You should always provide your pet with fresh, clean drinking water. In the warmer weather months, it can be tempting to let Fido or Fluffy take long drinks out of your pool, since the water looks cool and clean. Although problems are few and far between for pets that drink pool water on an occasional or accidental basis, risks still exist. Homeowners with both pets and pools should take precautions to minimize problems.
Pool water contains pool chemicals, including chlorine and algaecides that keep the pool disinfected and free from plant life. Despite their beneficial purpose for pool maintenance, these chemicals can pose a risk to household pets. The levels of these toxins are intentionally low to keep harm from occurring, since people routinely ingest pool water by accident. While most pets won't develop a problem from the occasional small drink of pool water, large quantities of pool water may cause problems, including irritation or burns to the esophagus. Additionally, if the dog or cat is allergic to the chemicals in the pool, a life-threatening reaction may occur.
Bacteria and fungi love pools. A properly cared for pool is treated with chemicals to regulate these potentially harmful microorganisms, though trace amounts can remain even in the most well-maintained pool. Escherichia coli (E. coli) is one such bacterium present in pools. E. coli is passed by ingesting fecal matter. When ingested, microorganisms such as E. coli cause disease. Although the chances are low of a pet contracting E. coli or another microorganism-related disease from drinking pool water, it is still possible.
Aspiration occurs when water or another foreign material enters the lungs. Pets drinking pool water may accidentally aspirate water due to improper posture when drinking or the sheer quantity of water available. Cats are at a higher risk than dogs. Aspiration typically results in coughing, gagging and regurgitation of the water ingested. If a significant amount of water remains in the lungs, pneumonia can develop. Aspiration pneumonia is a serious medical problem and animals that show signs, including trouble breathing, noisy breathing, depression and a blue tint to the lips and gums, need immediate medical treatment.
Stomach upset is the most common problem associated with pets drinking pool water. Cold water increases the chance of stomach upset, as does water heavily laden with chemicals. Dogs and cats that drink pool water quickly to ward off dehydration are at an increased risk of developing stomach upset. Vomiting, regurgitation and discomfort are typical signs of stomach upset as a result of drinking pool water. Though stomach upset is not a life-threatening problem, chronic vomiting can result in dehydration, which is potentially deadly.
- "Clinical Textbook for Veterinary Technicians"; Joanna Bassert, Dennis McCurnin; 2009
- Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety: Pool Chemicals
- "The Merck Veterinary Manual"; Cynthia M. Kahn, Scott Line; 2010
- "Veterinary Pharmacology: A Practical Guide for the Veterinary Nurse"; Amanda Helen Rock, Sally Bowden, Glen Cousquer; 2007
Elizabeth Tumbarello has been writing since 2006, with her work appearing on various websites. She is an animal lover who volunteers with her local Humane Society. Tumbarello attended Hocking College and is pursuing her Associate of Applied Science in veterinary technology from San Juan College.