July 28, 2014

Medina
Cloudy
65°F

Water Watchfulness

Many dogs love to swim, and dog owners who let their dogs cool off by splashing into ponds, lakes and reservoirs should be aware there are a few illnesses that can be caught from infected water. If a dog becomes ill after water play, it’s best to have a vet check him out.
Giardia
Giardia is a parasite, sometimes called beaver fever, since beavers are known carriers of giardia. Giardia is carried in the infected feces of small mammals and contaminates water sources. Stagnant pools of water, ponds and creeks pose the greatest risk for infection. Dogs become infected with this water-borne illness when they drink the contaminated water. A small cyst enters the dog’s gastrointestinal tract and changes into protozoa that multiply and attach to the small intestine, interfering with the absorption of nutrients. Left untreated, giardia can damage the lining of the small intestine. Symptoms include diarrhea with a rancid odor, weight loss and abdominal pain. A veterinarian will study a stool sample and prescribe antibiotics. Dogs do not acquire immunity to giardia after treatment, so they can contract the disease again.
Giardia in the environment also can infect people as well as pets. Cysts can remain viable for several months in cold, wet environments, so feces should be removed from backyards. Sanitation is important, including washing hands with antibacterial soaps. Lysol, ammonia and bleach are effective decontamination agents for dog runs and pavement.
Leptospirosis
Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease affecting humans as well as wild and domestic animals, including dogs. It’s caused by bacteria that live in water, mud or moist soil and spreads by the urine of infected animals. The bacteria survives in water or soil for weeks to months. Dogs that drink, swim or play in stagnant water or lakes or that may have contact with wildlife can be at risk. The bacteria enter the body through the eyes, nose or mouth, or the skin if there is a cut.
For pet owners, the first clinical signs that their dog is infected with leptospirosis are fever, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, increased desire for water and lethargy. In people, the symptoms are often like the flu. It’s confirmed by laboratory testing of a blood or urine sample and is treated with antibiotics for both people and pets.
Pets suspected of having this illness should be quarantined from contact with other pets or small children who may not wash their hands after contact with the pet.
Blue-green algae
Cyanobacteria, commonly known as blue-green algae, are bacteria that grow in shallow, warm, slow-moving or still water like fresh water lakes, ponds and wetlands. When the weather conditions are hot and calm, the numbers of algae can increase dramatically, causing an algae bloom. Cyanobacterial blooms cause the typical pea-soup green color to water and form mats that look like foam or scum on the surface. Mats can be blue, bright green, brown or red and may look like paint floating on the water. Blue-green algae blooms that usually occur in late summer or early fall can be toxic enough to seriously sicken an animal. The effects depend on the amount of water ingested, the size and sensitivity of the animal and the amount of toxin present in the bloom. Not all blue-green algae is toxic, but because they vary so much in toxicity, all blue-green algae blooms are potentially dangerous.
An animal that has swallowed water that has cyanobacterial toxins from an algae bloom can show a variety of symptoms, ranging from nausea and diarrhea to skin irritation or severe disorders involving the circulatory, nervous and digestive systems.
The two types of poisons in toxic strains of blue-green algae are hepato-toxins and neurotoxins. Hepato-toxins affect the liver and may show up a few hours or days later. Animals that drink enough of this toxin may show yellowing of the white of the eye and show sensitivity to sunlight. Neurotoxins affect the nervous and respiratory systems and can appear within 15 to 20 minutes after exposure. Symptoms include salivation, muscle tremors or weakness, staggering, difficulty breathing or paralysis. If your pet comes in contact with a bloom, wash off its coat thoroughly to prevent it from ingesting the algae while licking its fur. If you suspect your pet has been affected by an algae bloom, contact your veterinarian as quickly as possible.
Mike Miller, Ohio State University Extension, Medina County, agricultural and natural resources agent, said this type of algae isn’t a major problem in the county, but it does surface occasionally.
Barnosky can be reached via e-mail at petlady@roadrunner.com or by writing The Gazette, 885 W. Liberty St., Medina, 44256.