Having grown up near a lake, swimming and water sports have always been an important part of my summer.
And because of that, my dogs have always been swimmers. Even Arlie, my collie mix, would jump off the shore and swim to retrieve a dummy.
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Although his swim stroke was not quite as elegant as a retriever's, he made up for it with enthusiasm and endurance.
After the fun of the swim, comes the ritual known as "the bath," to keep my dog comfortable and his coat in good shape. I've used antibacterial shampoos and conditioners from my veterinarian, as well as over-the-counter products, made specifically for dogs.
Eve Adamson, author of "The Simple Guide to Grooming Your Dog" and contributor to the American Kennel Club's AKC Family Dog magazine suggests several ways to keep your dog's coat in good shape according to where your dog swims.
Dogs who swim in pools may suffer from dry, itchy skin and a dry dull coat because of the chlorine and chemicals in the pool water. The chemicals in the pool water may strip the skin and coat of their natural oils and may even have a slight bleaching effect on dark coats or turn lighter coats greenish.
There are three things you can do to protect the coat of your pool-swimming dog.
• First, spray your dog's coat with conditioner before he gets into the pool. This protects his skin and coat from drying out. Finding a conditioner with a sunscreen would also help because dogs can also get skin cancer.
• After the swim, or at the end of the day, rinse his coat thoroughly, longer than you think is necessary to remove all of the chlorine and pool chemicals. After drying, if your dog has a medium or long coat, spray him again with the conditioner and swipe his coat with a comb. Comb him all the way to his skin to get all of the mats out.
• Then once a week during the pool-swimming season, comb him to detangle his coat, and bathe him with a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner to get rid of all of the residue pool chemicals. Also an omega -3 fatty acid supplement may help replenish natural oils.
If your dog is a beach swimmer, you will want to protect your dog from the itching that may come from sun, salt and sand.
So first apply a moisturizing dog sunscreen before you head to the beach. When your day on the beach is done, brush your dog thoroughly to dislodge sand. Then use the beach shower or a hose when you get home, to rinse him, again thoroughly, from head to toe. Work your fingers through his coat to loosen sand and rinse away the salt.
He may also need a bath. Use a gentle anti-itch shampoo, oatmeal or aloe shampoo that helps to soothe his irritated skin. (When Tillie, my brother's golden retriever goes to the beach on vacation with the family, my sister-in-law Corinne rinses Tillie at the end of the day and then washes her with an oatmeal conditioning shampoo every other day. And Tillie has always been itch free.)
If your dog is a lake or river swimmer, he will probably need a bath after every dip in the water due to the possible pollutants, slime, and leeches.
After combing out tangles, wet his coat thoroughly and scrub down to his skin with shampoo. Rinse him and then restore the moisture in his coat with a good conditioner.
If your dog is a frequent swimmer, use a shampoo without detergents so his coat won't get stripped of natural oils so you can shampoo him daily.
The AKC also recommends taking care of your dog's ears, regardless of where your dog swims.
Swimming dogs are at risk of ear infections because water in the ear canal creates the ideal wet and dark environment for yeast and bacteria growth.
After swimming, dry your dog's ears with a towel or cotton ball. Ask your veterinarian if a weekly or monthly application of an ear wash made for dogs would benefit your dog. If your dog is scratching his ears or shaking his head or you see redness inside the ear canal, contact your veterinarian.
Sun, water and your dog: Having fun playing with your dog in the water. What a great way to spend a summer day.
Shorty is a male miniature pinscher. He's around 5 years old and weighs about 11 pounds.
Copper is a female bloodhound. She's around 2 years old and weighs about 86 pounds.
Brock is a male tricolor beagle mix. He's around 5 years old and weighs about 22 pounds. He enjoys walks and occasional adventures in the car, but no small children please.
• Contact The Buddy Foundation at (847) 290-5806; visit us at 65 W. Seegers Road, Arlington Heights, or online at thebuddyfoundation.org.