Can Dogs Drink Water From Outdoor Sources Without Getting Sick?

Posted on: 3 June 2015

When you're outside, your dog drinks out of puddles. When you're inside, it drinks out of the toilet. Is there any water your dog can't drink?

In fact, dogs can be susceptible to contaminated water just like humans can. While their gastrointestinal tracts are better suited to managing bacteria than those of humans, there are some guidelines you should follow for giving water to your pet dog.

Dangers of Outdoor Water

The water in lakes and rivers can pose a concern for your dog. The biggest issue is organisms like Giardia and Cryptosporidium, which can cause diarrhea and, in severe cases, intestinal bleeding. Older and younger dogs, and those with other health problems, are most at risk of getting sick.

Algae blooms can be a bigger danger to health. These blooms, or overgrowths, can cause cyanobacterial poisoning, which can make your dog extremely sick or kill it.

Do you see thick, colored foam in the water? This can be a sign of algae. Don't let your pet drink or even swim, and if it does come into contact with this foam, wash with soap and water as soon as possible.

Another issue is that, if you aren't familiar with the water source, you may not know what else is contaminating the stream, lake or river. Pesticides and herbicides may leach into the water and can stress the liver and kidneys, even if they don't make your dog immediately sick.  

Tips for Getting Your Dog to Drink Clean Water

  • Try a pet fountain. Some pickier dogs like the toilet because it's flushed often and usually has fresher water than the stagnant stuff in their bowls. A pet fountain runs continuously and may appeal more to these discerning drinkers.
  • Change the water often. Some dogs may show a preference for water that is very fresh, and that can mean changing it two to four times a day.
  • Place multiple bowls in easily accessible places. You might have one in the kitchen, one in a bathroom, one in the laundry room and one where the dog typically eats, for example. A bowl outside -- as long as the water is frequently changed -- is a great idea, too.
  • Adapt the water bowl to your pet as it ages. Dogs with arthritis don't drink as much because they don't like to bend down. You can buy raised pedestals and platforms for food and water dishes that can help your older dog.
  • Bring your own water with you when you go outside with your pet. You can buy several kinds of light, collapsible bowls that can clip to your dog's leash so you always have something clean to drink from.

If you have any concerns about the water your dog has been drinking, or if your dog shows signs of gastrointestinal distress that include repeated vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy, call an animal hospital like Center-Sinai Animal Hospital as soon as possible for help.