AHVEC North Hobart After Hours Veterinary Emergency Centre

First aid for drowning

First aid for drowning

Remove your pet from the water. Keep yourself safe! Stay calm & use a branch or fishing rod to hook the collar & pull your pet to safety if the water is deep.

Place your pet on his/her side with head and neck extended, with the head slightly lower than the body.

Clear any debris away from the mouth & nose. Pull the tongue forward. Check the dogs’ gum colour - life threatening lack of oxygen turns the gums blue or grey instead of the normal pink

Expel any water from the lungs & stomach by putting the heel of your hand in the dip behind the last rib & thrust up toward the head three or four times in a modified ‘Heimlich maneuvre’. If the dog is small enough you can hold them upside down by the hips to help drain water from the lungs

If your pet is not breathing, or you cannot feel a pulse or heartbeat, then begin chest compressions (see the separate CPR flyer)

Contact your vet IMMEDIATELY

Wrap your pet in a blanket to prevent further loss of body heat

Remain calm

‘Near’ & ‘dry’ drowning

'Near’ drowning is non-fatal water inhalation and survival for longer than twenty-four hours. In a ‘near’ drowning episode, cessation of breathing results in a loss of oxygen to the brain and a rise in carbon dioxide levels in the blood. It can also cause aspiration (breathing in) of water into the lungs resulting in damage to the lung tissue.

Some pets experience ‘dry’ drowning, where fear or cold temperatures make the airways spasm and close over. There may not be water in the lungs but the dog is still unable to breathe properly.

Do not fail to contact a veterinarian because resuscitation was successful & your dog seems to be recovering!

Secondary complications such as electrolyte imbalance, pneumonia, collapse of the lungs (atelectasis) or accumulation of water in the airways (pulmonary oedema) can occur after ‘near’ or ‘dry’ drowning experiences. These conditions can be life-threatening in their own right if not treated promptly.

How to prevent your dog drowning

Very young, very old and debilitated animals are more likely to drown as they may be unable to swim, they lose strength more rapidly, or they are unable to get out of the water (eg. in a pool). Be sure to keep a special watch over these pets when they are near water.

Young children attempting to bathe a pet may hold a kitten, puppy, or other small pet under the water without understanding the consequences. Do not allow small children to bathe pets alone. Instead, let them help while you bathe the pet.

Pet-proof pools and other water sites all year round to prevent tragedies. Supervise your pets near water so cooling off during the summer stays safe and winter time play won’t be risky business. Water games should be fun for the entire family!

Swimming and beach play

You should always be careful if your dog is swimming in deep water as pets can drown if they get exhausted or swallow water whilst swimming. Keep close watch over your dog while he/she is in the water.

Other hazards near the water include:

Sticks for playing fetch can injure the mouth or throat - choose a ball or floating ring instead

Pufferfish & some jellyfish are poisonous to dogs if eaten

Glass & oyster shells cut bare paws or legs easily

Other dogs at the beach may not be friendly, so take care & ask the owner before letting your dog make new friends