8 Simple Rules to Protect Your Pet from Waterborne Diseases

September 18, 2014

In the last few years, the number of waterborne disease outbreaks associated with recreational water use has more than tripled. When preparing for outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and backpacking, most outdoor enthusiasts think about the risk of snake bites, animal attacks, or physical injuries that could occur in the wilderness.

Did you know that your exposure to waterborne or foodborne illness or disease is actually a higher risk than that of physical injury or animal attacks?

Did you know that your pet or animal companion is at just as much risk of contracting a waterborne illness as you are?

Many outdoor Enthusiasts take along their pets when hiking or camping.  Animal companions like dogs and horses can contract infectious diseases from contaminated water.  The same effects humans get from coming in contact with a contaminated water source can affect your dog, especially puppies.

Your animal not only can contract a waterborne illness from drinking contaminated water, but they may also pass along viruses or bacteria from running, splashing and playing in contaminated water.


1)  If signs are posted indicating that the river or stream is not suitable for swimming or fishing; be advised that it is most likely not suitable for your pet.

2)  Don't let your pet enter or drink from water that has a rotten egg smell or dead fish floating in it.

3)  Crystal clear water DOES NOT MEAN IT'S SAFE to drink or swim in - try to get closer to the source to see where the water is coming from.

4)  Be sure to use proper hygiene and wash your hands with filtered and disinfected water after handling an animal which has been running and playing in freshwater, and before handling food, eating, etc.

5)  Watch for beaver dams - they are a good indication that the water may be contaminated with giardia.

6)  Avoid allowing your animal companion or yourself from swimming, wading or diving in stagnant water, ponds, water contaminated with effluent (wastewater from a treatment plant), as you may contract dangerous amoeba  (the brain eating kind) through splashing water into eyes, up your nose, into ears, etc.

7)  Understand the seriousness and types of Bacteria, Viruses, Parasites and Protozoa found in freshwater and the diseases or illnesses they cause.

8)  As an extra measure of safety for you and your animal companion - you should use a BOTH A PORTABLE WATER PURIFIER AND PORTABLE WATER FILTER when obtaining drinking water from a freshwater source.

Basically, use the same caution for your animal companion, as you would for yourself when it comes to playing in, and drinking from a fresh water source.

Here are a few known waterborne illnesses and diseases that can come from contaminated freshwater sources:


CAMPYLOBACTERIOSIS. This disease-causing bacterium both infects and produces a toxin in the digestive tract and is the leading cause of diarrhea in the United States, resulting in 4 to 6 million cases each year.  This disease may be spread from animal to human or from human to human. The disease may also be spread from human or animal fecal contamination of food and water. The incubation period for this disease is 2 to 5 days, and lasts anywhere from 2 to 10 days. Typical symptoms include watery or sticky diarrhea (which can contain blood), fever, abdominal pain, nausea, headache and muscle pain. Washing your hands is very important as the period of communicability (when the disease may be spread from feces) is the entire duration of the disease.

CHOLERA.  This disease produces a toxin in the digestive tract. Transmission is through eating of food or drinking contaminated water with feces or vomitus. The last recorded outbreak of Cholera occurred in the United States around 1911, however, there has been a steady increase of isolated cases which have been attributed to international travel. These cases have involved bottled water, ice, ice cream, cooked rice, produce and raw or undercooked seafood from polluted waters. Symptoms usually appear within 2 to 3 days after eating or drinking contaminated food or water. This disease is identified by sudden onset of profuse painless, watery diarrhea (“rice water” stools), nausea and vomiting. This rapid onset of painless watery diarrhea results in rapid dehydration, which may lead to renal failure in severe, untreated cases. The fatality rate for this disease may exceed 50% if the severe disease goes untreated, and is less than 1% if individuals receive proper treatment immediately. Individuals are contagious when they have signs and symptoms, but some individuals may remain contagious several months after they recover. Someone who appears healthy may be shedding cholera organisms from their feces, which can be transmitted to other people through food or water if this person does not practice good hygienic practices.

E-COLI.  The disease is caused by Escherichia coli 0157:H7.  Cases have been reported from contaminated drinking water sources and from swimming in a contaminated lake. The incubation period is from 2 to 8 days, and infected individuals are contagious for one week or less. However, one third of children may remain communicable for up to 3 weeks. The signs and symptoms of the disease include severe abdominal cramps, diarrhea (which is initially watery but becomes grossly bloody),sometimes vomiting, and sometimes a low-grade fever. The disease may be mild with recovery in about 8 days. However, up to 7% of all cases can become more severe. Treatment is mainly fluid and electrolyte replacement.

