rarely (if ever) talk about, what will happen if they die before their dog(s)? What if you die in an accident or are permanently disabled? As awful as it is to think about, humans need to make plans for their dogs (or cat or lizard or any pet) in case something terrible like this happens. Your dog(s) won’t have a voice in this situation so you need to stand up for them now and make sure they are properly taken care of, regardless if a short-term or long-term situation arises. Dogs matter too!

Questions to ask yourself

Do family and friends know that you have dogs at home that need care? What if you end up in the hospital unconscious for a couple of days, will someone know to go care for your dog(s)?

Is there a family or friend available to adopt your dog(s) when you are gone? You don’t want your treasured family member to find its way into a shelter because there is no one willing and able to take them should you pass before they do.

If you have multiple dogs, can one person take them all? If not, what ones can be separated? Can they be separated at all? You want this transition to be the easiest for your dogs. No one will know their needs more than you do right now, so you need to have a specific plan in place for their care in case you aren’t around to decide it.

Do you have an informational card at home that explains the needs of your dogs? What food they eat, their medicines, special sleeping spots, potty break info, etc. These are all important things that a stranger won’t know about your dog. Every single detail of their daily life needs to be laid out for an emergency situation.

Is there money available to care for your dog(s) if you are gone? It’s possible for you to leave a certain portion of your money for the care of your dog. Care isn’t cheap and you are asking someone, who may or may not have their own animals, to now take on the care of your dog(s). Having money available for their care makes things a lot easier.

What should you do?

Create an Information Sheet

This is the very first thing to do because it can be used in any type of crisis situation.

Your info sheet should contain the following information:

• Name of vet, location, contact information
• Vaccination information (when they are due)
• Health issues (do they need regular vet care, are they currently getting care?)
• Type of food eaten (dry vs. canned) and include exact amounts (is there any food they CANNOT eat?)
• Feeding location (do all dogs eat together or separately?)
• Feeding times (some dogs eat once a day, some two. Some at 7am, some at 9am)
• Medications (type taken, how much and when. Also include what condition medicine is for. Include heartworm and flea preventatives)
• Water locations and use (where bowls are located and how frequently do they need to be refilled)
• Favorite toys
• Sleep locations (does your dog sleep in a crate, in the bed or on the floor?)
• Daily routine (do they eat, then go potty, then play, then sleep? Do they normally go to daycare? Give a timeline)
• Potty Breaks (does your dog potty as soon as they wake up, after eating? How often do they need to go out or take a poop break?)
• Where do dogs go when left alone (is your dog usually crated, do they wander the house, confined to a particular room?)
• Treats (include regularly fed ones, acceptable ones and ones that are off limits)
• Grooming (how does your dog get bathed? Do they need regular grooming? Who trims their nails?)
• Supply location (where do you buy food, treats, toys, medicines, etc.?)

Don’t forget to update this document anytime your dog changes food or medicine or has a new health issue! Have a copy on the computer for easy updating. Put the updated info sheet on the refrigerator, bulletin board or in clear view for easy reference.

PS: You should also have an emergency ID card in your wallet that states you have animals. This card should list an emergency contact that can be notified in case you are unable to care for your dog(s).

Put Together Action Plans

Come up with a plan for each situation that could arise. Does your dog need long-term or short-term care? What if you go into a care facility, do they accept dogs? Write up a detailed action plan for each situation you could be faced with.

Make sure that your friends and family know about these plans and where to find them in an emergency. You can even give copies out to people that would be assisting with your dogs’ care.

Talk with Friends and Family

Do you already have someone in mind that can take care of your dogs in an emergency situation? Will they care for your dogs at your home or theirs? You need to start asking around now to find a permanent caretaker in case of emergency. Someone you trust, who will love your dog(s) as much as you and take the best care of them possible.

