Dog Water Dangers No One Talks About

Dog by the ocean

There’s something lurking in the water and that something could potentially kill your dog. We’ve all heard of drowning dangers and the dangers of dogs not consuming enough water. There are, however, some dangers and misconceptions floating around the Web about dog water dangers.

Let us splash a FiDOSE of Reality over these dog dangers, tell you how to avoid them, and clear the air with a few “no, that just isn’t true-isms.” Here we go:


“I have friends that took a trip to the beach last year,” Fidose of Reality fan, Nanette Roberts, says. “Unfortunately, during a morning stroll, their fur baby stepped on a jellyfish that had washed up on shore. Never even considering the possibility, they were unprepared and had to make an emergency run to the store. Now, they are prepared and always have the “Jellyfish Kit” on hand, when going to the beach.”

Jellyfish present a real and present danger if you take your dog to the beach. Knowing what to do in an emergency situation is important. Fortunately, we’ve got you covered.

CLICK HERE: Help for a Dog Stung by a Jellyfish

cocker spaniel
Coffee the Cocker gets a jellyfish toy to help cheer up during his post sting period

NOT All Dogs are Natural Born Swimmers

Not all dogs innately love to swim and are not natural born swimmers in the water. Though many dogs enjoy swimming, but some cannot swim, and others may hate the water. Never force a dog to swim. If your dog is near a pool or body of water, ensure he or she has a life vests or life jackets. According to petMD, and we concur, never rely on the life vest so much that you leave your dog unattended.

In general, dogs can be categorized in one of the following three areas:

  1. Dogs who can swim with a natural ability;
  2. Dogs who are not able to stay afloat/survive in water;
  3. Dogs who can be taught to swim and enjoy the experience;

Never force a dog to swim if he or she shows signs of displeasure/not liking it. You can still take your pooch along on a boat, to the lake, or beach with certain precautions in place, as noted.

Dog water dangers


Say what? Blastomycosis is a fungal disease primarily affecting dogs and people. It primarily affects the respiratory tract but can cause eye and skin issues. The cause might surprise you: Moist soil! And who among us does not have their dog around moist soil? It rains, we go into the woods or on park walks, near bodies of water, and so on.

Rock star service dog and a good friend of ours, Gander the Service Dog, is presently affected with blastomycosis. The Merck Veterinary Manual reports that about 85 percent of dogs have respiratory involvement.  Symptoms include loss of appetite, fever, coughing, eye inflammation, weight loss, and others. In Gander’s case, it was caught in time. The disease can be fatal if not caught and treated early on.

Prevention is tricky at best. According to petMD, “The only useful recommendation that can be given is to avoid lakes and streams where risk of exposure is greatest. This is, admittedly, an impractical suggestion for most. If you do live or spend time in these types of geographic areas, you may practicably be able to avoid the dense, dark areas where the fungus would thrive, reducing your pet’s risk of exposure. As well, if your dog’s immune system is already compromised, you will not want to include it in trips to high risk area.”

service dog gander
Gander and our Dexter having guy talk

Water Intoxication

The focus is definitely on keeping your pet hydrated year-round. In fact, our friends at PetSafe™ remind us that your dog (or cat) needs one ounce of water per pound of body weight. Too much of a good thing, however, can be a bad thing. Have you heard of water intoxication? It can happen to people and pets.

Water intoxication happens when the body takes in more water than it can handle. The result is often fatal. How is it possible dogs can take in too much water?

  • Swimming and swallowing water
  • Playing with the hose
  • Frolicking in the ocean and taking in water

Additionally, if a body of water is closed due to blue green algae bloom, do not let your dog in it nor drink from it. As a lifelong dog parent and dog writer of over 10 years, I have seen many dogs fall victim to diseases from water.

Standing water is a likely source of leptospirosis, which stems from water being contaminated with urine from rodents and the like. So if it’s a puddle and your dog is thirsty: DON’T DO IT! There are many ways to easily transport water for your dog. I just purchased a S’Well bottle for myself, my spouse, and my dog. It keeps water cold for up to 24 hours without ice. It works. Carry that and a collapsible water bowl. Easy peasy and your dog will be safe.

Life-threatening hyponatremia (excessively low sodium levels) can result with water intoxication. In an article for Whole Dog Journal, Dr. Janet Dunn shares,  “It’s not only how low the sodium falls, but it’s how quickly it falls.”

dog treadmill
Dexter’s brother, McGee, in rehab underwater treadmill.

