Does your dog love to swim? I know mine does! And as the weather gets warmer, it’s only gets harder to keep them out of the water, especially if it’s one of their favorite activities! In this month’s blog, I’m going to talk about the dangers of outdoor water sources, but I don’t want to discourage you from letting your dog swim. Swimming has many benefits for dogs especially for older, overweight dogs, or for dogs with joint issues. However I do want to point out that although I promote swimming, there are always risks, so it’s important to be informed about your local lakes and rivers, and it’s also very pertinent to not let your dog drink from outdoor water sources. Always bring along water for your dog, and offer it to him on a regular basis, so he or she is less likely to be enticed by salt or stagnant water sources.
Here are some known dangers in our area:
Blue Green Algae
This is an important one for us in the greater Moncton area, because there are several ponds in our local parks that get shut down every summer due to this algae overgrowth. Blue green algae overgrowth is common in late summer and can be found in freshwater lakes, ponds, and marshlands. If your pet swims and ingests as little as one or two mouthfuls of blue-green algae infested water it can be fatal to your pet. Signs that your dog has been poisoned can show up within minutes and you might see vomiting, diarrhea, staggering, weakness and pale gums. Immediate veterinary intervention is needed!
Parasites and Bacteria
Any bodies of standing water including small lakes, ponds and even puddles can be a source of harmful bacteria and parasites for your pet. Some common examples of parasites are Giardia and Cryptosporidium. These parasites can cause profuse diarrhea and vomiting. Seek veterinary attention for your pet if they present with these signs, a simple fecal test can confirm the diagnosis.
Leptospirosis is a type of bacteria that can be found in fresh water sources. This bacteria is spread through the urine of infected animals- some potential hosts are rats, farm animals, and wildlife such muskrats and skunks. These animals can easily contaminate any local fresh water pond with the bacteria. Leptospirosis causes kidney and liver disease that requires quick and aggressive therapy for your dog to be able to make a complete recovery from this disease.
Salt Water Toxicity
Most dogs love the beach, and it`s a great summer activity for you and your dog. However it`s important to not let your dog gulp large amounts of sea water as they are frolicking on the coastline! Ingestion of small amounts of salt water can cause transient diarrhea, and ingesting larger amounts can cause a serious electrolyte imbalance called hypernatremia, which can lead to vomiting, dehydration, incoordination, seizures, etc.
It helps to always bring some fresh water along for your dog, and take breaks every 15 minutes or so and try to entice them to drink it, rather than the salt water.
An important closing point to remember for this summer, if a lake or pond is deemed unsafe for people to swim in it, then it should immediately be assumed that it is not safe for your pet to swim in it as well!