Is Your Dog Seaworthy?

Boating Dog

A large part of summer fun for many lucky people includes spending time on a boat. Dogs and cats are often a part of this aspect of summer. There are a few important things to note about boating with your pets.

Most dogs and cats are natural swimmers. However, problems occur when they cannot get out of the water. Many drownings occur while the boat is docked. An animal may fall in unnoticed and swim around looking for somewhere to get out, only to exhaust themselves and succumb to drowning. This can be avoided.

  • First, get your pet a life jacket. Pet life jackets are available from a variety of sources and are relatively inexpensive.
  • An extra small dog life jacket will fit most cats. They are also available in extra-extra small so there is definitely one out there to fit your tiny dog or feline friend!
  • Look for a bright color for high visibility and make sure it has a handle on the top.
  • You can use the handle to lift a small dog or a cat out of the water, or to guide a larger dog to an area of the boat where they can board.

Once you have life jackets, use them. Life jackets are of no use to you or your pets if they are stowed below.

Also, dogs and cats should be shown how to get out of the water by themselves. For cats, this is relatively easy.

  • A length of line, knotted every 4 to 6 inches or so, hung off the back of the boat into the water, will allow most cats to climb up.
  • Show the cats where the line is, encourage them to climb up. Make sure they know how.

Dogs require a bit more thought. There is a really clever device on the market called the Doggy Boat Ladder by Paws Aboard. It is a portable, lightweight ladder that is easy to carry and install. Dogs can learn to use the ladder easily with repeated training. Practice, practice, practice, and make it fun! Entice your dog up with a toy or a treat. Be patient.

Paws Aboard Doggy Boat Ladder

"Paws Aboard" Doggy Boat Ladder

By observing these boating safety guidelines, you and your companion animals can enjoy a wonderful summer on the water!



Okay, so now you and your dog are out on the boat for the weekend, or hiking up in the wilderness for the day. What are you going to do, all alone out there, with no veterinarian around, when puppy slices his paw pad open on a piece of glass? Yikes!!!

American Red Cross Pet First Aid Kit

American Red Cross Pet First Aid Kit

Be Prepared! Having a pet first aid kit is the first step and knowing what to do with it is the next. Whether you purchase a ready-made kit or make up your own, there are some items that you should be sure to include. Ask your veterinarian what you should include in YOUR pet first aid kit or check out the information provided by the American Red Cross.

Your basic kit should include:

  • Muzzle, any dog in pain may bite.
  • Dog nail clippers to trim broken or torn nails.
  • Styptic powder such as ‘Quick Stop’ to stop nail bleeding.
  • Non-stick bandages to stop bleeding and keep wounds clean.
  • Gauze and vet tape for bandaging.
  • Duct tape for everything!
  • Superglue.
  • Hydrogen peroxide to clean wounds and induce vomiting. Mark dosage on label.
  • Milk of magnesia or activated charcoal to absorb poison. Mark dosage on label.
  • Antibiotic ointment to prevent infection.
  • Large syringe (without needle) for administering oral treatments.
  • Phone number of your veterinarian and emergency contacts.
  • Means of contacting the Coast Guard or Forest Service.


Common First Aid Treatments

Cuts: Clean small, superficial cuts with clean water, apply antibiotic ointment. See your veterinarian if cuts are not healed within 3 days.

Broken or Fractured Toenail: Apply muzzle. If the loose piece is attached by a strand, trim it away with the clippers. If still well attached, try to superglue it together. It may hold until you can get help. To stop the nail from bleeding, pack it with coagulant: styptic powder, a bar of soap, flour or cornstarch, or tealeaves from a tea bag will work in a pinch. Hold it there for a minute or two. Seek veterinary care as soon as possible to help avoid complications.

Lacerations: Apply muzzle. Deep or long cuts can be cleaned with cool, clean water and a topical antibiotic can be applied before bandaging snuggly. Get to the vet asap!

Punctures and Bites: Apply muzzle. These wounds are deep and may be the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Flush with clean water and apply topical antibiotic. Watch for swelling or inflammation. Bacteria may become trapped under the skin. See your vet asap!


Know your location! If you call for help, you need to be able to tell someone where you are.


The American Red Cross offers Pet First Aid courses and certification that would prove valuable if you often find yourself in a situation where you and your pet are isolated from help.



Paws Aboard Doggy Boat Ladder is available at a variety of locations. Other boat ladder options are also available. Check it out on Amazon:

Outward Hound life jackets:

American Red Cross Pet First Aid Courses:

American Red Cross Pet First Aid Kit:

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Positively Expert: Dale Ward

Dale is owner of Dale's Dog Training Academy, LLC serving southeast VA and northeast NC. She is a Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Trainer, an AKC/CGC Evaluator, CBATI (Certified Behavior Adjustment Training Instructor--in progress), and a full member of the Pet Professional Guild and APDT.


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