Boating Safely With Your Dog

Boating Safely with Your Dog

Medical Contributor:

Dr. Lauren Darwin

Jun 19, 2024

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Do you love to sail and want to share the adventure with your furry BFF? You can! It’s possible to have a safe time on a boat with your dog—if you follow some safety guidelines. At VEG (Veterinary Emergency Group), we’ve seen the results of boating mishaps and pets. But when you know what to look for and set up some preventative measures, boating can be smooth sailing with your water-loving mutt!


Let’s discuss how to help prevent your dog from getting skin cancer. 

  • Slather on sunscreen – First and foremost, you’ll need to apply dog-safe sunscreen on your pet. Even with sunscreen or sunblock applied, monitor the amount of time your doggo is in the sun. And if your dog takes a dip in the water, be diligent and reapply sunscreen. 
  • Ban the burn – Sunscreen should prohibit or block a burn, but if you notice your dog is getting sunburn, take them inside the boat cabin (if there is one) or to a shaded spot immediately. 
  • Cool it –  Apply a cool, not cold, water compress.  

Keep in mind that when dogs board a boat, they’re excited. Eventually, you may find them laying down, belly up, relaxing in the sun. And that’s direct sun exposure to a sensitive, non-protected area of skin. While skin cancer can appear anywhere on a dog, our veterinarians find that it often affects a dog’s stomach area, due to lounging in the sun. This is especially common with thin-haired or white-haired dogs. 


Enjoying time on a boat with your dog can be interrupted by unexpected mishaps. Here’s what to look out for:

  • Keep paws safe – Get ready for all paws on deck!  As the temperature changes, so will the temp of your boat deck. Monitor your dog’s walking area for accumulated heat; paws are sensitive and can burn. Read more about paw protection here.
  • Dry your deck floor– Dry deck, safe dog. Water inevitably splashes up on deck and creates a slippery situation for your pet. This can lead to your dog spraining a leg or sliding overboard, which increases risk of drowning
  • Ban the booties – when thinking about slipping, you might think investing in dog booties would be great for paws. However, booties can be a detriment to swimming if your dog falls in the water or goes for a swim.
  • Keep dogs away from fishing gear – Lines, hooks, and other fishing gear can entangle and pierce your pup. Store in a tacklebox when not in use. Keep your dog away when casting a fishing line. If swimming with your dog, monitor for lines that may be in the way of your dog’s path.
  • Leash your dog – our veterinarian recommends keeping your dog on a leash, which will be easy to grab hold of in case your dog gets in over their head, literally.


When you’re thinking about what to bring on a boat for your dog, one of the most important things is water. Don’t let your dog drink anything but fresh, clean water that you’ve provided. Dogs can contract a serious bacterial disease called leptospirosis from drinking water that’s contaminated. Signs of leptospirosis include:

  • Abdominal pain and severe muscle pain
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Stiffness
  • Weakness

Also keep an eye on your dog when near salt water. Your dog may breathe a little heavier while swimming, which can lead to salt water being inhaled and/or gulped. If your dog drinks salt water, see an emergency veterinarian at VEG right away, as it can lead to serious illness. If you notice any of these symptoms, your dog may have ingested salt water:

  • Arched back, with eyes rolled up
  • Diarrhea
  • Comatose or limp
  • Seizure
  • Vomiting

Salt water or drinking too much water can drive a dog’s natural electrolytes down. The veterinary team at our urgent clinic for dogs and all pets can work quickly to correct an electrolyte imbalance. Bringing electrolytes back into balance is a slow process that can last hours. The sooner you seek help at VEG, the better your dog’s prognosis.


Lastly, there are life jackets made especially for dogs. If you’re taking your dog on a boat, a life vest or jacket is essential. Thankfully, there are life vests for canines of every size; we suggest you choose one in a bright color. This way, you can spot your dog easier in the water! 


If you have a boating emergency with your dog, VEG is always open for emergency and urgent vet care, weekdays, weekends, and holidays. Follow VEG on social for more safety tips. VEG has veterinary hospitals for dogs and all pets throughout the US. Find the location near you or nearest to where you’re boating, and add us to your contacts to save time during pet emergencies. 

Within our open-concept animal ER, our highly skilled veterinarian staff will speak with you immediately and diagnose the best medical care needed for your dog. VEG offers a customer and patient focus that earns top ratings in all of our animal hospitals across the country. You can stay with your dog the entire time and even participate in their care!