Can Dogs Swim in Cold Water?

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You may think that letting your dog swim in icy cold water will help them cool off during a hot day. However, it’s not always a good idea.

Dogs can swim in cold water, but only if the water does not reach 45 °F or lower, and if they are healthy enough to withstand the cold water.

Find out why dogs can swim in cold water and the temperature that they can swim in.

You’ll also understand how cold is too cold for dogs to swim and how long dogs can swim in cold water.

Is swimming in cold water bad for dogs? Can they get sick from cold water? We answer all these questions for you.

Learn what signs indicate that your dog is cold and follow our safety tips for swimming with your dog.

Dogs swimming in cold water

Can Dogs Swim in Cold Water?

Yes. But it does depend on a number of factors including the temperature of the water and your dog’s breed.

You need to know the exact temperature to know if a dog can swim in cold water. For instance, if by cold we mean 45 °F then the answer is yes. 

Dogs can safely swim in cold water above 45 °F or 7 °C. However, hypothermia and frostbite may occur as a result of swimming in water that is below 20 °F or -6 °C.

Your dog’s tolerance for cold water depends on their health, age, and breed. Huskies, Great Pyrenees, Saint Bernards, and other breeds bred for cold weather climates can swim in colder water.

They can regulate their body temperature with the help of their double coats. Just make sure to wash and dry them thoroughly so they can get warm quickly.

Puppies, older dogs, and small dog breeds should not swim in cold water for too long a time because they are more sensitive to the cold.

Dogs with diseases that weaken their immune systems should also not be allowed to swim in cold water. 

Why Can Dogs Swim in Cold Water?

Many dogs are more tolerant of the cold than we are. This is especially true for larger dogs with thick coats.

However, this tolerance still depends on each dog’s health, age, and breed. 

Dogs with diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, Cushing’s disease, and hormonal imbalance may have a hard time regulating their body temperature.

At the right temperatures, swimming can help reduce inflammation and swelling.

It can be beneficial for dogs who are recovering from surgery, damaged muscles, and other injuries.

Cold therapy is perfect for their elbows, wrists, shoulders, legs, hips, knees, and ankles. 

Just make sure to let them swim for only 10-30 minutes. Otherwise, their injury might worsen. 

What Temperature Can Dogs Swim In?

It is safe for dogs to swim in temps above 45 °F or 7 °C. Anything below this is considered unsafe for all dogs.

If the temperature has reached below zero, there is an increased risk of hypothermia or frostbite.

The maximum temperature at which a dog can swim is 98.6 °F or 37 °C. 

Puppies, older dogs, and small dog breeds may not be so tolerant to heat as well, so keep an eye out for them.

In short, it is safe for dogs to swim in water with a temperature between 45 °F and 98.6 °F.

If you can’t tell whether the water is too cold or not, ask yourself if you would swim in that water temperature. If you can’t, then your dog most likely can’t as well.

How Cold Is Too Cold for Dogs to Swim?

A temperature below zero means your dog can freeze while swimming. Stop them from going into the water if it is this cold as they may develop mild to moderate hypothermia.

Temperatures below 20 °F or -6 °C can lead to severe hypothermia or frostbite, especially for dogs with thin fur, puppies, senior dogs, small dog breeds, and sick dogs.

Dogs swim in cold water

How Long Can a Dog Swim in Cold Water?

The water temperature is not the only thing to consider when your dog is swimming.

It is also important to consider the amount of time that your dog spends swimming.

The best rule of thumb is to only let them swim for five to ten minutes if the water is cold… as in the safe kind of cold!

If the temperature of the water is safe, they can swim for ten to thirty minutes, depending on how skilled and athletic they are. 

Take your dog out of the pool if you notice discomfort. 

Some signs that it’s time to stop swimming include:

  • anxiety
  • barking
  • coughing 
  • fatigue or lethargy
  • hunched posture
  • increased heart rate
  • lifts paws off the ground
  • muscle stiffness
  • shaking 
  • slow, shallow breathing
  • low mobility or struggle to swim
  • whining. 

