Having water available for your favorite pooch at all times is important, so when you are out for a hike and come across a small pond, you decide to stop and let him take a quick drink. Stop right there. While your pooch will get a drink of water, he may drink down much more and end up very sick.
While stopping at a pond for Fido to take a quick drink may seem like a good idea, many ponds or other small bodies of stagnant water are home to various waterborne parasites and algae that can make him sick. Depending on the exposure, symptoms can range from mild diarrhea to kidney failure and death.
Giardia intestinalis is a parasite that spreads through feces from animals infected. In bodies of water, giardia can survive for up to three months, depending on water temperatures. Symptoms include diarrhea, gas, nausea and vomiting. Once infected, your dog can then spread the parasite through his feces. Giardia can affect humans as well. There is a vaccine that prevents giardia from passing in the feces, but it doesn’t protect your dog from the infection.
Coccidia is another feces-transmitted organism that causes watery diarrhea with mucus. As the infection worsens, blood may be present. If left untreated, it can permanently damage your dog’s intestinal tract. Puppies with underdeveloped immune systems are more susceptible.
Leptospira is a bacterium that thrives in warm, stagnant water. Infection begins with a fever, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness and muscle pain. If untreated, it can lead to liver damage and kidney failure. While your dog may receive a vaccination for lepto at his annual checkup, the vaccination targets only specific strains. Infection is still possible if your dog drinks pond water.
If the pond you are walking past has bright colored foam or a layer of pond scum, stay clear. Blue-green algae contains cyanobacteria, which can be fatal. Symptoms include diarrhea, numbness, difficulty breathing, skin irritation and heart problems. Life-threatening conditions can develop as quickly as four hours.
When walking for long distances or on hot days, consider bringing a bottle of water for your dog. This will quench his thirst and help avoid the pond water temptation. Note that freestanding puddles can also pass these parasites and bacteria. In addition to keeping him from drinking the water, use caution if you have a water dog who enjoys swimming. When he licks his fur, he can ingest those same nasty bugs. If you suspect a possible infection, seek veterinary care immediately.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Giardia and Pets
- Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital: What’s In the Pond Water? Water-Borne Parasites
- PetMD: Intestinal Parasite (Coccidia) In Dogs
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Leptospirosis: Signs and Symptoms in Pets
- Oregon Veterinary Medical Association: Blue-Green Algae: Hazard for Dogs
- David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images