Treading Dangerous Water: Waterborne Diseases in Pets

July 10, 2017

Most dogs enjoy a good romp in the nearest lake, stream, mud puddle or gutter-runoff. While this is a fun activity to entertain your furry friend, it is important to recognize that water can harbor some hazards for animals. There are several waterborne diseases in pets that your veterinarians at Advantage Veterinary Center want to be sure that you are aware of, so that you can tread water safely with your four-legged companion.

Water-loving Parasites

Several parasites that affect our pet patients are fond of calling waterlogged spaces home. Perhaps the most notable of these parasites is Giardia, a single-celled protozoal organism that thrives in stagnant water. Giardia is also a zoonotic disease, which means that your human & feline family can also pick this up from your pet – leading to stomach cramping and often severe diarrhea.

Giardia is shed in the feces of infected animals. Many species can carry it, which means that any water source that is potentially contaminated with waste could be harboring this bug. If your pet were to be infected with Giardia, he or she may experience diarrhea. Occasionally, infected pets will also exhibit vomiting and/or appetite loss.

While Giardia is one of the most common parasites found in the water, there are others. Cryptosporidium and Coccidia are also waterborne parasites that can cause diarrhea when ingested by pets.

Leptospirosis and Other Waterborne Diseases in Pets

Some waterborne diseases in pets are more serious than a little tummy upset. In fact, there are several serious diseases that affect our animal patients that are contracted through exposure to infected water. Some of the more notable concerns include:

Leptospirosis – Leptospirosis is spiral-shaped bacterial organism that affects dogs and, less commonly, cats. It is found in the urine of wild animals and thrives in stagnant water. If an animal is exposed to the bacteria through the mucous membranes, he or she will often develop a fever which progresses to kidney and/or liver failure. At-risk dogs should be vaccinated against Leptospirosis. Vaccination does not guarantee full immunity, but greatly improves the prognosis should your pet become infected. This is another example of a zoonotic disease that can be transmitted from pet to owner and can become very serious.

Pythiosis – Pythium is a fungal-like organism that loves the water. Also called “swamp-cancer”, this organism is found most commonly in standing water and is more prominent in the Gulf states. Pythiosis affects the skin or digestive tract, causing red, itchy lumps that ulcerate and drain. Pets with an infection in the gastrointestinal tract may also have vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss. Pythiosis typically has a poor prognosis and is often not diagnosed until it becomes quite advanced.

Campylobacter – Campylobacter is a bacterial organism found in the feces of infected animals. Ingestion of the organism may cause fever and serious diarrhea, especially in very young or immunocompromised pets.

The good news is that there is plenty that you can do to keep your water-loving friend safe. Be sure to keep your pet up-to-date on vaccinations and routine parasite preventatives. Discourage your pet from drinking from puddles or stagnant water, and don’t forget to bring along plenty of clean drinking water to quench his or her thirst.   

Water can harbor dangers for our animals, but don’t let fear of waterborne diseases in pets ruin all your fun. Keep your pet safe by being prepared and keeping your pets updated on vaccinations and preventative measures.