Summertime is a wonderful time for people and their pets to enjoy the outdoors. With Bonaire’s strong sunshine and hot weather, many of us head straight to the beach for a cooler way to enjoy the Caribbean summer. As with any activity, it is always better sharing it with friends and family, and in many cases this includes our beloved animal companions. While it is fun when he comes along for a swim with us, we always need to keep our pet’s safety in mind when it comes to being in or near the sea. Here are some tips to keep you and your furry friend safely splashing around all summer long.
Should Your Pet Go Swimming?
The first thing to consider is whether or not your dog can or even should swim. Some types of dogs are less adapted to water activity than others. For example, breeds and mixes with short legs (ex. Corgis), short/cropped tails, and short snouts (pugs, bully breeds) tend to be poor natural swimmers. Despite this, they may still love and want to swim. This makes it even more important to maintain constant supervision and be prepared provide assistance or even invest in a dog appropriate float jacket for your canine to wear.
Other factors to consider when deciding to take your dog swimming are pre-existing health conditions and older age. Issues with the skin, ears, joints, or heart can be made worse with swimming. Even as hot as it gets on Bonaire, the cool water can quickly absorb heat (20 times faster than air) resulting in many smaller dogs (toy breeds) getting too cold quickly.
Some dogs who are capable swimmers, might just not like going in the water. You should never force your pet to swim or enter the water if he is uncomfortable. Allow your dog to approach the water at his own pace, and be prepared to accept if he does not want to enter. Some dogs prefer to splash and run in shallow water, while others might swim for hours if given the chance. It is important to recognize when your dog has had enough and make sure he rests and drink clean fresh water. Over-exertion and even dehydration can be a danger for water-loving pups.
Your Pet and the Sea
Living on a beautiful Caribbean island like Bonaire we are blessed with kilometers of beautiful shoreline. It is very important to know where around Bonaire’s coast dogs are legally permitted to avoid penalties, injuries, and damage to nature. For the complete list and map of prohibited areas for dogs, visit www.stinapabonaire.org. Some of the dog-friendly areas include between Punt Vierkant and Salt Pier (south), and also from Willenstoren Lighthouse up to (but not including) Sorobon.
Before your pet enters the water, make sure you keep an eye out for dangers along the shore that he might get in to. Some hazards to consider are: discarded lionfish spines, fishing lines and hooks, sharp fish bones that can be swallowed, broken glass, sea urchins, and in some areas there is sharp, jagged rocks that could cause damage to paws.
Make sure you bring fresh drinking water for your best fur friend so that he stays hydrated and does not try to accidentally drink seawater, which can make him sick. Dogs with short or white fur are also sensitive to sun, so apply reef-safe sunscreen to susceptible areas on your dog (ears, snout, belly). Providing a shady resting spot for him and limiting time in the sun will also help prevent sunburn and overheating. On the topic of physical needs, make sure you bring poo bags to pick up your dog’s waste if he does his business on shore. Nobody wants a poopy beach!
When assessing the water, watch out for rough conditions (large waves, strong current, high winds) that can put even a good swimmer (dog or human) in danger. Do not leave your dog alone in the water, and supervise him even when he’s out of the water. Keep in mind any busy roads nearby where a dog off-leash could accidentally wander into traffic.
We love our pets, but not everyone loves and knows your dog like you do. Keep him near you and when possible, on a leash. This will ease the minds of other beachgoers and help prevent any unplanned or unpleasant confrontations with others (and other dogs who may not be so well behaved). Not to mention he won’t get that chance to sneak a bite of your beach snack!
After a Good Day at the Beach
Following any dip in the salty sea water, your doggy pal will need to be washed with fresh water. Make sure you clean and dry the ears well since left over moisture is an invitation for infection. A great day of sun, sand, and sea can be quite tiring for both you and your dog. Give him plenty of fresh water at home to drink as as he rests. It is not unusual for your companion to end up sleeping for much of the rest of the day. He’s just recharging his energy for another fun-filled beach day with his favorite human tomorrow!
Here at the Shelter, many of our dogs love water and have a blast playing in their provided splash tubs. It would be wonderful to see how many of them might love to swim in the sea as well! If you are interested in adopting a water-loving pup, stop by or contact the Animal Shelter Bonaire. Tel. 701-4989, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit (Kaminda Lagoen 26) during open hours Mon-Fri 9am-12pm and 3pm-5pm and Saturdays 9am-3pm nonstop.
Story by Amy Weir
Photos by Sanne Attevelt, Aimee Young, and Amy Weir