The best situation for all involved is if your dog’s new parent(s) is already aware of their potential responsibilities. It isn’t a good idea to pass your dog onto to a person they have never met before. Your dog(s) will already be going through a traumatic experience by losing you; can you imagine also being forced to live with a stranger? While it might not always be possible for your dog(s) to be cared for by your closest friend or family member, at least try to find someone that your dog is a bit acquainted with.

Make sure the person you select is aware of what their responsibilities will be, financially and time wise. Let them know what your wishes are and that you have action plans available for different emergency situations. Discuss in detail how you want the transition to take place.

Have a will

Humans leave money and belongings to their biological children in a will, but they can also do the same for their 4-legged children! While it’s important to have conversations with the people who will be your dogs’ new parents, it’s also important to have all the finer details in a certified document, especially if you are leaving money for your dogs’ care.

If you are putting a will together for the first time, talk to you attorney about what information can be added to include your dog’s care. If you already have a will, think about getting information regarding your dog(s) added. I’m sure it can be done for a small fee… isn’t your dog(s) worth it?

Conclusion

It’s never too early to have a plan in place; it can only be too late. Sometimes humans are unable to predict their life path, but they can do the best by their dog(s) by having a plan in place for emergencies. Don’t wait, put a plan together today!

Swim Safety

Summer is here and what better way to cool off then jumping into a nice, relaxing body of water. Ahhhh, refreshing! Well….for some, but not all!

Just like humans many dogs enjoy a pool, lake or ocean during the summer, however not all dogs enjoy being in the water, nor do all dogs know how to swim! I sure don’t like swimming; in fact I can’t stand it! I don’t like baths either and I’m not too keen on drinking water. I pretty much like to steer clear of all water as much as possible!

 Swimming Pool Safety for dog

Even though I don’t understand the joys of swimming I do know that it’s very important to practice water safety with your dog. Here are a few things to always remember when it comes to dogs and swimming.

Does your dog like water?

Make sure your dog actually wants to swim. Are they afraid when you take them near water? (I am!) Do they get upset when you put them in water and immediately want to get out? (I do!) This probably means that your dog doesn’t want to swim or at least is unsure if they want to. Let your dog decide; don’t force them to become a swimmer.

Do you have a dog that gets in the water without being asked? Or one that loves to play fetch in the water? Sounds like you have a water loving dog on your hands!

Can your dog swim?

People assume that all dogs can swim. This isn’t true! Can all humans swim? No! It’s important to find out if your dog can swim before you just send them into the closest body of water.

The best way to test if your dog can swim is in a pool so you don’t have to deal with waves or critters that can be scary or distracting to a dog. Wade into the shallow end while holding your dog (for those with larger dogs, do the best you can). Hold your dog in the water to see what they do. Many dogs will start paddling their feet before they even reach the water, some might just tense up. Slowly lower your dog into the water and see if they start paddling. If so, let go of them slightly and help them swim around. If your dog starts to sink, or their head goes underwater it probably means they don’t know how to swim or they don’t understand what they are supposed to do.

It may take some time and a few lessons before your dog picks up on what they are supposed to do. Let them move at their own pace and don’t force them to swim if they don’t want to.

PS: If you find out that your dog can’t swim (or just doesn’t like it), it doesn’t mean there isn’t another way for them to cool off in the summer heat. Buy a kiddie pool, fill it with a small amount of water and see how your dog does with that. This will be a lot less scary for them and it won’t require any swimming.

Teach proper technique

Just because your dog goes in the water doesn’t mean they will be perfect swimmers (perfection takes time, even for a dog!). Dogs need to be taught the right and wrong way to swim. Does your dog understand that they are supposed to paddle with their front and back paws? Many dogs will only paddle with the front which will cause lots of splashing and not much progress. Your dog might need a little help learning how the front and back work together to keep them moving through the water.

Next, your new swimmer needs to know where their exit is. Obviously, a lake or ocean won’t be as big a problem. If your dog is swimming in a lake or ocean, make sure they know to swim back to you and not to keep going towards the horizon.

