Is It Common For Dogs To Drown In Pools?

Dog Drownings in Pools: A Silent Killer

Every year, thousands of beloved pets meet a tragic end by accidentally drowning in backyard swimming pools. According to statistics, an estimated 5,000 dogs drown annually, making it one of the leading causes of accidental death for our furry companions (

While we like to think of our backyard pools as a place for family fun and exercise, they can pose a serious hazard for curious pups. Dogs of all breeds and ages are susceptible to drowning, often falling victim within minutes due to their limited swimming capabilities.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll uncover the facts and figures around this heartbreaking issue, sharing tips from vets and experts for keeping your pool off-limits to pets. By understanding the risks, we can prevent these preventable tragedies.

Causes of Dog Drownings

Some of the most common causes of dog drownings include:

  • Lack of supervision – Dogs that are left unattended near pools or other bodies of water are at high risk of accidental drowning. Always watch your dog when they are near water.
  • Inability to get out of pool – Many dogs, especially short-legged breeds, struggle to climb pool steps or lift themselves over the pool edge. They may tire and drown if unable to exit the water.
  • Underlying health conditions – Dogs with heart or lung problems may become exhausted and drown more easily. Epileptic dogs are also at increased risk if they have a seizure in the water.
  • Age of dog – Very young puppies often drown due to lack of swimming skills and strength. Senior dogs may drown due to declining health and stamina.

According to PetMD, drowning is more common in puppies under 4 months old as they lack swimming ability and tire easily [1]. Wide chested dogs with short muzzles like Bulldogs are also vulnerable [2].

Breeds Most at Risk

Certain dog breeds are more at risk of drowning than others due to physical traits that make swimming difficult for them. Poor swimmers like bulldogs, pugs, and other brachycephalic (short nosed) breeds can have trouble keeping their head above water and tire quickly due to their breathing challenges (Source). Their squat, heavyset bodies are also not well designed for buoyancy or propulsion in the water.

Other heavy, dense breeds like bull terriers and basset hounds tend to sink more easily, making swimming strenuous for them. Breeds with very short legs like dachshunds, corgis, and basset hounds struggle to stay afloat and easily get tired paddling. Their short limbs prevent them from gaining momentum in the water (Source).

In general, dogs with barrel-shaped chests and dense muscle mass like bulldogs, boxer, and pit bulls are poor swimmers compared to dogs with leaner, more hydrodynamic builds like Labrador retrievers. Owners of “sinker” breeds need to be extra vigilant around pools.

Prevention Tips

There are several ways dog owners can help prevent their pets from drowning in pools, such as:

Supervise dogs when they are around the pool – Don’t leave dogs unsupervised near a pool, as they can fall in accidentally or get too curious. Stay nearby and keep an eye on them.

Install ramps/steps for the pool – Allow dogs to enter and exit the pool safely using dog ramps or steps. This prevents them from falling in unexpectedly.

Teach dogs how to swim – Dogs that know how to swim are less likely to panic and drown if they do end up in the pool. Practice supervised swimming sessions.

Use dog life vests – Life vests provide flotation assistance for dogs that aren’t strong swimmers. Make sure the vest fits properly.

Having multiple layers of prevention, like fences, supervision, and flotation devices, provides the best safeguard against dog drownings in home pools.

Pool Safety Devices

There are a number of devices available to help prevent dogs from drowning in pools. Some of the most common and effective include:

  • Alarms – These devices sound an alarm when they detect motion in the pool, alerting you that someone or something has entered the water. Pool alarms can be mounted on the pool deck or wall.
  • Covers – A fitted pool cover acts as a physical barrier, preventing access to the pool when not in use. It’s important to completely cover the pool and secure the cover.
  • Fences – Pool fences enclose the pool area, preventing unsupervised access. The fence should be at least 4 feet high with self-closing and self-latching gates.

These pool safety devices provide layers of protection to help prevent pet drownings. Using more than one type of device is ideal for optimal safety. Properly installed and maintained pool alarms, covers and fencing greatly reduce drowning risks.