Signs Your Dog is Cold

Swimming in cold water can be dangerous to your dog, especially if the temperature is too low or if you let them stay in the water for too long. 

Some experience mild symptoms then recover right away, while others may find it more difficult to regulate their body temperature.

Here are some signs that your dog may be feeling the cold.

Cold Weather

Swimming in cold water during cold weather? That’s a big no-no! If you feel cold even with a jacket on, then a dog with thick fur may feel cold as well. 

Don’t leave your dog outside during the cold weather, nor allow them to swim.

Shivering

Shivering, shaking, or trembling means your dog is having trouble controlling their body temperature. 

The minute you see your dog shaking, get them out of the water quickly.

Cold Ears

Some dogs’ bodies still feel warm despite them feeling cold because of their fur. To check if they are cold, feel around the edges of their ears. 

Do not let them swim or go outside if their ears feel cold to the touch. 

Slow Movements

If your dog is starting to lose coordination while swimming, they are probably getting cold. Observe their movements closely, especially their front legs.

A dog who can’t swim properly may also have a hard time staying afloat. Assist them in getting out of the water to avoid drowning. 

Make sure to dry your dog immediately to keep them from getting colder. You also want to let them stay indoors to warm up.

Whining

If your dog is making noises while swimming, they may already be feeling uncomfortable. Aside from whining, they may also bark and whimper due to difficulty.

Cold dogs feel anxious and agitated. Take them out of the water immediately and warm them up.

Is Swimming in Cold Water Bad for Dogs?

No.

Swimming in cold water is not bad as long as the temperature does not fall below 45 °F. It can even provide various benefits for their muscles and joints.

Just make sure to take the safety precautions needed to keep your dog safe while swimming in cold water. Watch out for signs that they want to get out of the water.

If the water is too cold, and you don’t take them out right away, your dog may develop frostbite or hypothermia. These diseases can be life-threatening if not treated right away

Dog swimming every day

Can Dogs Get Sick from Swimming in Cold Water?

Yes.

If the water is too cold, dogs can develop various kinds of sickness and diseases.

Let’s take a look at some of the potential health issues to your dog.

Hypothermia

Hypothermia leads to your dog’s body temperature becoming too low when they spend a lot of time in cold water or other freezing environments. 

Sick dogs that are exposed to cold temperatures have an increased chance of developing hypothermia, especially those with diabetes and heart diseases. 

Some symptoms of hypothermia include:

  • shivering
  • weakness
  • depression
  • restlessness
  • lethargy.

Stiff muscles and slow heart rate can also occur as a result of hypothermia. Some dogs fail to respond to stimuli anymore.

If their body temperature is below 95 °F or 35 °C, this may mean they have hypothermia. You can check this with a rectal thermometer.

Wrap your dog in a warm blanket immediately if they show signs of hypothermia. Take them to a warm place and then get them to the vet clinic for treatment.

Sniffles

Dogs can catch a little cold when they stay a little too long in cold water. A runny nose, slight cough, and fatigue are not usually serious. 

Sniffles is a minor respiratory infection that presents itself through the following signs:

  • runny nose or wet nose
  • water eyes
  • slight cough
  • lethargy
  • fatigue
  • sneezing.

Letting them rest and drink plenty of water is enough to treat sniffles. If your dog feels cold even after getting out of the cold water, wrap them in a blanket.

A classic chicken noodle soup can help them the same way it soothes sniffles in humans. Feeding them soup aids in decongestion and helps warm them.

Frostbite

Your dog may also catch frostbite if they get too cold and their body tries to move blood from the outer edges to the center. 

This process happens automatically to aid the regulation of body temperature. 

When blood is absent in their paws, tails, and ears, they can get so cold that ice forms in their tissues. 

