Dr. Beck: Should I worry about my dog drinking out of the puddles?
By Dr. John BeckQ: There is a lot of water standing in our area since the recent rains. Should I be concerned about my dog drinking out of the puddles?
A: The recent weather was a blessing, but could also be seen as a curse when it comes to diseases and problems associated with heavy rains. The rain can cause a lot of problems with standing water.
First of all, heavy rains can disturb the soil and all of its inhabitants. Disease particles, protozoa and bacteria that had been packed deep into the soil now have the chance to rise again. The parvovirus is a typical problem we see a lot of after heavy rains. Though an area might not have been exposed to an animal with the virus for multiple months, the virus can live dormant in the soil for more than six months. Keep in mind that puppies and older dogs are very susceptible to this virus.
For puppies to be fully protected, they should have received three vaccinations against parvo by the time they are 16 weeks old. Keep in mind: Vaccinations do not take effect the day they are given. It takes a good week or more before the dog begins to build any immunity to the viruses for which it was vaccinated.
Another problem with standing water is giardia. Giardia is a motile, flagellated protozoon that will attach to the surface of sections of the small intestine. This protozoons live in cysts that survive in feces, water, environment or fur. Indirect water-borne transmission is the most common with cool, moist conditions favoring cyst survival. Usually only a single symptom is present: diarrhea. The diarrhea may be acute, intermittent or chronic. Usually the infected animals will not lose their appetite, but they may begin to show weight loss if left untreated. The feces are often loose, pale, have a bad odor and sometimes may appear greasy.
Giardia prevents proper uptake of nutrients in dogs by damaging the intestinal lining. If you suspect giardia, a simple snap test can be performed by your veterinarian to rule it in or out. Often times a fecal sample will also be obtained to check for other problems like worms and secondary infections. If it is giardia, a month long round of antibiotics will help clear up the problem. Just like parvo, giardia can live for months in the environment.
Getting rid of standing water in your dog's environment is the first step to preventing an infection. Try to keep your dog out of areas with standing water and be careful when allowing your pet to swim in stagnant lakes/rivers/puddles. Move kennels to a dryer spot in the yard or take your dog out on a leash to supervise while there is standing water.
If you have any other questions about giardia, parvo or your pet, please contact me or your current veterinarian.
Dr. John Beck has a veterinary practice at Hillcrest Animal Hospital in Victoria. Submit questions to Dr. Beck at firstname.lastname@example.org.