Boat Safety

Candi Amundson, CVT

Senior Veterinary Information Specialist

Growing up in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” I certainly spent my fair share on the rivers and lakes in my area. We would grab our hot dogs and sandwiches, a bag of chips, and a few pops (soda that is 😉). Our dog was always along for the ride and even camped in tents on the beaches. The dog wasn’t wearing a life jacket, but mom made sure we had ours on, which brings us to some general dog boat safety tips!

Laws/Regulations: Be sure to check with your local state or county on the regulations for dogs at the beach or on boats. There is nothing worse than getting to the beach and finding out Fido can’t go! If you are at a state park, city park, or county park there should be rules and regulations posted on their website or at the information booth located on the grounds. Some will require vehicle permits or state park permits so be sure to check so you don’t end up with a parking ticket! Before taking your dog on the boat it may be best to make a few trial runs to help them acclimate. Be sure to check on the weather conditions prior, whitewater rafting is not recommended.

What to bring? Just like any trip it is best to plan ahead and have anything your pet may need while on the boat.

  • Life jacket
  • Consider a reflective harness/collar
  • Keep your pet on a leash while the boat is moving
  • First Aid Kit
  • Ramp into the boat
  • Pet ID (microchip/tags/collar)
  • Important medical history (vaccine and health records)
  • Plenty of fresh water!
  • Chew toys and food (for all day trips)

Remember safety first!

  • Consider making a “Dog Overboard Plan.” If your human members on the boat know what to do in case of an emergency or accident, it will make the problem solving go much more smoothly in that event. Some experts have advised that if you see your dog go overboard you are supposed to point to them and don’t stop until you get to them. They can be hard to see and follow!
  • Practice safe habits: It could be slippery on the boat. When driving the boat consider having your dog on a leash or keeping a life jacket on your pet. Consider a harness rather than collar as this might be easier to grab. Metal can be HOT to the touch, remember if it burns your skin it will likely be too hot for them too. OH, and don’t forget the bathroom breaks!

Hydration! It may seem silly but even if Fido is swimming all day long and occasionally drinking some lake water, that is not enough on a hot day to keep them hydrated. Know the signs of heat stroke! (panting, thick saliva, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, or seizures). If you observe any of those signs seek Veterinary help ASAP!

UV rays: Sunburn can affect humans as we all know; even some dogs can be at risk as well. Dogs with short fur, white coat, or sensitive skin could develop skin burns. Try to avoid using human sunscreens as these contain Aspirin which could be toxic if enough were ingested. There is such a thing as sunscreen for dogs, just ask your Veterinarian!

If you ever find yourself in a medical emergency have phone numbers on hand for the closest veterinary clinic. Remember to approach any medical situation calmly and ask for help. Creating an emergency plan and preparing ahead will help you all have a nice and enjoyable cruise.