Can Dogs Drink From Natural Bodies of Water?

You want to ensure that your dog stays hydrated all the time, especially when you're spending a long, hot afternoon outdoors. Typically, you walk him near natural waters like ponds, rivers, oceans, and lakes, and you might let him drink from bodies of fresh water occasionally.

Shepherd dog taking a break from playing to drink from fauce
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However, you've heard about water quality problems happening in cities around the United States, and you're worried that the water in your town could make your dog sick. Is this something to be concerned about, or should you let your dog drink when he is thirsty?

Drinking from natural bodies of water

When deciding whether or not to let your dog lap up water from a natural source, you need to know the dangers that go along with it. For instance, stagnant, warm water is where brain-eating amoeba flourish. If your dog wants to drink from stagnant water or go for a swim, do not let him.

Another issue is blue-green algae, which breeds in natural water sources. This is toxic to dogs and can even lead to death, as it did in summer of 2019 in Austin, Texas. The city's Lady Bird Lake was infested with blue-green algae, a type of bacteria, and five dogs that swam in the lake died.

If you're camping or walking somewhere that contains many wild animals, your dog shouldn't drink the water, either. An animal infected with giardia or crypto-sporidia could go to the bathroom in the water, and then your dog could drink that same water and contract giardiasis or cryptosporidiosis.

Dog drinking water from a bottle
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Saltwater

But what if your dog goes into the ocean and gets thirsty? If your dog is swimming in the ocean and only gets a little bit of saltwater in his mouth, he may have a tummy ache. However, if he drinks a lot of it, saltwater has the potential to be fatal. Too much saltwater can give your dog diarrhea, or make him vomit or dehydrated at the very least. If you see that your dog is drinking the water as he swims, take him out of the ocean immediately.

Filtering fresh water for your dog

Let's say you're taking your dog on a hike, and you can't carry water for the both of you. Instead of lugging heavy gallons of water, you can plan out your hike so that you stop by natural water sources, and then filter the water for him. You can do this by using a water filtration system that you carry with you instead. This will usually be a simple bottle that filters out all those parasites and bacteria that are in living in natural waters.

If you do bring water on the hike, tap water in the United States is generally safe for your dog to drink. However, if you're concerned or if you live in an area where you know the tap water to be unsafe for drinking, make sure it's been filtered.

Dog drinking water from bowl
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Treating your dog for waterborne illnesses

If your dog drank bad water from a river, lake, or pond, then you'll know if he starts acting ill by vomiting or having diarrhea. You'll need to call your vet right away in case the problem is serious.

If it's determined that your dog has giardiasis or cryptosporidiosis, these illnesses are very treatable, as long as your dog doesn't have an otherwise compromised immune system. You may need to put your dog on medicine, and then give him a bland diet of white rice and boiled chicken for three days.

If your dog drank saltwater from the ocean, your vet will need to take action to get your dog's sodium levels down. This could include putting your dog on IV fluids until the normal levels are reached.

Keeping yourself educated

Before going out on the lake or river, make sure you check your local news to see if there have been any incidents of people or dogs getting sick. Also, ask fellow dog owners in your town where they take their dogs to swim and if there have been any problems with the water. By doing your research before you go out with your dog, you have the potential to not only have a wonderful time, but to save his life.