Can Golden Retrievers Swim In A Lake? Tips and Safety Info

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My friends and I recently planned a lake day, and one of them wanted to bring her Golden Retriever with us. In the end, we decided not to bring her because we didn't want to worry about watching her while having fun at the lake, but it raised the question, can Golden Retrievers swim in lakes?

Golden Retrievers are known for their love of swimming, and lake days are great ways to beat the summer heat. Unfortunately, when taking your dog to the lake, there are many factors that can threaten your dog's safety. However, if you take the proper precautions, your Golden Retriever can swim in a lake.

There are a few things to know about lakes before you take your dog to one. Lake water can be home to many harmful bacteria, so it is important to know how to tell if a lake is safe for your dog, how to stop them from drinking the water, and how to take care of them after a lake day.

In this article

Is Lake Water Safe for Dogs?

Generally speaking, most lake water is safe for dogs to swim in, but lake water is not safe for dogs to drink. The water itself does not pose a threat to your pup; it's the stuff living inside and around the lake that makes lake water unsafe.

Freshwater lakes can be home to water snakes, alligators, bears, and large cats. When taking your dog to a lake, it is essential to keep a watchful eye for wildlife that may cause your pet harm.

How to Tell if a Lake is Safe for Dogs

Before you decide to take your dog to the lake, I recommend doing thorough research about the lake you plan to visit. Some lakes are not suitable to swim in or even be near due to the bugs and algae living in them. You should also look to see if there are any factories nearby that could produce toxic runoff. 

Looking up reviews of the lake you want to visit is a great way to vet a lake. If there are tons of positive reviews from people who have brought their dogs to the lake, it's a good sign that the lake water is safe for dogs. However, if reviews on the site talk about dogs getting sick, the lake may contain organisms that cause water diseases. 

Once you've decided on the lake you want to take your dog, pay attention to signs and warnings posted on the shore. Don't let your dog swim in undesignated areas, and pay attention to wildlife warning signs. Before letting your dog swim, check for algae on the surface, alligators, snakes, and other potentially dangerous wildlife in the lake. 

Before letting my dogs swim in a lake, I always get in first and walk around the area they will be swimming. I do this to ensure there are no significant dropoffs, strong currents, or sharp rocks that were not visible from the shore.


Can my dog get sick from drinking lake water?

While some lakes are safe for dogs and people to swim in and enjoy, freshwater can be home to bacteria and parasites that can cause disease and other ailments. It is important to know the different types of water diseases and the warning signs of each. Here are the top six, according to PetMD:

Name How it Occurs Symptoms Treatment Survival Rate
Leptospirosis It occurs when a cut makes contact with contaminated water or urine Fever, muscle tenderness, shivering, vomiting, changes in urination, jaundice, and kidney failure Early Supportive care & antibiotics High when caught early
Pythiosis (Swamp Cancer) Found in southern states. Fungal organism attaches to a small wound in the skin or the gastrointestinal (GI) tract that grows into large, often ulcerated lesions. Skin Based – large itchy bumpsGI Track – vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss Surgery High with treatment
Blue-Green Algae Algae produces toxins that affect the GI tract, liver, and central nervous system. Rashes, nausea & vomiting, respiratory failure, seizures No direct treatment. If ingested induce vomiting immediately Low
Giardia Transferred through ingestion of contaminated water Diarrhea, dehydration, weight loss Symptomatic treatment & medication High when treated
Cryptosporidiosis Caused by a parasite. Occurs by ingesting contaminated food or water Watery diarrhea & server dehydration Medication High with treatment
Schistosomiasis Specifically in Texas & Louisiana. Caused by a flatworm that penetrates the skin of the dog while they swim in freshwater Vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, lethargy, eggs in feces Medication High with treatment

While these diseases are scary to think about, the best way to prevent them in your dog is by making sure they don't have any open wounds before swimming and preventing them from drinking the lake water.

How to stop your dog from drinking lake water

When your dog swims in a lake, they will naturally get some lake water in their mouth, this is normal and nothing to worry about. The problems caused by ingesting water occurs when your dog purposefully drinks lake water by the mouthful. Not to worry though, there are measures you can take to prevent your dog from drinking the lake water. 

Leave It Command

If you want your dog not to do something, having a solid training background instilled in your dog is the first step. Teaching your pup commands such as sit, stay, and come is important if you plan on taking your dog anywhere. If you plan to let your dog off-leash, like at the lake, teaching them the "leave it" command is a great way to ensure your dog won't get into anything dangerous.

By teaching your dog to "leave it," you can give the command if they look like they are going to drink the lake water. If your dog doesn't already know the "leave it" command, check out this video from the American Kennel Club:

Bringing water from home

Golden Retrievers are more likely to overheat due to their thick double coats. While swimming in a lake allows them to cool off, it does not rehydrate them. Bringing your own clean water from home is the best way to get your dog rehydrated safely on the lake. 

Should I wash my dog after swimming in the lake?

Lakes are not usually clear due to the plants that live on the bottom. Leaves, dirt, and other debris cloud the water. This debris can easily become tangled in your Golden Retriever's long coat.

It would be best if you always bathed your dog after a swim in the lake. Make sure to untangle knots, scrub all of the coat and massage into the skin, as well as moisturize with conditioner to restore your Golden Retriever's coat to its natural state. This will get rid of any debris or toxins in your dog's coat.

The American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation recommends using shampoo without detergents if your dog is frequently swimming in lakes. Using a shampoo without detergent will prevent the loss of natural oils.

Here is a great example of one from Amazon that I would recommend.


Final Thoughts

Golden Retrievers can swim in lakes, but it is important to research what lake you are visiting to make sure there aren't bacteria, parasites, or an abundance of dangerous wildlife in and around the lake. 

Training your dog before taking them to the lake and bringing your own water is the best way to stop your dog from drinking lake water. However, if your dog does drink a lot of lake water and begins to act differently, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.

Most importantly, give your Golden a good bath after they swim in the lake to get rid of debris and toxins lingering in it. This will keep your pet safe and prevent damage to their coat.