No matter how many fresh bowls of water you put in front of your fur baby, there’s something about rainwater and puddles that’ll have your dog lapping them up like it’s happy hours!
But is this healthy for your dog? Are there any health risks that you should be wondering about or is all water good water? Here’s a lowdown on why you should or shouldn’t let your dog lap up all that rainwater!
Why Do Dogs Drink Rainwater?
Dogs have a penchant for drinking out of the weirdest places, from slurping mud puddles to enjoying toilet water to lapping up the water from your shower!
This is just your dog being a dog—these beings treat animal feces as delicacies so you can’t really expect too much in terms of knowing what to eat and drink and what not to. So drinking rainwater comes down to something inherent in your canine.
However, most times, your dog is just thirsty and wants to quench his thirst. Dogs require quite a bit of hydration, especially when the weather’s hot and sunny—so any drinking in the summer may be excused. On hot summer days or after a workout, dogs may drink more, but otherwise, between 1 to 1.5 cups of water per 10 pounds of body weight, per day, is recommended.
You may have noticed, though, that drinking from rainwater puddles isn’t just restricted to the summer—dogs seem more interested in rainwater than the fresh water in their bowls!
Again, this could just be your dog being a dog, but sometimes, it could be indicative of a medical condition—your dog may be excessively thirsty due to serious conditions like Cushing’s, diabetes, glandular and kidney diseases. If your dog is drinking more than the recommended cup a day (you can measure this), consult with your vet immediately.
It could also be that your dog likes drinking rainwater because there is no chlorine or fluoride—minerals generally added to drinking water to keep it germ-free and protect your teeth, respectively—to dilute the taste of rainwater.
Therefore, your dog drinking rainwater comes down to the alluringly different-from-tap-water taste and smell of rainwater.
Additionally, rainwater, when it stagnates, becomes a breeding ground for a lot of organisms, all of which may also smell interesting and appealing to your dog—yep, dirt and bacteria included!
Is It Safe For Dogs to Drink From Puddles?
Generally, rainwater isn’t too dangerous. It’s a natural source of water and one that is mostly pure, clean and safe. However, rainwater in the form of puddles and ponds is an absolute no—while the water may be pure, the surface that it collects on is far from it!
Rainwater puddles and ponds—or any puddles and ponds, for that matter—are breeding grounds for germs and bacteria, in addition to having contaminants such as oil, dirt, animal feces, dead beings, trash and chemicals—none of which, needless to say, should be making its way down your dog’s esophagus.
Stagnant rainwater ponds and puddles can also contain algae, which is extremely dangerous for dogs. Bacteria such as Giardia, E.coli and Campylobacter are also lurking in these pools, as is the risk of leptospirosis (present in the water where other animals have urinated).
Dogs can also develop lungworms from drinking puddle water. Slugs carry certain parasites that can also get into the water and harm your dog.
Therefore, while occasional lapping of the puddle is alright, large amounts are sure-shot health hazards, causing a range of conditions such as diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain and even kidney failure, in extreme cases.
Here’s a detailed breakdown of the most dangerous effects of drinking rainwater.
Leptospirosis is a threat from standing pools and puddles. This bacterial disease is extremely infectious, affecting a range of animals (dogs, rodents, wildlife and the like) and humans, too. To make matters worse, many strains of the bacteria exist, but if it’s any consolation, all of them are found in areas with rainwater pools and puddles.
The main mode of transmission for leptospirosis is the consumption of or exposure to water that’s contaminated with leptospirosis bacteria. These pools generally get contaminated by the urine of animals already infected.
Leptospirosis can also be transmitted by eating infected meat or coming into direct contact with another infected animal. If your beloved pooch contracts leptospirosis, beware that you could also contract it.
You can identity leptospirosis by the following symptoms:
- Anorexia or decreased appetite
- Stiffness, muscle pain and a reluctance to move
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Coughing or difficulty breathing
- Failure of the organs
Luckily, leptospirosis is treatable. Even better, vaccination against leptospirosis is also available.