Avoid water intoxication by:

Taking frequent breaks during water play. If you toss your dog a toy into a body of water, every time they retrieve the toy, they are consuming water as well.

Be careful with hose play: Biting at the water from the hose is a summertime rite of passage for many dogs. Use caution and limit the amount of time dogs are allowed to “catch” or “bite” at water from the hose.

Take breaks and often clean, cool, fresh water: If playing in the ocean, let your dog take breaks and be sure he or she drinks clean water from your own source.

Ice Cubes

Ah, the great Internet urban myth. I’ve seen headlines like:

“Ice Cubes Can Kill Your Dog!”

Um, no, not really.

In a report for ABC News, Dr. Tina Wismer, medical director at the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center, reports this is totally false.

“This is not true,” said Dr. Wismer. “Dogs do not bloat from drinking ice water on hot days… They can be given as treats or put in the water bowl. Some behaviorists even recommend freezing toys or treats in ice for dogs to chew on.”

Why the rumors about dogs and ice cubes then? Everything you read online is not true: Surprise surprise! There are dangers with ice cubes and dogs that include:

  • Allowing dogs to chew ice cubes and the possibility of the cube(s) getting lodged in the dog’s throat;
  • Dental damage to teeth due to chomping on ice;

Note: Eating or drinking too fast can cause bloat in dogs, and that is with or without ice. I know my dog personally does not like water with a ton of ice: He turns his nose up.

dog water bowl
Photo credit: Deposit Photo 43496391 paid license

Disgusting Water Bowl Ring

Did you ever rub your fingers around the inside rim of your dog’s water bowl? If you feel a slimy substance there, you’ve got a problem. Clean your dog’s water bowl daily with warm water and dish liquid.

A stainless steel or ceramic bowl are best for your dog. Either way, a clean bowl makes for a healthy dog. That slimy substance you feel is a biofilm that basically holds bacteria together so that it clings to the inside of your dog’s water bowl.


Just keep the bowl clean with daily scrubbing. Hot water doesn’t cut it: You need to actually clean the bowl with a pet-friendly cleaner: You know, like dish liquid.

beach safety

Toilet Water

Ah, the dreaded porcelain castle. Keep the lid down. Dogs should not be drinking from a toilet. It’s an age old joke and fodder for Internet memes, but toilet water can harm or kill a dog. Why?

Well we defecate and urinate into it, so there’s that. Toilet water is dirty and any cleaning chemicals in the bowl or tank get into the water and make it worse.

Did you know some people put antifreeze in their toilet during the colder months so the water does not freeze? Antifreeze and dogs are a lethal combination.

Dog eats
Keep the bowl clean!


This is a growing concern in the water supply. The folks at Dogs Naturally Magazine write that the fluoride added to our water supply is synthesized fluoride. They say that osteosarcoma, which can be caused by fluoride, is the most common primary bone tumor in dogs, occurring in over 8, 000 dogs each year in the United States.

So what can diligent pet parents do?

Dogs Naturally Magazine recommends pet parents consider distilled water or installing a reverse osmosis system. Avoid toothpaste with fluoride, and if feeding your dog fruits and vegetables, try to obtain organic produce that is organic. Note: You should be using a dog-safe toothpaste to begin with, so be careful.

Giving your dog access to clean, filtered water is key. We all want our dogs to live longer, healthier lives, right? Keep  harmful contaminants lurking in the water away from your dog.

Did we miss any water dangers? Let us know how you keep your dog healthy year round in the comments below. We love and encourage our readers to bark back!

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  1. My dog Ty almost drowned once falling into a pool. He is one of those dogs that can swim a few feet and then sinks! I don’t let him near water without a lifejacket.

  2. We must be very careful since French Bulldogs are top heavy we could sink
    Lily & Edward

  3. Great article! Your dog needs to have a bath after swimming in the lake or pool. Do not let them drink lake or pool water. Especially lake water. I am going to check out the S’Well bottles. Thanks!

    1. I wish I could work for S’Well I love them so much. And they really do work – we got ours about a month ago and use them extensively. Good point on the bath after swimming in a pool or lake, Sharon.

  4. We give Lucy and Jack bottled water when traveling or at campgrounds in our motor home. Love the collapsible bowl, big thanks to you.

    Very good article.

    1. Awww thanks for saying that. I love keeping the collapsible bowl in the Dexter travel bag – and we keep a spare in the glove compartment in the car. See you soon!

