We seldom boat without our dog, Holly, who has many fans at the marina and stops to greet everyone on the way to the boat.
After seeing how well Holly has adapted to our vessel, many people try bringing their pets for a day on the water, which doesn’t always work out well.
Pets can provide wonderful onboard companionship and add to the fun of boating, but you can’t assume your pet will take to the boat. Bringing a pet on board requires preparation and forethought.
Start slowly. Introduce your pet to boating by spending time on board when the boat is docked or on the trailer. Some animals have an innate fear of water and may never be comfortable on a boat. If your pet trembles at the sight of water, you may need to leave it at home when you go boating.
After you’ve introduced your pet to the boat, start the engine. The unfamiliar noise may be unsettling to your pet. Animals hear a wider range of sound frequencies than humans do and may be more sensitive to engine noises. Let pets become accustomed to the sound.
Your pet’s first trip on the water should be just long enough to introduce it to the motion of being under way. Like people, pets can become seasick, so watch for signs of fatigue, nausea, clumsiness or disorientation.
Make sure your pet has its own properly fitted life jacket, found in marine stores and some pet stores. Wearing one at all times will keep your pet safe in case it accidentally falls overboard. Even if your pet can swim, hypothermia or a blow to the head could be life threatening. A life jacket may also make your pet easier to spot and retrieve.
Make sure to bring your pet enough fresh water to last the entire cruise and give it a shady place on board to escape the sun and heat. Cats and dogs also absorb heat through their feet, so protect their paws from hot deck surfaces.
Excessive panting, drooling and abnormally rapid pulse could signal heat stroke, in which case you should immediately immerse your pet in cool (not cold) water, apply an ice pack to the base of the skull and seek veterinary attention.
Be mindful of your pet’s sun exposure. Some animals can sunburn, especially those with light-colored noses or muzzles, and dogs can also suffer eye damage from too much sun exposure.
With a little common sense, you and your pet can have a great time on the water. –Debra Younack