Commonly used to prevent overheating in car engines, antifreeze can be extremely lethal to dogs. This substance leaks from the vehicles’ undercarriage, where it mixes with rainwater, forming puddles.
To make things even more difficult, antifreeze tastes and smells sweet—two things that pets are extremely drawn to. However, antifreeze is one of the most common forms of poisoning in pets and one of the most lethal—it can harm your pet in under a minute, causing irreversible kidney failure and death.
Antifreezing can be identified by the following symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
Steer clear of all puddles, especially ones in and around parking lots. If you’ve got any antifreeze lying around at home, ensure that the container is well out of reach of your pets—undiscriminating palette, remember?
Any antifreeze ingestion should be met with immediate medical attention.
Giardia is generally found in the gastrointestinal tracts of animals. These parasitic microscopic cells are transmitted through the consumption of contaminated water, contaminated by the feces of infected animals.
Giardia is generally the cause behind ‘beaver fever’ and ‘traveler’s diarrhea’ and can affect both animals and humans.
Giardia can be diagnosed from the following symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
These symptoms are caused by the parasite attaching itself to the intestinal wall to feed and in large numbers, these can cause severe damage. Infectious cysts in the stools are eventually passed—these infect other animals.
However, sometimes, no symptoms manifest. The stools are tested for giardia cysts. Like leptospirosis, giardia can also be treated with antibiotics and probiotics for the diarrhea.
Dealing with Your Dog’s Drinking Problem
There are some ways to protect your dog against the harm caused by drinking rainwater. Stopping your dog from drinking rainwater is easier said than done but getting a vaccine to protect against the health issues that this could cause isn’t! There is vaccination available for dogs who are good swimmers or just plain stubborn.
In all other cases, rushing your pet to the vet is the easiest and most logical thing to do—and don’t just wait for symptoms to manifest! If you’ve seen your dog drink from a contaminated pond, especially one with algae, take him or her to the vet and have tests run. Your vet will be able to identify the extent of the damage and do what is required before things get out of hand.
If your dog’s had a big, fat meal of blue-green algae, contact your vet or a 24/7 emergency pet clinic immediately. Certain varieties of the plant can be supremely poisonous to your dog, resulting in liver damage and seizures if not treated on time.
Sometimes, the situation isn’t so serious—if your dog drank dirty water from a pool without algae, monitor him or her closely over the next few days for any indication of discomfort and illness or conditions such as diarrhea and vomiting. If these symptoms manifest, take your dog to the vet.
Here are a few ways that you can also stop your dog from drinking from puddles:
- Thirst: Ensure that your dog’s thirst is always quenched. When you go on walks, carry a bottle and bowl along for your dog or specialized water containers where you don’t need to carry a bowl separately. This will ensure that your dog doesn’t look for water in other sources.
- Train: Some dogs are just curious—and get more curious when you try to pull them away from the object causing all that curiosity! However, don’t humor this behavior.
Gently but firmly pulling your dog away and training them to obey orders will discourage drinking rainwater out of puddles. Positive reinforcement comes highly recommended while training—praise and reward your dog and leaving a puddle becomes second nature.
- Water Outside: Even if you’ve placed water bowls outside, don’t allow them to drink from these if these have collected any rainwater. Empty the bowl, give it a good rinse and refill it with tap water, so that your dog doesn’t develop a taste for rainwater.
The Bottom Line
Dogs can be extremely lovable and adorable—those puppy-dog eyes can melt even the coldest of hearts—but don’t give in to ‘I want to drink from the puddle’ tantrums! You’ll be saving your dog from a world of health problems by saving him from his indiscriminate drinking habits.
Problems in the form of bacteria, leptospira, Giardia, algae, protozoa and the like are lurking around in rainwater puddles and none of them are dog friendly. Some of them are downright life threatening, such as leptospira and antifreeze.
Remember, prevention is always, always better than cure. Therefore, now that you know the dangers that lurk in seemingly harmless rainwater puddles, keep your beloved pet pooch hydrated and trained to stay away from them and both you and said pooch will be much happier for it!