Some symptoms of frostbite include:

  • clumsiness or lack of coordination (difficulty swimming)
  • slow, shallow breathing
  • shivering
  • weak pulse
  • drowsiness or lethargy
  • loss of consciousness.

Near Drowning

The first symptoms of hypothermia include clumsiness and a lack of coordination. If your dog experiences this in the pool, they may fail to paddle correctly and then drown. 

Many attempts to restore spontaneous circulation by administering CPR to dogs who experienced cold-water drowning will fail.

Some dogs who are rescued right away from drowning inhale and swallow a small amount of water. This may not lead to death, but it can result in severe breathing issues. 

Some symptoms of drowning in dogs include:

  • difficulty breathing
  • change in posture
  • loss of consciousness
  • hypothermia
  • cyanosis (changed mucous membrane color)
  • weak pulse.

It is also worth noting that there are various types of near-drowning or drowning in dogs. These include:

  • Drowning – death from lack of oxygen due to immersion to water.
  • Submersion syndrome or near-drowning – water inhalation that results in complications and the need to give medical care.
  • Secondary drowning – death from submersion for more than 24 hours after water immersion.

Immediately remove your dog from the cold water when you see them drowning. Try to clear their airways and perform CPR and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. 

Keep them warm with a blanket without restricting their movement. Try to expose their mouth and nose so they can have less difficulty breathing.  

Should I Let My Dog Swim in Cold Water?

Dog swimming in ocean

Yes.

You may allow your dog to swim in cold water if:

  • The temperature is not below 45 °F.
  • Your dog can swim.
  • You only let them do so for around 10 minutes.
  • You follow the safety tips.

All of these points should apply before letting them swim in cold water. Otherwise, they can end up sinking or getting sick.

Safety Tips for Swimming with Your Dog

Get Your Dog a Life Jacket

Whether your dog is still learning how to swim or is already used to paddling, they should wear a life jacket for their safety. 

This is especially true if their breed does not make them a natural swimmers.

Those with short legs, such as Bulldogs and Dachshunds, tend to sink in deep water. A life vest is ideal to keep them above water.

If your dog has water-related anxiety, they may also need a life vest. Dogs that panic may have trouble swimming and are more likely to drown. 

Find out the best life jackets for dogs to help them enjoy swimming. Make sure to choose the right size for their comfort. 

Don’t Let Your Dog Swim for Too Long

Swimming may be an enjoyable and beneficial form of exercise, but you shouldn’t let them swim for too long.

Dogs who are still learning how to swim should only do so for 10 minutes. You can gradually increase the length of time as they become better at it.

For normal water temperature, dogs can swim for up to 30 minutes. But if the water is cold, the maximum length of time is around 10 minutes. 

You can take them swimming once a week if they are not used to it yet. As they get more comfortable, they can swim every day.

Don’t Let Your Dog Drink from Lakes, Ponds, and Oceans

Bring plenty of freshwater for your dog each time you take them out for a swim. Being thirsty might cause them to drink from the lake, pond, or ocean, which is unsafe.

These bodies of water are contaminated with organisms that can cause diarrhea, Leptospira, and kidney damage. Pesticides are also used to treat lakes, which can cause poisoning in dogs.

Keep a close eye on them while they are swimming to prevent them from drinking water from outdoor sources. 

Swim Safely and Keep Warm

While swimming is an ideal low-impact exercise for your dog, it’s essential to consider safety rules before allowing your dog to dive into the pool.

Remember that cold water does not only cause sniffles, but it may also lead to tremors and death caused by frostbite or hypothermia if the water is too cold.

Aside from the temperature of the water, you also have to consider the ability of your dog to swim. 

If their legs are too short to paddle efficiently, or if they are still new to swimming, make sure your dog always has a life jacket on. 

Choose a dog life vest that fits just right and effectively keeps your pup afloat.

And always check if the water is at the right temperature before letting your dog swim in cold water.