  5. I hate jelly fish – got stung myself earlier this year and still have a mark. I’ll have to read those tips. I have seen a few Pugs that can swim online but find it very dangerous as they already have trouble breathing and they are so top heavy. Kilo is nervous around water and strangers so I would never force him. He went to the beach, and to a lake recently on a leash and put one toe in both times. He has a nice special life jacket from NeoPaws that fits his funny body shape for this summer. I did not know about fluoride issues from drinking water but makes sense as we have special toothpaste for Kman.

  6. We recently started giving all of the animals filtered water. As for a stainless steel bowl, for some reason — and I am sure it’s the noise no one in our house will drink from one. I do love ceramic bowls, too! Great tips and I hadn’t even considered some of the dangers. Very eye opening!

    1. We are a ceramic bowl household, too…when we travel we take the collapsible ones. See you soon!

  7. We live in Florida..and this time of year there is always standing water which brings its own set of hazards…snakes, alligators, etc. We don’t live near the beach though so my dogs rarely go.

  8. Giardia! Parasites in dirty water, or even water that looks clean.

    I always have a big 2 gallon container of water in my car and a collabsible dog dish, so bringing water isn’t an issue for us. However sometimes they get to water before I can stop them and they both have in the past gotten giardia. I’m now ever more paranoid to avoid this nasty parasite so I try to be more diligent, I still can’t always stop them from drinking the water but we know the signs and symptoms!

  9. Swimming pools!! When I do home visits for the rescue and there is a pool, I ask if the potential family members intend to let the dog in the pool. If they say yes, I caution them that they must teach the dog how to get out of the pool. One volunteer shared with me that she learned this the hard way. Her dog drowned because it couldn’t figure out how to get out. I also ask how they are going to secure the pool. Beware of pool covers. Dogs will walk on them thinking it’s solid and then start sinking. I discovered this when one of my fosters walked onto the pool cover when we were doing the home visit. She started sinking and couldn’t get out because she got tangled in the material of the cover. That is when I discovered how much my heart beats dog, I was ready to jump in after her if I couldn’t grab her. Luckily, she was within reach!

  10. I haven’t taken my dogs to an ocean beach, but I have a feeling that Theo would try to eat a jellyfish if he saw one. I imagine that would be really bad news for him.

    We like a ceramic bowl for water and stainless steel or puzzle toy for food. I’ve wondered about the fluoride in our water, thanks for the information.

    We do have a pool, but it is above ground and our dogs can’t climb up the ladder on their own, so that is one less thing to worry about. (Also the ladder is not left on the pool when it is not in use.)

  11. Well, since I hate to even get my feet wet we don’t worry about the dangers in water. But, when I was young mom did take me to the beach to make sure I could at least swim, but she did it gradually, and kept me on a leash and close to her to make sure. But this is a lake, not the ocean, so we don’t have to worry about nasty jelly fish. And yes, you can’t take for granted dogs and being safe in the water. Taffy does love the water though, of course. Love Dolly

  12. I have several water fountains in the house for the girls and it’s a challenge to clean them often enough. I could have one bowl for them to drink from, but I believe that having bowls throughout the house encourages them to drink more water.

  13. Thanks for sharing all these, especially the ice cube and toilet water. So many owners don’t realize these simple maybe almost ‘endearing’ habits their dogs like can often be really really dangerous.

  14. It’s winter here in New Zealand but in summer there are often warnings about toxic algae in simming holes and at slow river edges. Dogs can be in real trouble from the algae – amazing to me as a cat owner whose cat’s HATE water 🙂

  15. Never heard of that long b-word disease! Scary! I wouldn’t have allowed them to anyway (just for the gross, brown water and algae factor), but now I have a better reason not to allow the dogs to swim in the ponds in my neighborhood. Don’t think I could ever let them in deep water without a life jacket on either.

    This is a fantastic list!

  16. Great list. I would add one more: blue-green algae. If a dog goes into a lake with this, it is a guaranteed death sentence. They can die within minutes of ingesting. 🙁

  17. Great article, Carol! I always get so grossed out at the slime film on Rugby’s water dish, but now I’ll know to be extra careful in keeping the bowl itself washed out with that dog friendly cleaner….you know…dish soap!! We also give him filtered water and he’s not a fan of ice water either! He doesn’t mind the occasional ice cube, but cold water from the refrigerator is what he seems to enjoy most.

  18. Katie and I grew up as puppies on the North Sea, so we drank salt water and have no problems with it, but almost all dogs get a case of the runs if they drink it and it happens like minutes after drinking salt water. Make sure your dog doesn’t drink ocean water if they weren’t brought up on it as they will get sick and dehydrated out there on the beach. We saw it happen to dogs all the time since we lived in a popular resort town.

