When heading out for a long walk or hike with your pup in nature, you’ve most likely packed a portable bowl and some water for the both of you. However, more often than not, your dog will be enticed by natural streams, creeks, and sources of water.
It is similar to a pool on a hot summer day. After much physical exertion, any form of natural water looks good to your dog, and they will be eager to dive in and lap some up.
Natural water is everywhere, and sometimes, if you are taking your dog swimming in a natural lake for example, stopping them from swallowing some is next to impossible.
5 Risks for Dogs Drinking Natural Water
There are many things that can be harmful to dogs that can be found lurking in even the cleanest looking streams, no matter how clear and blue they appear.
Any time any animal or human feces or waste seeps into a water source, that water becomes contaminated with bacteria. This can mean that E coli, salmonella, leptospira, and campylobacter may be present in this water. Typically, if only a small amount is ingested by your dog, only diarrhea will ensue.
However, in more severe cases, these forms of bacteria can bring on a serious infection in your dog’s system. Leptospira, located in muddy water, marshlands, or slow-moving, stagnant water, is a serious form of bacteria. If not detected and treated early, it can illicit liver and kidney problems and can even be deadly if left untreated. It should be noted that there are vaccines for this bacteria strain.
Bacteria is shed through a dog’s feces and sometimes urine, and if inappropriately handled, can lead to human infection as well.
There are vaccines available for dogs that will be exposed to these conditions. You can read more about their efficacy here.
2. Blue-green Algae
Blue-green algae can be present in the form of cyanobacteria, which sometimes groups together and floats on the top of bodies of water. When it is very hot outside, this algae multiplies at a greater rate. If your pup ingests some of this algae while swimming or stealing a lick of water, they can become infected by a toxin that may lead to failure of their liver or damage to their nervous system.
This algae is risky and scary because, shortly after a dog ingests it, even just from licking its coat after swimming, your dog may experience vomiting, diarrhea, or seizures.
Although you may be out, deep in the woods or in the middle of nowhere, the chance for chemicals being present in the water exists. Due to runoff from surrounding land that may contain herbicides, oil, gasoline, and pesticides, natural bodies of water may be contaminated. These can all be harmful to your dog.
Parasites such as protozoans may be living in the water that you encounter while out with your four-legged friend. If ingested, parasites can reproduce and become very harmful to your dog.
Although salt will not always be present, in the ocean, if your dog is swimming, he or she may accidentally intake too much. For dogs, salt is not a good idea as it can lead to electrolyte imbalances, diarrhea, and dehydration.
How can dogs drink natural water safely?
Now to the more important question, and answer. What can you do on hikes to make sure your dog drinks clean water?
1. Use a portable travel bowl or bottle and bring water
As you most likely already do, bring along your own bowl (or water bottle) and water supply for your dog. If and when you catch your pup attempting to drink from a local stream or pond, direct him or her to the water bowl instead.
It is important to always use your best perception. While harmful things can still be present in what appears to be clean water, if water smells funky, it is best to completely avoid it at all costs.
2. Use portable water filters
There is a market for portable water filters and purifiers like this one: Sawyer Filter.
These filters are designed for the outdoors and are small and compact to fit easily in your backpack. Not only does this help to lighten your load because you do not need to bring many bottles of water, but it can assist with keeping your dog healthy while hiking.
These purifiers and filters help to sift out dirt, debris, bacteria, and viruses. Most filters function by pumping, squeezing, sucking, and by relying on gravity. Even humans can also use these devices for a safe drinking experience in the great outdoors.