13 Tips on Boat Safety and First Aid for Pets

by Veronica Jeans August 19, 2017

Boat safety for pets - seabrook marina news

We’ve all seen those dogs standing in the bow of boats with their ears blowing in the wind as they try to catch the spray in their face—it looks cute, right? Most of our four-legged friends naturally position themselves up in the boat to better enjoy the experience. As pet moms and dads, we just need to remember that if we’re operating our boats in choppy water your dog could be propelled overboard very easily.

1. Hydration
Bring plenty of water for your pup. Also, don’t forget those dog treats!

2. Boarding
Consider a boarding ramp if your pet is too large to be carried under one arm. A ramp also makes it easier for a pet to reboard from the water, the beach or a sandbar.

3. Identification
Include a mobile number on your pet’s tag. I prefer a tag that clips directly to the collar because it can’t get caught on anything or scratch my boat. Consider having a microchip embedded beneath the dog’s skin. The chip is part of a registry and can be read by vets.

4. Acclimation
Keep your dog’s first boat outing brief. My dog used to stop and assume a wide-footed stance on the dock. Get your dog comfortable on docks and boats. 

Cats have good sea legs due to their low center of gravity (a rounded belly helps) and a collar may turn into a noose when jumping from the boom. 

5. Pet Overboard Plan
Create a game plan before you even bring your pet on a boat.

"No matter how well a dog can swim under supervision, any dog can drown," reports Georgia Molek, a veterinarian we contacted through the American Animal Hospital Association. "All dogs can get fatigued, too, and/or become disoriented. I’m sure life jackets are a good idea but they should never replace caution and common sense."

All animals instinctively know how to swim and a cat will find the security rope or net that should be hanging into the water as a ladder in case of emergency. 

Here are tips about 'How to Save your Dog in the Water' from BoatUS.

6. Life Jackets for Pets
Even “water breeds” benefit from a life jacket, especially in strong current or choppy water. The handles on a life jacket also help to grip and lift a pet into the boat. 

There are many great models of life jackets for dogs and cats on the market and the most important feature is a lifting handle so you can easily and quickly pull your pet out of the water if you need to. To learn more about pet life jackets, check out this boating with pets article on Discover Boating.

7. Leashes and Collars
A harness, as opposed to a collar, provides a means to grab and lift the dog, even using a boat hook. 

We have seen boat cats on a leash, but that seems excessive. 

8. First Aid
Make sure you have a stocked pet first-aid kit aboard like the one from RC Pet Products Ltd. (rcpets.com, $35). The Humane Society of the United States ­recommends pet-specific supplies and useful items to include in a boating dog’s first-aid kit. Dogs can take Dramamine and other remedies for seasickness. Dr. Cindy Markum from Seapaws Veterinary Clinic to check with your vet.

9. Sunburn Protection
Sunscreen should be applied on the dog’s belly and inside the hind legs, at least. Pet sunscreens like Doggles (doggles.com, $16.99), Nutri-Vet (nutrivet.com, $7.99) and Vet’s Best sun relief spray (petnation.org, $9.99) are free of zinc oxide, which can be harmful if pets lick it. Spray-on varieties are easy to apply.

10. Let your dog get used to the boat before the first outing

Before you take your dog out on the water for the first time, it’s best to let him or her get used to the idea of being on a boat or on the water. Let your furry friend climb aboard the boat while it’s docked a few times to get used to what it feels like and to get used to the surroundings. If the dog feels that it’s in a familiar place, it will be less likely to be stressed the first time out on the water. If you want to go the extra mile, you can build an ocean themed dog house so they dream about the water too!

11. When Nature Calls

If you are cruising around for a couple hours, chances are your pet is going to have to relieve his or herself. It’s best to purchase a “potty pad,” which is a piece of carpet or turf designed specifically to let pets relieve themselves indoors. Train your dog to use one of these and avoid them making a mess on your boat! Cats are easy :)

12. Make sure your pet has shelter

You get hot after being in the sun for a couple hours right? Now imagine you were covered in fur! It’s important that your dog has a place in the shade for when he or she gets hot, in addition to having plenty of water available.

13. Here is something for cats - Making the boat cat-safe
First thing after buying the boat, we put netting all around the lifelines, ignoring clever neighbors shouting, “Throw the beast into the water, it won’t jump next time!” The point is not to keep Leeloo from jumping, but to prevent her from slipping. Some cruisers toss their cats into the water to prepare them for a fall and to show them where to climb out. I wouldn’t recommend that, you’ll just loose your cat’s trust. Cats understand that the stuff around the boat is water and will be careful to avoid a bath.


Did we miss anything? Let us know some of your tips for boating with your K9!


Dr. Cindy Markum with Seapaws Veterinary Clinic in Bayou City.
Discover Boating
This excerpt is from AllatSea
Here are some more articles about Boating with Pets from BoatUS.


Veronica Jeans
Veronica Jeans


Veronica Jeans is a Ecommerce Business Coach and Marketing Expert. She is passionate about helping businesses launch successfully.
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