Stagnant Ponds and Lakes
Due to a lack of circulation, this type of still water can harbor large numbers of potentially pathogenic bacteria, viruses, fungi, algae, and parasites like Coccidia and Giardia. Ponds or lakes are specifically susceptible to significant amounts of blue-green algae growth during warm weather months, according to Jeff Werber, DVM, a Los Angeles-based veterinarian.
“The algae releases toxins into the water as it begins to die. Dogs often respond to the smell produced by the algae and drink the algae-contaminated water,” he explains. This can result in damage to the kidneys, liver, intestines and nervous system. In fact, the mere act of swimming in the algae-contaminated water can be enough to cause skin rashes.
Another issue with stagnant water is the potential for dogs to contract a bacterial infection known as leptospirosis. Because of its ability to do irreparable damage to the kidneys, “next to antifreeze exposure, lepto is one of the most life threatening diseases we deal with,” says IndyVet veterinarian Tracey Gillespie.
Symptoms of Toxicity: “If your dog has been in a lake or pond with blue-green algae, be sure to wash him or her immediately, and keep an eye out for symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, difficulty walking, and general weakness,” explains Werber.
Gillespie adds that signs of leptospirosis—including lethargy, malaise, and fever—can be subtle at first. “They often progress to vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst and urination, and in some cases, jaundice (yellowing of the mucus membranes, seen best in the whites of the eyes),” she says. Symptoms usually show up any time between a few hours to a few days after the exposure.
Prevention Tips: If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms after drinking or swimming in potentially contaminated water, see your veterinarian immediately. The best way to prevent your dog from being affected is to avoid these types of standing bodies of water, particularly if algae growth is evident. Keep pets on the boat if participating in recreational family time or on a leash when walking near open standing water. Avoid tossing toys and balls into untreated water, especially if a colorful film adorns its top (this could be harmful algae).