Dogs in Water

My dog likes to swim, which she has the good sense to do with her mouth shut. But what she really loves is to run fast in chest-high water chasing her splashes and trying to eat them and the surface of the water as she runs. As a result, she ingests/inhales some water and does a fair amount of coughing. I do some cupping—cup my hands and whack both sides of her rib cage to help—but as soon as I let her go she gallops back into the water and repeats.

I keep her out of ponds and stagnant water and take her to fast moving streams with shale bottoms (her fav) and gently coursing rivers to avoid stagnant water cooties. I hate to deny her such joy, especially when it’s so hot and she can’t do much else outside, but I don’t want to make her sick, either. It’s been so long since I had a dog who likes water, I don’t remember how much coughing is par for the course. I would say my dog’s is more than incidental.


How often does this happen versus how often do you get to a place to play in water?

In my head a dog who gets to play in the water a lot would learn pretty quickly not to choke themselves up on it. But I know dog intelligence isn’t always at the forefront. :wink:

Our pups play and swim in our pond without regular issues so I’m of little help beyond that.

My dogs love to play fetch in the water and they do little coughs to clear the water from their mouths as they are swimming back to shore. This does not concern me. Occasionally they cough more aggressively once they get to shore, like the water has gotten into their lungs - this is not good but I don’t worry if it happens only very occasionally. So maybe try to distinguish light coughing to clear water from the mouth vs aggressive coughing from water in the lungs. Then ask your vet.

A few years ago a friend of a friend had their dog drown while on shore from inhaling too much water while playing fetch in the river. I don’t know the details around this story and it spooked me but I still take my dogs to the river because they love it.

We’ve had our lab cough and swallow too much water while playing with sticks in the water. I was abut 12 years old when he honestly came to shore dragging himself and dropped dead at our feet, not breathing. My step father was there and gave him mouth to nose and pounded on his sides and he coughed out all the water and survived.

We never threw sticks or toys in the water for any other dog we had after that day. It was quite the eye opener for us as we never really thought it could happen!


Sounds totally normal. They will learn. But I agree I would not encourage it by throwing toys etc at least until she seems to be able to settle down more.

Thanks y’all. I don’t throw sticks (and she doesn’t have any fetching interest anyway). In summer we go about 1x or 2x a week, but I was taking her daily with the heat. I’ll back off so it’s not every day. It’s mostly coughing when/right after she is in the water, but sometimes she’ll have a snort-like sort of chuffle for some hours after.

There is such a thing as water toxicity. It’s where they ingest so much water it messes up their blood chemistry and causes cardiac arrest, sometimes hours later

1 Like