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Can Dogs Get Sick from Drinking Pool Water?

As the weather warms up, dogs love nothing more than jumping into a pool to cool off with a refreshing dip. And when they climb back out, pools often entice thirsty pups to lap up the water around them. But is drinking chlorinated water from hydrotherapy pools safe for dogs? Can sipping this liquid leave them feeling sick?

Like most things, risks come from excessive intake. An occasional few licks generally cause no issues; however, drinking larger quantities or swimming for prolonged periods carries some health concerns owners should know about. This article explores the potential effects of pool water consumption on dog health.

Water Quality Concerns

The first consideration with pool water is the chemical composition. Proper chlorine and pH balancing aim to inhibit bacteria and pathogen growth without irritating eyes, skin, or mucus membranes. But what’s safe for human swimmers may still trigger gastrointestinal issues if ingested in large amounts.

In particular, the chlorine content designed to prevent contamination can irritate a dog’s intestinal lining at certain concentrations. Over many years, high chlorine intake could potentially increase cancer risks also. However, well-maintained backyard pools with adequate filtration pose little concern.

Greater risks come from stagnant water in seldom-used pools. Without circulation, chemical concentrations can spike to hazardous levels in hot weather. Murky water also indicates higher bacteria levels that chlorination failed to address.

Finally, saltwater pools utilize salt chlorination instead of direct chlorine. But the saline content then exceeds what dogs’ kidneys are equipped to process. Drinking substantial saltwater pool water could overwhelm kidney function and lead to sodium ion poisoning.

Gastrointestinal Effects

For smaller ingestion incidents, like taking a few quick slurps, most healthy dogs experience no adverse effects at all. However, acute overconsumption of pool water may irritate the GI tract, causing:

● Nausea/vomiting
● Diarrhea
● Abdominal pain
● Loss of appetite

These symptoms tend to resolve within 24-48 hours as intestinal cell turnover replaces damaged tissue. Veterinarians typically recommend bland diets and plenty of fresh water during this recovery time.

More serious effects like blood in the stool or diarrhea lasting over 48 hours warrant medical attention, as they indicate substantial intestinal inflammation or chemical burns needing treatment.

Increased Infection Risks

Dogs who ingest contaminant-laden pool water also deal with higher odds of unpleasant infections. Bacteria and parasites thrive in untreated recreational water sources. The most common pathogens transmitted to pets include:

● Giardia – Causes diarrhea and vitamin deficiencies
● Campylobacter – Results in diarrhea, vomiting, fever
● Cryptosporidium – A parasite causing intestinal inflammation
● Leptospira – Leads to kidney/liver failure if untreated

While chlorination and filtration help prevent such contagions, any water entering a dog’s mouth carries some infection potential. Signs typically appear days to weeks post-exposure and require antibiotic or anti-parasitic therapy.

Preventing Pool-Related Illnesses

While most dogs intuitively limit their pool water intake, some tips help keep pets safer around swimming spaces. Strategies include:

● Rinsing dogs off after pool time removes traces they may lick off fur and skin later.

● Providing ample fresh drinking water quenches thirst without needing to ingest pool liquid.

● Discouraging deliberate pool water drinking right away redirects the behavior before it becomes habit.

● Maintaining proper pool sanitization kills pathogens and limits chemical irritation severity if consumed.

● Blocking pool access when not supervised prevents excessive drinking and contamination.

Knowing typical chlorine and pH levels also helps determine pools’ pet safety. Private pools warrant occasional testing, as do public pools before allowing pets to swim.

Signs of Trouble

If your dog seems unwell after swimming or accessing pool water, monitor them closely for signs requiring prompt veterinary care:

● Persistent vomiting or diarrhea
● Difficulty breathing
● Tremors or unsteadiness
● Blood in stool/vomit
● Loss of appetite beyond 24 hours
● Increased body temperature

Catching chemical irritation or ingestion-related infections early vastly improves treatment outcomes. So if you notice anything unusual following pool exposure, contact your vet right away.

Take Home Message

Responsible pet owners must weigh risks versus benefits when considering pool access for dogs. While ingesting small amounts of chlorinated water likely causes no issue, excessive drinking can initiate gastrointestinal upset and infection risk – especially in low-quality pool water. Monitoring your dog’s pool interactions and restricting access when unattended are key to prevention. But if sickness follows pool time, seek prompt veterinary attention to restore health quickly.

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