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How to Save a Drowning Dog: First Aid Tips for Pet Owners

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As pet owners, we always prioritize the safety and well-being of our furry friends. However, accidents can happen, and it’s crucial to be prepared for emergencies such as a pet drowning. While it’s important to note that you should never risk your own life to save a drowning pet, knowing the proper first aid techniques can make a significant difference in saving your beloved companion. In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss the essential steps to take if your dog is in distress in the water.

How to treat a drowning dog first aid

Understanding the Risks

Many pet owners assume that dogs are natural swimmers and can easily navigate in water. While it’s true that most dogs have some innate swimming ability, they can still face risks and exhaustion when trapped or tired in water. It’s vital to be aware of the signs of distress and act promptly to prevent tragedy.

Assessing the Situation

If you discover your pet unconscious in the water, it’s crucial to stay calm and act quickly. Remember, your safety is paramount, so never enter the water if it puts you at risk. Instead, follow these steps to assess your pet’s condition and provide immediate assistance:

Step 1: Check for Signs of Cyanosis

Cyanosis, characterized by a grey or bluish discoloration of the mucous membranes, indicates a lack of oxygen in your pet’s bloodstream. Carefully examine your pet’s gums, tongue, and inside of the lips for any signs of cyanosis.

Step 2: Check for Breathing

Next, determine if your pet is breathing. Watch for chest movements or place your hand in front of their nostrils to feel for airflow. If your pet is not breathing, immediate intervention is necessary.

Step 3: Clearing the Airway

To clear your pet’s airway of water, there are different techniques depending on their size. For small dogs or puppies, carefully hold them upside down, allowing the water to drain from their lungs. For larger dogs, lay them on their side with the head slightly elevated to facilitate the drainage of water from the nose and mouth.

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Step 4: Stimulating Breathing

After clearing the airway, it’s important to stimulate your pet’s breathing. Gently extend their neck to open the airway and cover their nose with your mouth, exhaling until you see the chest rise. Repeat this process until your pet starts breathing on their own.

Step 5: Seek Veterinary Assistance

Even if your pet starts breathing on their own, it’s crucial to seek veterinary assistance immediately. Near-drowning incidents can have long-term effects, and it’s essential to have your pet evaluated by a professional to ensure their well-being.

Performing CPR on Your Dog

In some cases, your pet may not have a pulse despite breathing efforts. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can be lifesaving in these situations. However, it’s important to note that CPR should only be performed by individuals who have received proper training. Here is a brief overview of the steps involved in pet CPR:

  1. Confirm the absence of a pulse by checking for a femoral artery pulse in the inner thigh area.
  2. Begin chest compressions by placing your pet on a firm surface with their right side facing up.
  3. Locate the appropriate compression point, which is just behind the elbow.
  4. Apply firm and rhythmic pressure using the heel of your hand or both hands, depending on your pet’s size.
  5. Perform chest compressions at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute.
  6. After every 30 compressions, provide two rescue breaths by sealing your pet’s mouth and nose with your mouth and exhaling until you see the chest rise.
  7. Continue the cycle of chest compressions and rescue breaths until veterinary assistance is available.

It’s important to note that CPR is a temporary measure and should be performed while transporting your pet to the nearest veterinary clinic.

Monitoring for Complications

Even after successfully rescuing your pet from a near-drowning incident, there may be potential complications that require attention. It’s crucial to monitor your pet closely for any signs of distress or health-related issues. Here are some complications to be aware of:


Pets who have experienced near-drowning incidents may have inhaled water into their lungs, which can lead to pneumonia. Even if your pet has coughed up water or shown signs of recovery, residual water in the lungs can still pose a threat. Watch for symptoms such as coughing, difficulty breathing, or lethargy, and seek veterinary care if any concerns arise.

Delayed Secondary Drowning

Delayed secondary drowning is a phenomenon where symptoms of respiratory distress appear hours or even days after the initial incident. This condition can be life-threatening, as it is caused by the inflammation and fluid buildup in the lungs. If your pet exhibits signs of distress, such as rapid breathing, blue-tinged gums, or severe lethargy, seek immediate veterinary attention.

Preventing Pet Drowning Incidents

While knowing how to respond to a pet drowning emergency is crucial, it’s equally important to take proactive measures to prevent such incidents. Here are some preventive steps you can take:

  • Secure Pool Areas: If you have a pool or access to one, ensure it is fenced off or equipped with safety measures, such as a pool cover or alarms, to prevent unsupervised access by your pets.
  • Teach Your Pet to Swim: Even if your pet has some innate swimming ability, it’s essential to acclimate them to water gradually and teach them how to exit the pool safely. Use positive reinforcement techniques to encourage them to swim to designated exit points.
  • Supervise Water Activities: Whenever your pet is near bodies of water, whether it’s a pool, lake, or beach, provide constant supervision to ensure their safety. Never leave them unattended, especially if they are not experienced swimmers.
  • Use Life Jackets: Consider using life jackets designed for pets, especially during boat trips or water activities. These jackets can provide an extra layer of buoyancy and ensure the safety of your pet in case of an accident.

Remember, prevention is key when it comes to pet drowning incidents. By implementing these preventive measures and being prepared for emergencies, you can effectively safeguard your pet’s well-being.


As responsible pet owners, it’s our duty to prioritize the safety and well-being of our furry companions. Understanding the risks associated with pet drowning and knowing how to respond in emergencies can make a significant difference in saving a life. Remember, always prioritize your own safety and seek veterinary assistance promptly. By taking preventive measures and being prepared, you can ensure that your pet enjoys water activities safely. Stay vigilant, stay informed, and be the hero your pet needs in times of distress.

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