SHINGELLOSIS.  Shigella bacteria infect the digestive tract.  Most cases are due to poor hygienic practices like poor hand washing methods, and water contaminated with human feces. This disease is responsible for about 600,000 deaths per year worldwide. Most of the deaths involve children 10 years or younger. Shigellosis accounts for up to 300,000 diarrheal cases in the United States per year.  The signs and symptoms of the disease begin anywhere from 12 to 96 hours after consuming as few as 10 to 100 bacterial cells. The symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and watery or bloody diarrhea. Treatment for most cases, requires only fluid and electrolyte replacement. Individuals with compromised immune systems may require anti-microbial treatment.

SALMONELLOSIS. There are more than 2,000 different types of Salmonella. The majority of the cases result from contaminated food and water. Symptoms usually occur with sudden onset of headache, fever, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nausea and sometimes vomiting. Most infections result in inflammation of the intestines, but more severe cases may develop into a blood infection or  even in body tissue. Infected individuals are contagious throughout the symptomatic stages of the disease. However, the disease can develop into a “carrier” state with no signs or symptoms. In these cases, the micro-organism can be present months; in rare cases a year or longer.  Most cases only require fluid and electrolyte replacement, but anti-microbial treatment may be necessary in severe cases.


HEPATITIS A.  This disease is commonly known as Infectious Hepatitis   This disease is generally transmitted through the fecal/oral route through contamination of food and water. Hepatitis A occurs worldwide, with about 22,700 cases reported annually in the United States. The incubation period ranges from 15 to 50 days, onset happens quickly with fever, overall body discomfort, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal discomfort; eventually jaundice sets in (skin turns a yellow color).  Rarely do people die from this disease, but for high-risk individuals it may be fatal. People are highly contagious one to two weeks before onset of symptoms and may continue to shed the virus in their feces up to one week after jaundice.

NORWALK VIRUS (norovirus).  This type virus infects the digestive tracts of humans and is the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis outbreaks in the United States. Some outbreaks have been associated with fecal contamination of food, drinking water, and recreational water. The disease is transmitted by the fecal/oral route with the onset of symptoms occurring within 10 to 50 hours after exposure.  Some of the symptoms can be a low-grade fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, muscle aches, headache. It is contagious from the onset of symptoms through up to 48 hours after symptoms disappear. There is no specific treatment prescribed for this disease, just fluid and electrolyte replacement.


Protozoa can invade both humans and animals.  They are much larger than bacteria and viruses and have a unique way of surviving in harsh conditions.  Both Giardia and Cryptosporidium are leading causes of water borne disease in the United States They commonly make it into moving streams, springs, lakes, and ponds even after municipal filtration efforts. Giardia and Cryptosporidium produce cysts or an outer shell that protect them from extreme environmental conditions. These cysts can be resistant to normal concentrations of disinfectants like chlorine.  The amount of chlorine it takes to effectively kill these parasites is dangerous for human use over extended periods of time -- like everyday consumption of municipal water treated with chlorine. This is why it is extremely important to FILTER RAW WATER.

CRYPTOSPORIDIOSIS.  Symptoms of cryptosporidiosis generally begin 2 to 10 days (average 7 days) after becoming infected with the parasite. The most common symptom of cryptosporidiosis is watery diarrhea. Other symptoms include stomach cramps, dehydration, nausea, vomiting, fever and weight loss.

Symptoms usually last about 1 to 2 weeks (with a range of a few days to 4 or more weeks) in persons with healthy immune systems. Occasionally, people may experience a recurrence of symptoms after a brief period of recovery before the illness ends. Symptoms can come and go for up to 30 days.

GIARDIASIS.  Once an animal or person is infected with Giardia, the parasite lives in the intestine and is passed in feces. Because the parasite is protected by an outer shell, it can survive outside the body and in the environment for long periods of time (i.e., months).  During the past 30 years, Giardia infection has become recognized as a common cause of waterborne disease in humans in the United States. Giardia can be found worldwide and within every region of the United States.

Symptoms of giardiasis normally appear within 1 to 3 weeks and can last from 2 to 6 weeks depending upon the immune system of the infected person or animal.  Symptoms include diarrhea, gas or flatulence, greasy stool that can float, abdominal and stomach cramps, and nausea.