Whether pool water can make a dog sick is something that owners of swimming pools and dogs should consider. As dogs have fun paddling around the pool, they will eventually get thirsty and therefore, they'll instinctively lap up some poop water, but is that safe? Veterinarian Dr. Ivana shares important things to consider when it comes to a dog's safety around pools.
A Tempting Way to Quench a Dog's Thirst
It goes without saying that our dogs must always have access to fresh and clean water always at their disposal. This is especially important during the hot summer months, and if there is a pool in the yard. After all, we do not want our dogs drinking from the pool instead of from the water bowl.
For the dog, the pool water may seem tempting, but drinking too much can cause problems. Hence, close supervision when the dog is having fun in the pool is always important. Dogs should be discouraged from drinking pool water and encouraged to drink water from the water bowl.
It should be noted that drinking water from the pool is not the same as the occasional sip during swimming or jumping. An occasional sip or two is not a reason for concern, while drinking pool water regularly can be harmful.
Can Pool Water Make a Dog Sick?
Generally speaking, pool water is dangerous because of two reasons: the presence of toxins and microorganisms. Let's take a closer look at both of these dangers.
The presence of toxins. To keep the pool water clean and disinfected, we pump it with chemicals such as chlorine and certain algaecides. These chemicals are efficient for pool maintenance, but they are dangerous for pets. Actually, they are dangerous for us too, if we drink them on a daily basis.
Normally, the levels of chemicals in the pool water are extremely low. This is purposely formulated considering the fact that people and animals may accidentally ingest water. However, if a dog ingests a significant amount of pool water, chances are he or she will get sick.
Based on the chemicals levels and their type, the consequences vary from digestive upset to irritation and burns of the esophagus. The situation can be much worse for dogs allergic to some of the chemicals in the pool water. In such cases, the dog may develop a life-threatening allergic reaction.
The presence of microorganisms. Pools are an amazing breeding ground for bacteria, fungi, algae and parasites. It takes a lot of maintenance and proper hygiene practices to minimize the risk of microorganism growth in pool water. Even a well-maintained pool still has traces of harmful microorganisms.
Perhaps, the most dangerous bacteria the pool water can harbor is Escherichia coli. E. coli is passed via fecal matter and is frequently found in pool water samples. This dangerous bacteria is responsible for causing a plethora of health issues and conditions.
The chances of your dog contracting E. coli by drinking pool water are particularly small. However, the risk persists, and if possible it should be avoided.
Dangers of Dogs Drinking Pool Water
With pool water potentially teeming with toxins and microorganisms, it makes sense that a dog may get sick from ingesting significant amounts. Following are some potential effects that can be observed in dogs who drink pool water. Of course, this doesn't apply to all dogs, but it can happen, and therefore it's important to be aware of the signs to look for. If you see any of these signs, please consult with your vet promptly.
Digestive upset in dogs may develop due to the chlorine content in pool waters. The chlorine acts by breaking down into hypochlorite ions and hypochlorous acid. These two components act by breaking down the microorganisms cells. Without chloride, pools can easily turn into green, microorganism-filled ponds.
The chlorine used in pool is highly diluted and it does not exert its harmful effects on dogs same as it does on microorganisms. However, it does trigger a gastrointestinal upset. Dogs with gastrointestinal upset due to chlorine will show the following signs and symptoms:
- Decreased appetite
- Stomach pain or discomfort.
In most cases, the digestive upset is transient and self-limiting, but just to be on the safe side, it is advisable to see your trusted vet. It might be helpful to bring the chlorine package to the vet’s office, so the vet can see the concentration of the product.
It would also be helpful if you could provide information about the way you use the product – the consequences can be more serious if the product is used in amounts higher than it is recommended.
Water intoxication is an extremely rare condition and it can develop if drinking excessively from any water source, including pools. The intoxication develops when the dog’s blood dilutes and the electrolyte levels become imbalanced. The electrolyte disturbance affects the overall body functioning and may even have lethal consequences.
A dog with water poisoning will show the following signs and symptoms:
- Lack of coordination
- Excessive salivation
- Glazed eyes
- Dilated pupils
- Difficulty breathing
Water poisoning is considered an emergency and requires immediate veterinary attention. To reverse the effects, the vet will apply intravenous fluids, correct the electrolyte imbalance and give supportive therapy.
Salt intoxication can occur when dogs drink from pools filled with saltwater. Although the salt levels in saltwater pools are much lower than the salt levels in seas and oceans, the risk of developing salt intoxication is still present.
As peculiar as it may sound, drinking saltwater leads to dehydration. The excess salt content pulls the water out of the cells which leads to cell dehydration. A dog with salt intoxication will show the following signs and symptoms:
- Muscle tremors
- High temperature.
Salt intoxication is an emergency. The vet will administer intravenous fluids and electrolytes and if necessary, give oxygen.
If the dog attempts to drink pool water but instead of ingesting the water, he or she accidentally inhales the water, there is a risk of developing aspiration pneumonia. Inhaling a bit of pool water will cause discomfort, but inhaling a larger amount will lead to gagging, coughing, regurgitating and eventually lung infection or pneumonia.
A dog with aspiration pneumonia will show the following signs and symptoms:
- Impaired breathing
- Noisy breathing
- Pale or bluish lips and gums.
Aspiration pneumonia is a life-threatening condition and the prognosis is poor even if the treatment is timely initiated.
The most common problem associated with drinking pool water is digestive upset manifested with vomiting, diarrhea, temporarily decreased appetite, and abdominal pain.
To prevent your dog from drinking pool water, make sure its water bowl is always filled with clean and fresh tap water. To encourage water bowl drinking over pool drinking, you can place several water bowls in different locations around the house and yard.
Finally, if your dog is tenacious and prefers the pool water taste, do not let him or her unsupervised in the yard or invest in a pool fence.
About the Author
Dr. Ivana Crnec is a graduate of the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia.