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waterborne diseasesTaking a dip in the nearest body of water is a time-honored summer pastime that is sure to cool off humans and canines alike. While taking a swim might be just what the doctor ordered in the summer heat, Huntington Veterinary Hospital wants to remind you that waterborne diseases in pets are a real thing. Take extra precautions to make sure that your pet’s summer is safe.

Parasitic Friends

No one likes a freeloader, and parasites in our pets are the absolute worst. Water can be home to several unwelcome parasites. Stagnant puddles and ponds are notorious for collecting animal waste, and if that waste so happens to harbor an intestinal bug or two, your pet might be at risk.

While many of the parasites in animal waste can live in and around water, there is one in particular that thrives in a wet environment. Giardia is a single-celled protozoan that is known for residing in water, particularly stagnant water. It is shed in the feces of infected animals, which can include wild as well as domestic animals. This means that almost any water source could potentially harbor this unwanted invader.

Pets can contract giardia when they ingest contaminated water. The parasite then wreaks havoc in the host’s digestive tract, often causing watery diarrhea. Infected pets may also experience vomiting, appetite loss, and/or weight loss.

Other water-loving pet parasites include coccidia and cryptosporidium, both of which can also cause diarrhea in unsuspecting victims.

Unwanted Waterborne Diseases in Pets

While pet parasites are no fun, most are easily treated. There are other waterborne diseases in pets, though, that tend to be a little more serious. These diseases make it extremely important to be extra cautious when spending time in the water.

The most notorious waterborne threat to pets is leptospirosis. “Lepto” is caused by a spiral-shaped bacteria and affects dogs (although cats can be affected as well). This infectious bacteria is found in the urine of infected wild animals and loves to make its home in stagnant water. Exposed pets (and people) can develop a fever which can progress to kidney and/or liver failure.

Protecting Your Pet

The reality of waterborne diseases does not mean that a little fun this summer is off limits. Take some precautions and protect your pet!

  • Keep swimming to clean pools and larger bodies of water, such as lakes (tread in safe areas only)
  • Bring along fresh water so your pooch isn’t drinking from puddles
  • Rinse your pet’s coat with clean water after swimming
  • Have your dog vaccinated against leptospirosis in order to decrease the chances of disease
  • Keep your pet on routine parasite prevention and submit fecal samples to screen for parasites often
  • Heartworm prevention is essential for water-loving pets (and all pets!)

The water may harbor some unpleasant things, but it can also be a lot of fun for you and your pet. Taking a few extra steps to be sure that your pet’s risk is decreased is well worth the time and effort. Have a great summer!