Exiting a pool can be a big problem. Your dog’s first instinct is to go to the closest location to exit. This means that most will go straight to the pools wall and try to climb over the edge. Most dogs are unable to lift themselves over the edge so they need to know where the steps are. Once your dog gets the hang of swimming on their own, start guiding them to the steps so they know the right and easy way to exit. Just like with other training, praising and rewarding a dog when they exit via the steps will help them learn what they are supposed to do (just another excuse for a yummy treat!).

If you have a dog that is a swimming pro that doesn’t mean your job is done. It’s important to make sure that your dog knows water manners. You don’t want a dog that jumps into any body of water they see. You also don’t want a dog that could hurt an adult or child who is swimming around them. As the owner, you need to make sure your dog uses proper manners while swimming and that he/she listens to your commands during this time.

Where can your dog swim?

There are many bodies of water available for your dog’s enjoyment but each comes with its own set of risks.

Pool: While you don’t have to worry about critters in a pool, you do have to worry about your dog’s skin. Chlorine can irritate skin and ears. It’s important to make sure that you give them a bath or rinse them with water after pool fun.

In addition, you have to watch your dog around the edges of pools. They could get very excited and slip and fall, causing injury or they could injure themselves on the hard, rough edges while playing in the pool.

Ocean: Critter alert! Even though your dog shouldn’t be going that far into the ocean there is still a risk of jellyfish and sometimes sharks if your dog swims in the ocean. Don’t forget about the risk of rip currents! Just like humans, a dog can easily get caught in the tide and get sucked under. Most beaches that allow dogs are calm, but it’s best to keep a very close eye or go in the water with your dog.

There is also a possibility that in all the excitement your dog could swallow large amounts of salt water. This could easily upset your dog’s stomach and cause them to throw up or have diarrhea. Make sure that lots of fresh water is available during ocean swim time so your dog isn’t tempted to consume more salt water than necessary.

Lake: You will find that many dog parks have lakes for dogs to play/cool off in. While this can be a very fun place, it also comes with risks. Many lakes contain alligators (at least in the South!) and snakes. Also, lakes can have many different forms of bacteria that can make your dog sick. Even though parks are required to post a warning about a bacteria outbreak, you never know how your dog will be affected. One dog might have no issues, while another could become very sick.

Sun!!

Heat from the sun is much more intense when around water. Be sure to use sunscreen, keep your dog hydrated and protect their paws from hot sand/concrete. You don’t want fun playtime to turn painful afterwards.

What should I do with my dog after a swim?

I could go on and on about all the things in a pool/lake/ocean that can make a dog itchy, stinky or just plain gross. Eww…don’t get me started! It’s best to bath or at least rinse off your dog after swimming to get all the yuckies off.

Life preserver?

Aren’t these only for boats? No! Life preservers have many uses when it comes to dogs. Swim time can be so fun for dogs that they don’t know when they have gotten too tired to properly swim. If you have a dog like this you might want to get them a life preserver so you don’t have to worry about a near drowning.

Also, life preservers come in really bright colors so they are really great for keeping track of your dog when swimming in lakes/oceans and around lots of other dogs.

Lastly, life preservers are great for worrisome parents. They are just an added safety measure to make sure your furry family member stays safe while in the water.

Supervision is a must!

Never let your dog swim without supervision. Some dogs won’t go swimming unless their owners do or unless they are told. However, there are many dogs that will jump in a body of water as soon as they see it. It’s very important that your dog have constant supervision when swimming. This will allow you to monitor how tired they are getting, watch out for any hazards and overall keep them safe.

Just because your dog is swimming doesn’t mean they can’t get over heated or overly tired. It’s important to make sure that they are getting proper water and rest when enjoying swim time. Dogs will play until they drop; it’s your job to make sure this doesn’t happen.

Conclusion

Now that you know all there is about swim safety why don’t you head on out and take a couple laps with your dog!