Why Do Dogs Drink Rainwater?
Part of the fun of owning a dog is watching their quirky and entertaining behavior. From trampoline obsessions to chasing shadows, dogs can be hilariously funny. However, some of these behaviors aren't that great. Something that seems to be very common is that dogs prefer rainwater to clean tap water. Why is that so, and is rainwater actually safe?
Why do dogs choose rainwater instead of fresh tap water?
The natural response to this question would be to assume it's all in the taste, but dogs have fewer taste buds than humans and water doesn't really have much flavor anyway.
The most likely explanation for dogs' preference for rainwater has to do with smell. Dogs have a highly tuned sense of smell and rainwater will have a more interesting smell than tap water when it comes into contact with the environment. Your dog will be able to smell the natural scent of rainwater, soil, leaves, urine from other dogs, cats and wildlife, litter, and the asphalt or grass in the water.
All of these smells are interesting to a dog, but ultimately they know it's water so they assume it's there to drink. Dogs don't understand that rainwater can be dirty. If they are thirsty and come across water, they will drink it.
The other argument is that tap water often has additives like chlorine to make it safe for us to drink, but dogs will be able to smell this. Many dog owners will find that their dog does not drink from the water bowl once it is replaced.
Instead, they wait for a while. This may be because the chemistry of the water changes as soon as it is exposed to the air. Another reason may simply be that your dog prefers room temperature water rather than cold straight from the tap.
Dutch tap water in most cases contains no or very little chlorine, so in principle this should not be the reason that your dog prefers rainwater. So the most logical reason why dogs prefer rainwater to tap water is that it is usually mixed with other substances that probably smell and taste nice.
Is rainwater safe for dogs?
This is a broad question and there are several factors to consider. In general, your dog will not easily get sick from rainwater. Their immune systems have become accustomed to drinking and eating less hygienic things, and their stomach acid is stronger, so fewer harmful bacteria survive.
Below you can read which factors determine whether rainwater is safe for your dog or not.
Where is the water located?
The location of the puddle has a major impact on the potential dangers it poses to your dog. Sidewalk puddles that are free of litter, animal feces, urine, and contaminants such as engine oil pose no danger to dogs. Puddles in parking garages can be contaminated with motor oil and petrol or diesel from vehicles.
If a dog or other animal with a disease such as leptospirosis has urinated in the pee, your dog is at risk of contracting the same disease. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be passed between animals and humans, so if your dog contracts the disease, you're also at risk.
Puddles that form in grassy or muddy areas can become contaminated with animal feces, urine and parasites. Contact with contaminated soil or water is one of the most common ways dogs can contract internal parasites such as roundworms.
Rain barrels are containers used to collect rainwater, which you can then use to water your plants. Whether you use a large container or a bucket, this rainwater is safe for dogs to drink from as long as the water is not stored for more than a few days. This prevents the water from stagnating or being polluted by air pollutants, bacteria or wildlife diseases.
Which season is it?
This may seem like a strange question, but the time of year has a big impact on rainwater safety. During the hot summer months, many natural ponds and lakes can develop blue-green algae. Technically, they are not algae, but bacteria called cyanobacteria.
These bacteria produce a toxin that causes a dog's liver to malfunction. Exposure can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea, difficulty breathing, long-term liver problems, and even death. Not all blue-green algae are poisonous, but some species can cause a fatal reaction in less than 20 minutes.
During the winter months, most countries use snow plows or gritters to prevent ice from forming on the roads by spreading salt. This is highly toxic to dogs, so you should never allow your dog to drink from puddles on or near roads in winter.
Dangers for dogs drinking rainwater
The risks of drinking from pee can be greater than you might imagine. The risks can come from many different sources and can vary depending on your region, recent weather, local wildlife and contaminants.
Giardia and rainwater
This is an intestinal parasite that is transmitted through the faeces of infected animals. It's not just dogs that carry the giardia parasite. Feces from rodents, squirrels, cats, deer, beavers and many others can all contain Giardia parasites.
