Common Waterborne Pet Parasites
Swimming is a great way to cool off and have fun in the summer, but it’s important to be aware of the risks waterborne illnesses pose to your pet. Pets can contract these illnesses by swallowing or coming into contact with contaminated water, so it’s important to take precautions before swimming or letting your pet drink from any body of water. Knowing what these illnesses are and how to protect your pet against them will help keep them safe and healthy this summer.
Giardia is a pet parasite that typically is contracted by ingesting water that has been contaminated by the feces of an infected animal. Giardia cysts can survive for months in a cool, moist environment. This parasite also can be passed from pets to people through the ingestion of contaminated water. Giardiasis typically leads to diarrhea that can have a strong odor or mucus, or appear frothy. If left untreated, giardiasis can cause dehydration and malnutrition.
Cryptosporidiosis also is caused by a protozoan parasite that is most commonly contracted through ingestion of water or food that has been contaminated with the feces from an infected animal. Cryptosporidiosis in pets can cause diarrhea, fever, lethargy, and weakness.
Leptospirosis (lepto) is caused by bacteria that thrive in warm, wet soil and water. Typically, pets—and people—contract lepto through contact with contaminated water. The lepto bacterium enters the body through cuts or abrasions, or the mucous membranes. Once in the body, the bacterium attacks the kidneys and potentially other organs. Leptospirosis signs can include excessive thirst and urination, vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, depression, and fever.
#4: Cyanobacteria toxicity
Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, are bacteria found in lakes, streams, and ponds. They can produce toxins that affect people, livestock, and pets who swim in and drink from the contaminated water. Blue-green algae can form “blooms” that give the water a blue-green color, and are at the highest concentrations during hot weather. A few mouthfuls of contaminated water may result in fatal poisoning.
Signs vary based on the type of toxin ingested and focus on liver damage or neurotoxicity. You may see vomiting, diarrhea, bloody stool, weakness, jaundice, muscle tremors, paralysis, seizures, or difficulty breathing. Immediate care is critical for a good outcome, although the outlook is often poor.
While you can’t prevent your pet from picking up waterborne parasites and certain pathogens, you can virtually eliminate their risk of contracting leptospirosis through vaccination. Contact our team to learn more about vaccinating your pet for leptospirosis.