There is no questioning that dogs love water, even if they hate it at the beginning. The excitement dogs get when they get a whiff of water in the outdoors is unmatched (my dogs start crying from joy). It’s our responsibility as dog owners to do our research and understand Mother Nature and her occasional outbreaks.
Water borne diseases in dogs can be just as problematic as it is for humans. The same effects humans get from coming in contact with a contaminated water supply can take its toll on your dog, especially puppies.
Educating and doing research on local water supplies can help dog owners prevent them in whole when having fun in the outdoors.
Research, Education, and Common Sense
If you and your dog are visiting a lake, stream, or pond (recreational water) it’s always a good idea to call a recreational office of your choice to see if there have been any contaminants or outbreaks recorded recently. Water is heavily tested (controlled sources and moving water) and have daily, monthly, and yearly logs of test results. Water test results are readily accessible these days where water specialist’s can email you updates via PDF to keep for your records.
Many times, bodies of large water will have signs telling you the water is untreated or recycled. (Recycled water can have all sorts of fertilizers and pesticides so avoid drinking or swimming in these at all costs.)
Bacteria and viruses come and go with the seasons (mostly due to temperature swings) and irrigation from farming via underwater moving springs (well water). There will be times where a lake or beach you frequent may be closed due to a bacteria outbreak. (Respect postings or any visible signs that lead you to believe the water is unsafe.) A rotten-egg smell or dead fish floating by the foot of a lake is usually a good sign the water is contaminated.
A general rule you want to respect is, just because the water looks crystal clear, does not make the water 100% safe to drink or swim in. Bacteria and viruses in water cannot be viewed with the naked eye and sometimes, rarely, show any signs of it being physically present, unless professionally tested by a lab.
Understanding the types of microorganisms associated with water borne diseases is important.
Bacteria are the most widely distributed life form to date. They are neither plants nor animals—they belong to a group all by themselves. Bacteria are found absolutely everywhere except for places that humans have sterilized. A milliliter of fresh water usually holds about one million bacterial cells.
Key bacterial pathogens responsible for waterborne disease include Legionella, Salmonellatyphi, Shigella, Escherichia coli (E. Coli) and Vibrio cholerae.
Viruses are microscopic organisms consisting of genetic material (RNA or DNA) surrounded by a protein, lipid (fat), or glycoprotein coat. Viruses are unique organisms because they cannot reproduce without a host cell. Viruses are basically inactive until it enters its host and take over the host’s functions. The cell, now infected, continues to reproduce, but it reproduces a more viral protein and genetic material instead of its usual products. It is this process that earns viruses the classification of “parasite.”
The most common way for a virus to spread is to go through the fecal-oral route via contaminated water.
Protozoa is the most common, and is much larger than bacteria and viruses. Protozoa can come and go, they have a unique way of surviving harsh conditions by secreting a protective covering to form a resting stage called a “cyst.” Encystment can protect protozoa from drinking water disinfection efforts (usually done by Chlorine, Ozone, or UV disinfection at the city level) and facilitate the spread of disease. These commonly make it into moving streams, springs, lakes, and ponds even after filtration.
Key protozoa being studied as agents of waterborne disease include Giardia lamblia, Naegleria fowleri, Acanthamoeba spp., Entamoeba histolytica, Cryptosporidium parvum, Cyclospora cayetanesis, Isospora belli, and the microsporidia.
Giardia and Cryptosporidium are two microscopic organisms that are commonly treated by Veterinarians. Reason being, Giardia and Cryptosporidium outbreaks are commonly found in fresh-water through out the United States. Both of these parasites can cause inflammation in the dogs intestine and light colored, often times, mucousy diarrhea. They can be easily treated as long as the symptoms are noticed and treated within a reasonable time frame.
You can read more about Giardia in dogs—preventing and doing a self diagnosis is easy. Dogs with Giardia should always be taken to a Veterinarian.
With spring already here and summer around the corner, it’s a great time to polish up your adventure spots by ensuring they are 100% safe to play in. Packing a few essentials like clean water from home using a dog pack or stainless steel dog water bottle is always a smart move.
Finding safe play places for your dog to get wet’n wild will make you feel more at ease in the great outdoors.
So just remember, use common sense and respect the posted signs when exploring Mother Nature and you’ll be in for a great day out.