What to Do if a Dog is Drowning

If you see a dog drowning in a pool, remain calm and act quickly. According to Wag Walking, the first priority is to safely retrieve the dog from the water.

Call the dog’s name calmly to encourage it to swim to the pool steps if possible. Avoid suddenly jumping or diving into the pool, as this may startle the dog and cause it to inhale more water. If the dog cannot make it to the steps, use a pool skimmer, life hook, or other long handled tool to gently guide it to safety.

Once the dog is out of the water, immediately begin CPR if it is unresponsive. Tilt the dog’s head back to open the airway, check for breathing, and perform rescue breaths if needed. Give 5 initial rescue breaths, sealing your mouth over the dog’s nose and blowing gently to inflate the lungs. Next, begin chest compressions at a rate of 100-120 per minute until the dog revives or you can get veterinary care.

It’s crucial to get veterinary attention even if the dog seems to recover. Ingesting pool water can cause lung inflammation, infections, and other potentially fatal issues. Bring the dog to an emergency vet clinic right away after a near drowning for a full exam and oxygen therapy. Quick action greatly improves the chances of a full recovery.

Long-Term Effects

Drowning incidents can have serious long-term effects on a dog’s health and behavior. Even if a dog is resuscitated after drowning, there is often lasting damage to the lungs and respiratory system.

Lung damage from inhaling water can lead to secondary drowning up to 72 hours after the incident. Fluid accumulation in the lungs prevents proper oxygen absorption, leading to respiratory failure, organ dysfunction, and potentially death [1]. Prompt veterinary care is essential to monitor for secondary drowning symptoms like coughing, breathing difficulties, low energy, and bluish gums.

The traumatic experience of nearly drowning can also cause lifelong fear of water or avoidance of the location. Owners may notice their dog is reluctant to swim, play in water, or even go near the pool where the incident occurred. With time, positive reinforcement, and therapy, it is possible for dogs to overcome this fear.

Owner Testimonials

Many dog owners have sadly experienced the tragedy of losing a beloved pet to drowning. Their stories serve as a sobering reminder to take pool safety seriously. As one owner recounts on a pet loss message board, “My dog drowned in our pool this morning and I feel like it’s all my fault” ( The guilt and sadness can be overwhelming after such a traumatic event.

Another heartbreaking testimony reads, “Drowned In My Pool. You may be swallowed in your own deep sorrow, Remember though God just let me be borrowed. I’m running now with friends in the fields, My heart will ache till yours is healed” ( It’s clear that the effects of a drowning can be devastating and long-lasting for dog owners.

By learning from others’ misfortune, we can take proactive steps to prevent such accidents from happening to our own pets. Dog drownings are tragic but often avoidable with proper precautions and supervision.

Expert Tips

According to veterinarian Dr. Sarah Wooten, “Supervision is key. When dogs are supervised in and around the pool, drowning risks are greatly reduced.” She advises keeping dogs on a leash to maintain control and always watching them when they swim or play near water (source:

Certified dog trainer Andrea Arden explains, “You want to teach your dog where the steps are to get in and out of the pool and reinforce using them. If they can’t get back out, panic can set in quickly.” She recommends using treats and praise to reward dogs for properly using pool steps and exiting safely (source:

The American Kennel Club advises starting pool training early with puppies: “Introduce your puppy to the pool and get him accustomed to the water.” They note it’s important to build confidence and train dogs how to get out of the pool before swimming skills develop further (source:


Drowning is a serious risk for dogs that have access to pools. Certain breeds like Labradors and Retrievers are at higher risk due to their love of swimming and retrieving balls/toys from water. There are several pool safety products, like fences, covers, and alarms that can help prevent drownings. Vigilant supervision is also key anytime a dog is around a pool.

While scary, drowning incidents can be avoided with proper precautions. Owners should be aware of pool risks and take steps like training dogs to use pool steps, teaching them where safe entries/exits are, and not allowing unsupervised pool access. With some simple planning and training, owners can continue to enjoy their backyard pools while keeping their beloved pets safe.

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