Is It Safe for Dogs to Swim in Saltwater Pools?

salt water pools and dogs

Unlike cats, dogs love to swim and jump into every body of water they see, and pools are no exception. In fact, their enthusiasm and curiosity is so great that us dog owners have to make sure they aren’t accidentally harming themselves. The water they are jumping in can potentially be filled with harmful bacteria, but in this article we want to focus on saltwater pools.

If you have a saltwater pool and your dog is constantly jumping in it, you might be wondering if it is safe for them to be exposed to it so much. A saltwater pool is safe for dogs to swim in, but do not let them drink out of it. While saltwater pools contain a fraction of the amount of salt content compared to the ocean, they can still cause negative effects. Ingesting saltwater may lead to diarrhea, and too much can be fatal. For swimming, it is perfectly safe for their skin, but may cause irritation if you do not rinse the salt and chlorine off afterwards.

Even though saltwater pools are generally safe for dogs to swim in, there are still some important factors you need to know before you let your dog go wild. In this article, we will provide you with the necessary information so that your dog can safely swim in your saltwater pool.

Are saltwater pools dangerous to dogs?

We’ve already let the cat out of the bag, but generally yes, saltwater pools are safe for your dog to swim in. That said, there are still a few things you need to look out for because dogs don’t know any better.

First, just because a saltwater pool is safe to swim in doesn’t mean you should let them freely drink from it. This is doubly true if your dog tries to drink sea or ocean water. Even though saltwater pools have a fraction of the salt content, if your dog casually drinks from the pool, it can be enough to upset their stomach.

The Americal Kennel Club, the foremost authority on dog care in the US, says that drinking mouthfuls of saltwater can result in diarrhea. That said, they also warn that large amounts of salt water can be fatal. This highlights the need for dog owners to pay close attention to what their dog is drinking.

The second important thing to keep in mind is that the salt and chlorine must be rinsed off of your dog after they are done playing in the pool or ocean. You might think that the dogs have it handled after they perform a mighty shake, but the salt and chlorine can linger on their fur, damaging it and irritating their skin.

You may have heard that saltwater is actually beneficial in small amounts, but not washing your dog off at all is unacceptable. If you’re feeling lazy or don’t want to get splashed by your dog, unfortunately you’re going to have to suck it up. Use warm water if possible, as well as a natural shampoo if you’ve got one.

Is chlorine worse than saltwater for dogs?

If you think that saltwater pools do not contain chlorine, you are mistaken. It’s true that salt water pools have much less chlorine than chlorine pools, but they still contain chlorine to kill off harmful bacteria.

Saltwater pools are arguably safer for dogs because of the way chlorine is added. In a chlorine pool, large quantities of chlorine is added at one time via tablets, typically right before swimming in it.

As for a saltwater pool, it relies on a generator that converts salt to chlorine gradually. The chlorine levels in a saltwater pool are much lower overall and also more consistent as the generator is left running.

That said, much of the literature online indicates that both chlorine and saltwater are safe for your dog if ingested at low levels. Again, it may cause diarrhea, but that’s not so bad compared to the worst case scenario. Furthermore, chlorine can cause irritation to your dog’s eyes and ears, just like in humans. If chlorine is not washed off, it can irritate their skin as well.

How to keep your dog safe in a saltwater pool

  • Keep your dog hydrated. Much of our concern has to do with our lovable furball drinking the salt or chlorinated water. To reduce the likelihood of this happening, make sure they are given a bowl of freshwater right before they go swimming. If they are already well-hydrated beforehand, then they are unlikely to want to take a big gulp of the pool water.
  • Don’t wash your dog prior to the pool session. This might seem counterintuitive and impossible to adhere to depending on how dirty your dog is, but avoid washing them before they go in the pool. Like humans, dogs naturally produce oils on their fur and skin which moisturizes them. These beneficial oils can be washed off if exposed to water. Unless you are restoring the oils with conditioner, limit how often you wash your dog to prevent their skin and fur from drying out.
  • Wash your dog afterwards. As mentioned, salt and chlorine can irritate their skin and cause their fur to dry out. It’s not enough to let your dog shake off the water. Your dog may not understand, but as the owner, you need to rinse them thoroughly with freshwater. Use dog shampoo and conditioner to clean off the chlorine and dirt. This will also restore the oils on their skin and fur so that they are moisturized and vibrant.

Dog fur type

Depending on the breed of your dog, exposure to saltwater can make a big difference. Dogs vary significantly in size and fur length. Dog breeds with short wired fur, for instance, are affected by saltwater and exposure to the sun’s UV rays much more than hairier breeds with thick coats protecting them.

Thus, if your dog has less fur, their skin is more susceptible to the salt and UV rays and you need to keep a close eye on them. Don’t let them remain in the pool or in the sun for a long time.

Double coated breeds can have problems where the saltwater can get trapped in their coat, increasing the contact against their skin. It can take a long time for the saltwater or chlorinated water to get washed out. Also, hairier dog breeds will shed fur more aggressively, and this can quickly clog up the pool filter if you’re not doing anything about it.

Parting words

While it is mostly safe for your dog to swim in a saltwater pool, you should still keep a close eye on them to make sure they aren’t drinking large quantities of water.

After exiting the pool, your job isn’t over. You need to give your furry friend a thorough rinse with freshwater. Use dog shampoo and conditioner to ensure the salt and chlorine is removed and that the oils lost while swimming have been replenished.

If your dog has ingested salt water or chlorinated water, then be prepared for some possible diarrhea. For the most part, it should be safe for your dog unless a large amount was ingested.

The biggest concern for chlorinated pools is that the dog directly ingests a chlorine tablet, not that they had a gulp of water. To deter your dog from drinking the pool water, make sure they are well-hydrated with freshwater beforehand.

By following the tips in this article, you can let your dog enjoy swimming in your saltwater pool with some peace of mind knowing that they are not in any imminent danger. Just keep a close eye on them and make sure they aren’t eating or drinking anything they aren’t supposed to.