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Why is my dog acting weird after swimming?

Why is my dog acting weird after swimming?

My dog loves to swim. I was a bit surprised, because she’s not a fan of baths. However, I took her to the lake, and she loved it. She would swim so long I would get a bit worried about her. 

If your pooch loves swimming, you may find them acting strange after they finish swimming. This can be caused by everything from exhaustion to water intoxication. 

Why is my dog acting weird after swimming?

There are several reasons your dog may act weird after swimming. Some of these aren’t a cause of serious concern, but others can require veterinary treatment. 

Sore Tail 

When dogs swim, they use their tail along with their legs. The problem is, their tail doesn’t normally function in this way. Your pooch may wag their tail for a few minutes when they are excited, but they won’t use it the same way they do in the water. 

If your dog swims for a long time, they may strain their tail muscles. This is particularly common with the muscles in the base of the tail. 

You have probably had a similar experience after intense exercise. Your arms or legs may be very sore in the hours following the activity, or the next day. 

The signs of sore tail include not being able to wag their tail or hold it up. It may even be straight for a few inches, and then drop sharply. They may whine or cry, particularly when sitting down. 

 They may also be uncoordinated or have difficulty balancing. This is because a dog uses their tail for balance. If their tail isn’t functioning properly, it can have a mild affect on their  balance as well.


Your pooch may be acting strangely simply because they are tired. Swimming takes a lot of physical exertion, for dogs and humans. This can lead them to be exhausted. 

Dogs have a tendency to not be aware of their limits. This is particularly true when swimming. They may swim out and have to return to the shore, or simply enjoy themselves and not realize how tired they are. 

If your dog is very tired, they may lay around or sleep. They may not want to get up and play. In some cases, they may not even eat. 

If you’ve ever been this tired yourself, you can sympathize. 

Salt Water Toxicity 

Salt water toxicity is a more serious reason why your dog may be acting strange after a swim. This is only a concern if they were swimming in salt water. 

If they don’t have access to fresh water, they will drink what is available. Dogs need salt in their body, just as humans do. However, they need much less than we do. This means it’s much easier for them to ingest a toxic amount of salt. 

Dogs, just like humans, will naturally ingest a small amount of water while swimming. A few swallows probably wont’ cause your dog any harm, although they may have mild diarrhea. 

However, if they swallow a lot of salt water, it can be fatal. The extra salt pulls water out of the intestines. This causes diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration. 

Your dog will also be drinking lots of water, in an attempt to flush the salt from their system. This will also lead to excessive urination. As the body tries to flush the salt, the cells release their water. This can lead to seizures, kidney injuries, and even death. 

Dogs with salt water poisoning require medical treatment as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, even with treatment, 50% of dogs who ingest toxic amounts of salt don’t survive. 

 Parasites and Bacteria 

If your pooch is swimming in a lake, you don’t have to worry about salt toxicity. However, there are some other risks you should know. 

Lakes, rivers, streams, and ponds can contain parasites and bacteria that can make your dog ill. When it comes to cryptosporidium and giardia, and leptospirosis, it often gets into the water through contaminated feces. 

This means you or your dog can get it from swimming pools and spas if someone has a fecal accident in the water, in addition to natural bodies of water. 

The symptoms of these bacteria and parasites include diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fatigue, and loss of appetite. Symptoms can take between 1-3 weeks to appear, so they won’t affect your dog immediately after swimming. 

Blue Green Algae 

Algae is often seen as benign, but this type is anything but. Even if your dog doesn’t drink the water, they can become very ill if the water is contaminated with this algae. 

Contaminated water will typically be green, or have a slimy substance on the surface. In the lake, this may accumulate near the shoreline. 

The signs of blue green algae poisoning include seizures, panting, excessive drooling, diarrhea, and vomitting. It can cause liver failure, respiratory failure, and death if not treated promptly. 

Swimmers Ear 

Swimmers ear occurs because water gets trapped in the ear canal. This is a perfect habitat for bacteria, so it often leads to infection. This isn’t a serious condition, but it’s not enjoyable for your pooch. 

The signs of swimmers ear include shaking or rubbing their head, or scratching at the ear. You may also notice discharge coming from the ear, and a red ear canal. 

What to do if my dog is acting weird after swimming?

 What to do if your dog is acting weird after swimming will depend on how they are acting differently. 

Vomitting or Diarrhea 

If your pooch has vomiting or diarrhea after swimming, they need immediate veterinary care. Blue green algae and salt water toxicity can both cause these symptoms. Both conditions can be fatal, particularly if they aren’t treated quickly. 

Fatigue or Lethargy 

If your furry friend appears to be exhausted, allow them to rest. Keep a close eye on them. Be sure that they aren’t exhibiting other concerning symptoms including stomach upset or fever. 

If fatigue is the only symptom, they are likely just tired from their swim. In the future, keep an eye out for signs they are getting tired. Call it a day before they reach the point of exhaustion. 

  Sore Tail 

If your pooch has sore tail from swimming, it will likely heal on its own given time. However, there are a few things you can do. If your dog is in a lot of pain, contact your vet. 

They can give them antiinflammatory pain medications. These will relieve the pain and reduce the inflammation, which can improve your dog’s tail function. 

Applying heat to the base of the tail can help as well. Just as heat relaxes a pulled muscle in humans, it can help relieve the pain of sore tail. 

In the  future, shorten your swimming excursions a bit to avoid sore tail. Cold water makes sore tail more likely, so keep this in mind as well.  

Swimmers Ear 

Swimmers ear needs to be treated by your vet. They will likely prescribe ear drops, and in some cases, oral medication. Swimmers ear isn’t serious when treated. However, untreated infections can cause ear damage and hearing loss.  

It’s best to prevent swimmers ear from occurring  to begin with. To do this, you’ll need to use an ear cleaning solution made for dogs. Apply the solution, and wipe the ear with a cotton ball.