Most pet owners appreciate enjoying just about everything they do with their dogs, which includes swimming, if their dog is into that sort of thing. Having a pool at home can be a great way to keep you and your four-legged friend cool and well-exercised in the summer months, although many people wonder if the chlorine we use to kill potentially harmful bacteria is safe for their dogs. Generally, chlorine will not harm a dog, but like anything in life, too much of a good thing can come with consequences, so it's best to exercise good judgement when you take your dog swimming, or allow him to enjoy a few laps around your pool.
Is chlorinated water safe for dogs?
The short answer to this question is yes, chlorine is safe for dogs. Chlorine is added to pools to protect swimmers from harmful bacteria, and this same benefit applies to dogs as well. When it comes to enjoying a chlorinated swim, however, there are a few caveats. If you've spent time in a chlorinated pool, you're probably familiar with the dry skin and red eyes that can occur if you're exposed to it for too long, or if the pool is just too heavily chlorinated. The same thing goes for dogs, sometimes even more so, especially in dogs who have sensitive skin, skin allergies, or thin coats. Pool water that has just been treated with chlorine undergoes what's known as a "shock" period, which is when chlorine levels are the highest. This is the time when people and dogs will be most sensitive to some of the side effects of chlorine, so it's best to keep dogs away from pool that has just been treated with chlorine in the last week.
If you're worried about exposing your dog to chlorine, there are other ways you can treat your pool that may be a little more safe for pets. The American Kennel Club recommends switching chlorine for bromine, which is not as strong as chlorine and won't irritate the skin and eyes as much. Most healthy dogs have a skin pH of around 6.5 to 7.5, but chlorine, which is made of mostly Hypochlorous acid, has a much more acidic pH of up to 8.5. Bromine is more alkaline, clocking in at around a pH of 4, which means that it will be less drying than chlorine.
Negative effects of chlorine on dogs
If your dog has ingested chlorine, there is a chance that she could experience some not-so-pleasant side effects, depending on the amount of chlorine she swallowed. Common side effects of excessive chlorine exposure include diarrhea, dehydration, skin irritation, watery eyes, and coughing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The external side effects usually occur when a dog's skin has been exposed to chlorine. Systemic exposure to chlorinated water can result in more uncomfortable side effects, like diarrhea and vomiting. If your dog is healthy, drinking a small amount of chlorinated water will likely not cause any problems. The ASPCA warns, however, that other additives that are commonly added to swimming pools, like algaecide and pool shock tablets, can lead to serious complications if too much is ingested. A common danger of these chemicals is ulcers, which can form on the mouth, esophagus, and the throat, and can be life-threatening if they are serious enough, or left untreated for an extended amount of time.
Sometimes, chlorine exposure can result in more serious consequences. In one 2006 report by the American Veterinary Medical Association, a dog who had ingested quick-dissolve chlorine granules became seriously ill in less than 24 hours after consuming the substance. Rapid breathing, signs of depression, coughing, and dehydration were all symptoms that the dog was experiencing when it was initially seen by veterinarians. Fortunately, these incidents are fairly rare, and the dog was believed to make a full recovery after 15 days of treatment, but this is obviously something no pet owner wishes on their canine friend. Most chlorine granules dissolve in about seven days, so if you are treating your home pool with this type of chlorine, be sure to allow ample time before allowing your dog to swim in it, or place granules in a bucket to dissolve completely before introducing it to outdoor pools.
Chlorine safety for dogs
If your dog can't resist a refreshing dip in chlorinated water, there are some things you can do to keep him safe. One great practice to keep is to rinse your dog in clean, fresh water after he goes swimming in chlorinated water. This will do a lot in the way of rinsing much of the chemical off of his skin and coat. This includes anything they're wearing, so, in the same way that you would wash a bathing suit after a swim, wash any collars, harnesses, or bandanas your dog is wearing, or remove them altogether before he jumps into your pool.
Keeping a close eye on your dog will also go a long way in keeping your dog healthy and safe, If you see your dog lapping up pool water, stop him before he ingests too much, and always keep plenty of clean water available for him to drink, especially if it's a hot, sunny day. Finally, limit your dog's exposure to chlorinated water and keep him from swimming or wading in your pool for long periods if you know that chlorine leaves them itchy or dry.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
- AVMA Journal: Toxicosis associated with ingestion of quick-dissolve granulated chlorine in a dog
- CDC: Facts About Chlorine
- Earthbath: What makes a quality dog shampoo?
- Aqua Magazine: Bromine Chemistry for Pools and Spas
- CDC: Chlorine and pH
- American Kennel Club: Can Dogs Swim in Chlorine Pools?
- ASPCA: Is it safe for your furry friend to join you poolside?