Can Dogs Drink Pond Water? (Dangers Explained)

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Is Pond Water Safe for Dogs to Drink?

A dog drinking water from a pond
A thirsty dog will most definitely see your pond as a big bowl of water, but unfortunately it can contain harmful pathogens that can cause your dog to be sick. Ken Bosma / CC BY 2.0

As curious animals, dogs have a knack for licking, eating, and pawing just about anything outdoors. Though they are intelligent, we simply can’t rely on them to always know right from wrong – or safe from potentially dangerous. A thirsty dog will undoubtedly see your garden pond as a giant bowl of refreshing water. Once they start quenching their thirst with pond water, dogs that aren’t trained otherwise may repeatedly drink from all types of outdoor sources.

Stray dogs may persist for a long time on pond or lake water, but this doesn’t mean that it is safe. Moreover, this doesn’t mean that stray dogs are physically healthy. Pond water may contain harmful pathogens and waste materials that can cause your dogs to be sick. Household pets should, at all costs, be prevented from drinking it. They may have no resistance to these pathogens, especially if they are accustomed to drinking clean water indoors. As a rule of thumb, provide your furry friends with water that you yourself are willing to drink.

Is “Clean” Pond Water Bad For Dogs?

Fish swimming in a clear pond
Even if a pond has amazingly clear water, it doesn’t mean that it’s safe for a dog to drink from. Image by Dieter_G from Pixabay

Ponds filled with plants, algae-eating fish, and appropriate filtration equipment may have amazingly clear water. Just because water is clear, however, doesn’t mean it is safe to drink. Water-borne pathogens include microscopic bacteria and parasites. Though many of these are vital for maintaining balance in a pond system, they could wreak havoc in animals that have not developed a strong resistance.

Merely swimming in large ponds with relatively low pathogen concentrations can make a dog ill, particularly if he takes a few large gulps of water. Animal and plant waste in the pond, along with the rich concentration of nutrients, is a recipe for microbial soup! Some common pond microbes and their effects on household dogs are listed below:

  • Coliform bacteria – diarrhea, abdominal pains, granulomatous colitis, vomiting, lack of appetite, dehydration
  • Cryptosporidium – diarrhea, fever, lethargy
  • Giardia – diarrhea, excess mucus production in the gastrointestinal tract, weight loss, nausea, dehydration
  • Leptospira – lack of appetite, fever, stiffness, abdominal pain, fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Cyanobacteria – vomiting, depression, diarrhea, jaundice, paleness, loss of appetite, weakness leading to organ failure
  • Amoeba – weakness, listlessness, halitosis
  • Pythium insidiosum (swamp cancer) – extreme weight loss, diarrhea, vomiting
  • Heterobilharzia americana (flatworm) – anorexia, anemia, lethargy

If your dog shows any of the symptoms listed above after drinking pond water, don’t delay a visit to the vet. Note that many symptoms can become recurring after initial exposure. They can also result in secondary infections if not treated in due time. Chlorinated ponds and those receiving garden water run-off can also be very harmful to dogs. No matter what type of pond you have, it will likely have access points for contamination.

Dog-Proofing a Pond

A fenced pond in a field
You can try to deter dogs from drinking pond water by placing a fence around the perimeter. Keith Williamson / CC BY-SA 2.0

It may be impossible to always keep a close eye on dogs while they’re free outdoors. Many responsible pet owners attempt to dog-proof their ponds instead. Some make use of physical means, such as a low fence, raised pond height, or sloping edges. Unfortunately, these have many drawbacks when it comes to achieving a natural pond appearance. A thick wall of marginal plants and a mat of lily pads along the pond’s edges may also deter a dog from drinking water. Nonetheless, they don’t guarantee that a determined dog will keep away.

How to Prevent Dogs from Drinking Pond Water

A dog drinking water from a bowl
You should encourage your dog to drink from its designated water bowl by rewarding them or giving them praise whenever they use it. This should make it less likely that your dog will drink from a pond. Photo from pxfuel

Active thirst prevention is key to discouraging dogs from drinking out of lakes, ponds, and puddles. You can also train your dog to take water from a single indoor source. Not all pet owners are skilled enough to do so, and this can be extremely difficult with curious pups. Instead, it helps to be aware of how much water your dog needs relative to its size, energy levels, and daily activities.

Dogs should ideally have an ounce (30 ml) of water per pound of body weight each day. This volume can drastically shoot up when a dog undergoes training, exercise, or is lactating. Monitor your dog’s water intake and constantly encourage him/her to drink from the bowl. A few gulps of water before venturing out into the garden may allow a dog to approach your pond simply out of curiosity instead of thirst. Here are a few more tips to prevent pondwater drinking.

  • Keep your dog on a loose lead while walking outdoors.
  • Bring a water bottle for your dog’s use, especially if going on a long walk or nature hike.
  • Frequently clean your dog’s bowl and change his/her water. They also appreciate freshly poured water and would be encouraged to drink more.
  • Reward or praise your pets whenever they drink from their designated water bowl.
  • Play with your dog away from the pond.
  • Train your dog to respond to “No” and “Come”.

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