Is It OK For My Dog To Play In A Kiddie Pool This Summer?

If your dog loves to play in water, please keep reading 💦

It’s a sad story no pet parent ever wants to hear.

In a recent video posted on TikTok, Jessie Weninger of British Columbia, Canada, shared the upsetting news of her dog’s death due to water toxicity (aka water intoxication in dogs).

On a hot day, after spending less than an hour splashing around in a kiddie pool, Weninger noticed that Winter, her energetic 18-month-old border collie, was becoming increasingly lethargic and his gums had become pale.

Alarmed, Weninger brought him inside, where he began to throw up a large amount of water, followed by shaking, drooling and whining. Sadly, Winter’s health steadily declined from there, and an emergency vet was not able to save him. The entire devastating event, from Winter’s first symptom to seeing a vet, lasted less than 25 minutes, according to Weninger.

With over 100,000 views on TikTok, Jessie Weninger’s message to pet parents (especially those whose dogs love water) is an important one, particularly during the summer months.

“As heartbreaking as it is for me to share Winter's story, I feel like I have an obligation to help spread awareness on the dangers of water intoxication in dogs,” Weninger told The Dodo. “He was my best friend, and I cannot stand the thought of someone else having to go through the amount of pain and loss that I experienced. I want Winter's story to help educate pet owners, and not scare them. Water intoxication can be fatal, but it is also preventable.”

We spoke to Jackie Marvel, a vet technician with DodoVet, for more information on what you can do to help keep your pet safe around kiddie pools (especially if your pup loves being in water) and the dangers of water intoxication in dogs.

Can dogs use kiddie pools?

Yes! But there are a few things you should consider first.

"Make sure if your dog is playing in a baby pool, it's shallow enough that if your dog needs to lay down, they can do so with their head safely above water,” Marvel told The Dodo. “Also keep in mind, the more water in the pool, the more they could potentially drink. So ‘less is more’ is the right approach.”

As far as length of time for play, dogs will sometimes, but not always, set their own limits. But if your dog doesn’t usually stop playing until he’s told, you’ll definitely need to intervene at some point.

“Taking breaks to rest is so important,” Marvel said. “Watch for heavy panting and bring them to shade and praise for resting. When my own dog is swimming, I will throw a toy three times and then make him rest after for a few minutes, no matter what he says!"

Essentially, timing is key. Water toxicity is much more likely if your dog guzzles a lot of water very quickly versus ingesting a lot of water over the course of a day, regardless of where he’s finding it.

Let’s delve in a bit deeper.

What is water intoxication in dogs?

“Although rare, water toxicity (water intoxication) can occur after a dog ingests a large amount of water, and can sometimes be fatal,” Marvel said. “The concern for water toxicity is hyponatremia, which is a disruption of electrolytes that could be fatal if untreated. Hyponatremia causes fluid to shift into cells of the body, which can lead organs to swell, causing lethargy and incoordination.”

If your dog enjoys being in water, you’ll want to pay close attention to the following activities, according to Marvel:

  • Long periods of play in water, especially swimming with sticks or toys in his mouth
  • Diving for toys underwater
  • Lapping up water while swimming
  • Play-biting or catching water in pools, hoses or sprinklers
  • Drinking large amounts of water after excessive play or heat

Ways to prevent water intoxication in dogs

While all dogs are at risk for water intoxication, smaller dogs are more at risk due to their size. Here’s what you can do to help prevent water intoxication in dogs, according to Marvel:

  • Encourage frequent rest breaks while swimming and playing near water.
  • Don't withhold water from your dog, but instead offer small, frequent amounts of water for him to drink.

Symptoms of water intoxication

If you notice any of the following symptoms in your dog after he’s spent time in the water, take him to a veterinary emergency hospital immediately:

  • Uncoordinated movements
  • Light gum color (including his mucus membranes)
  • Nausea, drooling or vomiting
  • Lethargy or difficulty breathing
  • Abdominal distention or bloating

In the rare event of an emergency, let your veterinarian know your dog was playing in the water. “They will want to check blood work for electrolyte abnormalities and will work to correct those imbalances,” said Marvel.

While dogs can have a wonderful time playing in water, Weninger hopes her story resonates with pet parents.

“I would never ask to have anyone deprive their dogs of water and the joys of playing in water,” Weninger said. “I only hope to bring this awareness to other owners so they have the knowledge to help prevent this from happening to their dogs.”

Sadly, it’s all too easy for accidents to happen with dogs, regardless of how close you are paying attention and what time of year it is. Weninger’s message rings loud and clear: “All I ask is for dog owners to please be careful.”

Want access to a vet 24/7? With DodoVet, you can connect via video chat, phone or text with an empathetic veterinary expert who can help you be the best pet parent you can be. Say goodbye to Dr. Google and have all your pet parent questions answered anytime, anywhere. Learn more here.