We might assume our pets can swim, but we may be dead wrong.

If your pet plunges into water and struggles, there’s a good chance s/he swallowed enough water to be in danger of drowning. This applies if the pet is conscious or not, well or not. You may not see it at first.

Dry drowning can happen hours or even days after your pet was in the water, and a pet can drown in a very thin layer of fluid – like puppy in a puddle – too.

Pets with irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia), dementia, arthritis, or blindness are more susceptible to death by drowning. This is because they may not be able to find a way out, and swim around to avoid going under, only to collapse of exhaustion in the water.

If you retrieve a pet that has been in water, it’s important to pay careful attention to their state, even if they seem fine.

“You may notice coughing, difficulty breathing, weakness, fluid coming from the mouth or nose, distress or anxiety. These signs can range from mild to severe. A pet may become very cold after inhaling water and have difficulty regulating its body temperature. Another common condition that can occur after a near-drowning is pneumonia,” advises Tex Vet Pets, a website for pet owners by Texas veterinarians.

“If your pet has experienced a near-drowning episode,” it advises, “you should immediately take him to the nearest veterinary clinic for evaluation. Ideally your pet should have x-rays completed and be kept under observation for a minimum of 24 hours, with close attention to heart and respiratory rates and breathing characteristics. Diuretics can aid in the elimination of water from the lungs. Antibiotics may be started to help prevent pneumonia. Pets who seem to be more ill may need to receive IV fluids and oxygen.”

If you can’t get to a vet immediately, these tips for CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) might help. You might practise them on the spot or en route, depending on the situation and how much help is available.

It is important to note that this is a guide only, and that dotsure.co.za cannot be held responsible for any injury or death incurred by following these guidelines in an emergency. It’s always best to have your vet on speed dial to consult in these situations.


CPR for drowning  pets

Dog.com points out that “CPR will provide heart contractions and breathing until the dog can perform these functions on its own.” It continues to warn that “CPR should not be performed on a dog that has a heartbeat. Nor should you perform artificial respiration on a dog that is already breathing unless the breaths are very unsteady and shallow.”

“An unconscious dog may become aggressive when it revives” so always muzzle the dog’s snout with cloth, a scarf, a piece of sheet or picnic blanket, or even a long sock.” If the dog starts to vomit, remove the muzzle and reapply when he is finished.”


CPR steps for a dog that is drowning (from Dog.com):

  1. Lay the dog on its side.
  2. If you can’t see a visible back or neck injury, pull the head and neck forward.
  3. Open the mouth and pull the tongue towards the nose. This prevents throat blockage.
  4. Using your fingers, clear any foreign objects from the mouth.
  5. Close the dog’s mouth.
  6. Recheck the pulse.
  7. Apply a muzzle.
  8. Inhale
  9. Place your own mouth over the dog’s nose. You want it to be airtight – the kiss of life.
  10. Repeat this 10 – 15 times per minute.
  11. Massage the heart between breaths. Place the base of one hand over the dog’s chest where its elbow reaches. Place your other hand on top.
  12. Compress with strength and speed. Be consistent: hold each push for two counts and release for one count. Don’t push too hard on smaller dogs – you don’t want to snap ribs while trying to save them.
  13. Continue massaging the heart until you feel a heartbeat, then cease.
  14. Continue artificial respiration until you feel the dog breathe by itself, then stop.


Other threats after drowning

It isn’t only drowning that can kill a pet after a struggled in water. Watch out for hypothermia as well. An ill dog is especially prone if exposed to cold water and from being wet afterward. Look out for shivering, tiredness/fatigue, slow/shallow breathing and eventual unconsciousness.

If you suspect your dog is suffering hypothermia:

  1. Dry your doggo.
  2. Keep him/her in a warm place.
  3. Do not position your dog too near a heat source like a fire as it could burn!
  4. Do not heat your furry one too vigorously or too fast as it can lead to shock.
  5. Place new-born pups or collapsed dogs in warm bath water, keeping their head above the water. Do not allow the water to cool. It must be warmer than the dog’s body to be helping. If it is cooler, it can further increase the hypothermia as it steals the dog’s body heat. When the dog is warm, dry it thoroughly and keep it in a warm, draft-free space.

IMPORTANT: Once again, please note that this is a guide only and we recommend you consult your veterinarian before you consider using these steps.

It’s also a good idea to sign up for a formal pet first aid course and get a pet CPR qualification. We found one presented by a distance learning college. It’s great for those extra moments during lockdown. Get your correspondence groove on and learn pet first aid fast!


Remember to get a pet insurance quote to protect your pets against accidents like drowning.


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