What To Do If Your Pet Nearly Drowned

Estimated Reading Time: 1 min | Last Updated: June 26th, 2018

First aid for pets rescued from drowning

Drowning can occur when a pet’s head is submerged below water for a prolonged period of time causing their brain and other organs and tissues, to be deprived of oxygen. Some pets have a higher risk – those that are very old, very young, or sick. These animals may not be able to swim or may tire easily when in water.


Lethargy, collapse, loss of consciousness
Coughing, panting, difficulty breathing
Pale gums or blue tinged gums
Cool extremities

Drowning can cause life threatening shock and oxygen deprivation, swelling of the brain, and pneumonia – this is an emergency situation and you should seek veterinary attention immediately.

Emergency treatment before transport to a veterinarian

  1. Remove your pet from the water immediately, dry it and make sure you keep it warm.
  2. Position your pet’s head so that the head is lower than the body and the nose is pointing downwards – this will help to clear the mouth and nose of fluid and debris.
  3. If your pet is not breathing, attempt mouth to nose resuscitation, giving one breath every 3 seconds.
  4. If your pet has no heartbeat, start CPR. CLICK HERE for CPR instructions

What to expect at the vet

CPR if indicated

Oxygen therapy

Intravenous fluids and medications as indicated to treat shock and brain swelling

Blood Tests to assess oxygenation of the blood and response to therapy.

Radiographs (x-rays) to assess the lungs

Mechanical ventilation in severe cases where the lungs are filled with fluid or if they are collapsed. This is a machine that breathes for your pet through a tube.


Do not allow pets access to bodies of water without supervision.

Do not allow young children to bathe pets without supervision.

If you have a pool that your pet has access to, teach them where the steps are located so that they can get out easily.

Breathing difficulties may develop several hours after a near drowning incident, and as such, veterinary attention and observation is strongly recommended even if your pet appears normal. If treated appropriately, even severe cases of near drowning can make a full recovery.


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