Common symptoms of a giardia infection are upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss and flatulence. Giardia is zoonotic, meaning it can be passed between animals and humans. You should therefore wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face after petting your dog if your dog has been diagnosed with Giardia.
Leptospirosis or Weil's disease and rainwater
Weil's disease is a bacterial disease that causes damage to organs such as the liver and kidneys. Dogs are vaccinated against leptospirosis annually, but the effectiveness of the vaccine decreases over time.
The bacteria is often spread through the urine and is zoonotic, meaning humans can also get it. Symptoms of this infection include muscle aches, limping, jaundice (yellow eyes and gums), loss of appetite, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and difficulty breathing.
Although Leptospirosis and Giardia have similar symptoms, Leptospirosis is more serious, as it can cause kidney failure and even death if not treated in time.
Pollutants and chemicals in rainwater
Rainwater can quickly become contaminated with chemicals, especially if puddles form on roads or near structures. Antifreeze is a common concern, as it can drip from cars onto the road.
Antifreeze poisoning can cause long-term health complications such as kidney damage. Symptoms to watch for include vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, and heavy panting or breathing changes.
Oil from car engines and the debris from car exhausts can also contaminate puddles. These too can make dogs seriously ill. It's best to avoid walkways that pass through parking garages or high-traffic areas, or at least don't let your dog drink from puddles there.
It is also a good idea not to walk on busy roads in winter, as antifreeze and salt are often spread on roads to prevent ice spots. Try to prevent your dog from drinking from puddles in the street if litter has been littered, and clean your dog's paws when you get home.
The salt can dry out and damage the paws, and if the dog licks his paws, he may be consuming too much salt. For example, use this one Pawlicious paw cleaner .
Prevent your dog from drinking rainwater
On walks, it can be difficult to keep your dog from exploring his surroundings, but drinking rainwater can be dangerous. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to walk your dog safely:
1. Your dog may not thank you for it, but it's best to keep him on a leash around puddles and standing water. In summer, avoid ponds or other bodies of water with foam or algae on the surface.
2. Avoid walking routes that pass through parking garages, especially after heavy rain.
3. Bring a bottle of fresh water for walks in the countryside or in hot weather so your dog doesn't get thirsty and doesn't drink from puddles.
4. Always wash your dog with clean water after swimming in ponds or rivers. Bacteria can remain in a dog's coat for a long time, so rinse your dog well.
5. Learn the "leave it" command. Most owners teach this to their puppy from a young age, but it doesn't hurt to repeat the training to keep the behavior fresh. Whenever you see your dog approaching a muddy puddle, give your "leave it" signal so he knows not to get near it
6. Make sure you can call your dog back. It can be exciting for a dog to see a large puddle in which to splash or drink. If your dog listens carefully, you can call him back and avoid going near contaminated water.
Most puddles won't pose a threat to your dog, but keep an eye out for signs of dirty or contaminated water. If the water smells bad or has oil or algae floating on it, avoid it.
When should you go to the vet if your dog has drunk the wrong water?
Usually your dog is not at risk if he drinks rainwater. Water that moves, such as streams and rivers, usually do not provide a good environment for bacteria to grow. However, things can go wrong, and if your dog drinks contaminated water, he could become very ill. When should we seek veterinary advice and should we be concerned about our dogs' health?
If your dog begins to show symptoms after drinking from puddles or ponds, it's best to get it checked out by a vet. Symptoms to watch out for are:
- Diarrhea (sometimes bloody or smelly)
- Muscle weakness
- Stomach ache
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
- Breathing problems
- Balance or coordination problems
- Epileptic attacks
- Pain (often a arched back)
In general, dogs only have mild symptoms, but any dog can develop more serious complications. Puppies, pregnant dogs, dogs with underlying health conditions, and senior dogs are all at greater risk for severe symptoms.
Keeping up with your dog's annual vaccination boosters can help prevent your dog from contracting diseases like leptospirosis from dirty or contaminated water.
Author: Tom Marr viahondenblog.nl
Illustrations: Antonia Oana
This BLOG has been posted on our website as a guest blog with the author's approval.