  19. Both of our dogs steer clear of the swimming pool, which is a bummer in the summer but also a blessing in disguise, because if they liked it, my whole house would probably smell like wet dog all summer long!

    I’d add that when it’s hot out, it’s super-important to keep a lookout for the signs of dehydration. A dog who likes to swim still might not be drinking enough water to keep hydrated.

    Heat stroke is very serious and can be fatal if not caught and treated right away. Look for thinks like a purplish, swollen tongue, bloodshot eyes, heavy drooping, and heavy panting. A trick I like to use is to gently grab a handful of neck skin, and observing how quickly the skin returns to the dog’s frame. It should happen almost instantly. If the skin seeps down slowly, that’s a big warning that the dog is dehydrated and could be close to heat exhaustion.

    1. Good idea. We do the hydration test year round. Good to know, even for dogs who may have diarrhea or vomiting.

  20. Terrific topic, Carol! With most water-related activities, moderation is key. As you know, my Golden Retriever, Tanner, swims almost every day. I have to have him take breaks, whether in our pool or at the beach. A tired dog pants more and will take in more of the water he swims in when panting.

    I’d like to add to your ocean safety comments, as I live on a lake. Same precautions here. Despite Tanner’s extreme swimming ability, he always wears a PFD (personal floatation device) in the lake or the ocean. Undertows can sweep a dog out quickly when playing fetch at the beach. If a flotation device is not available, be sure to use a super long training leash (25 ft) attached to a strong, well-fitted harness. This will allow the owner to assist if Fido is unable to swim back in without help. Going in after your dog in water over your head is probably not going to end well. Be proactive!

    Keep up the good work. Holler if you’re in my area. We’d love to see you!

  21. We have never taken the boys to the beach but it is on our Bucket List. Neither of them has ever tried to swim but they might enjoy walking along the edge of the water. I am a fanatic about washing their food and water bowls. Drool makes for nasty drinking water. LOL!

  22. Great advice. We don’t live by any body of water so at least I don’t have to worry about that. I hate the slime bowls get so I have many, many bowls so I can always grab a clean one for every meal.

  23. Wow, so much great information for dog parents. So many things for them to be aware of. I’ve only recently been allowed out in the yard under strict supervision. I don’t think you’ll catch me around a lot of water any time soon. At least I hope that’s not on mom’s bucket list for us!

  24. My two labs absolutely live up to their reputation as water loving dogs – except for bath time 😉 But my pit bull definitely does not seem to be a fan of the water. She doesn’t mind standing at the edge of a lake or pond but has yet to venture in with her canine siblings. Instead she just stands on the sideline barking at them to come back to shore and play with her! We’ll see what happens this summer. I’m hoping she enjoys it a bit more. We do have ceramic food and water bowls and, in Colorado we don’t have to worry about jellyfish but we do have lakes and ponds so we’ll have to be a bit more careful.

  25. Such a great lineup of information! One point that I think is incredibly important, and that I’m glad you shared, is that not all dogs who CAN swim, enjoy swimming. I’ve seen folks trying to force their dogs to swim, when it was clearly indicating it did not want to do so. I, obviously, shared my two cents at the time, but this post will hopefully help to inform many more folks about this and all the other water related dangers!

  26. I would include Pythiosis on this list, or even dedicate an entire post to raise awareness. In the South it is often referred to as “swamp cancer”, and claimed the life of my dog Milo 3 years ago. There is a wonderful facebook community under the group name “Pythiosis” that has a wealth of information on the disease, as well as the contact details for Dr. Bob Glass who has developed an immunological serum that can treat it.

  27. Thanks for these warnings! I was familiar w/ most of these but not water intoxication or Blastomycosols. My Husky always tries to drink ocean water and water from creeks & lakes. I’m always on guard when we have outings near water.

  28. Great info, thanks so much for sharing! As a mom of three canine babies (although the youngest is larger than I am…) I always appreciate the “heads-ups.”

  29. good information. i have well water. but also keep lots of bottled water, i always take my water and their own water bowl to dog events. i never let them drink out of community water bowls or have water from the sink b/c of the fluoride.

  30. Great post ! thanks so much for sharing! I’m so lack of caring skill for my dog. It’s so useful for me since I just take my Ginny home. I dont have any experience for caring those cutie. Thanks for sharing 🙂

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