Can Well Water Make a Dog Sick?


We don’t have to tell you how important water is to your pooch.  A private well can be the perfect solution to most of your water needs. But can your dog drink well water? What if it makes them sick?

Dogs can become sick if they drink well water that is extremely hard, has high nitrate levels, or is contaminated by parasites, blue green algae, or other pollutants.

As a good rule of thumb, if you can safely drink the water from your well, then your pets can too. So, if you don’t get sick from your well water, your dog most likely won’t fall sick either. But there’s a lot more to it than that, so let’s get right to it.

Oh, and watch out for a couple of well-intentioned puns along the way.

Let’s cover the basics first.

Just like us, your pup’s body is more than 70% water. This means that your dog needs water for several functions. From regulating body temperature and maintaining skin texture to flushing out toxins and ferrying nutrients across the body, your pooch needs H2O as much as you do.

Additionally, you need to be extra careful about your pup’s water intake because canines don’t sweat as much as humans do. Dogs regulate their water level by panting and sweating through their paws. While most dogs are always enthusiastic about a quick splash-n-drink, here’s why you need to watch your pet’s water.

Well Water

Well water comes straight from the ground. Simply put, it is untreated groundwater. Earth aquifers act as natural filtration systems, but that doesn’t mean you can fill your dog’s bowl with well water without thinking twice.

Not all well water is equal. The quality of your well water depends on a lot of factors – the aquifer rock type, natural and man-made contaminants, the filters you use, and the condition of the well itself.

More importantly, the quality of water in your well is your responsibility. The government – specifically, the Environmental Protection Agency – does not regulate well water safety standards. This means that you must make the call when it comes to how clean your water is and if it’s suitable for your pets

So what are you signing up for with well water?

Well Water Contamination

Wells must be well-maintained, if we say so ourselves. The quality of well water depends on how often it is cleaned and what activities go on nearby.

The most common problem that well owners face is the growth of parasites and micro-organisms. The stagnant, damp environment may be a thriving ground for pathogens. Further, there is a chance of animal waste contamination if your well isn’t properly protected.

Well water may contain parasites that can cause serious illnesses. For instance, Giardia is a single-celled organism that causes diarrhea in both humans and animals. This parasite is found in animal (and human) feces and is water-borne. Salmonella, cryptosporidium, and E-coli can also be found in water and can cause vomiting and seizures.

Additionally, some wells can be a breeding ground for blue-green algae. This is toxic to your pet.

Your well may be more susceptible to pollutants if there are sewers close by. Antifreeze and cleaners from your own property or a nearby contaminant source can also seep into your well if you’re not careful enough. Some wells can even contain unhealthy amounts of uranium, radon, and lead. Arsenic and radon can cause cancer, while lead can lead to seizures and brain damage.

Hard Water and Dogs

Water from wells is usually ‘hard.’

What is hard water, you may ask?

Water that contains a high level of minerals – mostly magnesium and calcium – is hard. To put it another way, a level of 61-120 mg of dissolved magnesium and calcium per liter can be classified as hard water. Further, extremely hard water contains more than 180 mg/L. 

Hard water tastes and smells different than ‘soft’ water. Well water contains a lot of dissolved minerals because it passes through rock and soil in the aquifers – this is why it is hard. There is no harm in drinking hard water once in a while; some even suggest it replenishes the body’s minerals. The taste may take some getting used to, but it doesn’t pose many health risks.

However, extremely hard water is a no-no for your dog. A study by pet insurance company Trupanion suggests that extremely hard water can cause urinary tract infections, stones, incontinence, and cystitis. What’s more – female dogs are 2.5 times more likely to be affected by extremely hard water than males.

Here’s another reason we’re not a fan of extremely hard water – it leaves a scale residue everywhere – from coffee makers and water heaters to saucepans and even your laundry.

To sum up, extremely hard water is not too good for both you and your pet.

Nitrates and Dogs

When it comes to wells, what matters is location, location, location.        

If your well is located close to a farm or a factory, you’re more likely to find nitrates in your water. Nitrates may seep into your well from industrial and agricultural runoff.

Animals should not drink water that has nitrate concentrations above 10 mg/L. Nitrates can cause oxygen uptake problems in your dog. This is worrisome especially with older dogs that have other illnesses. Besides, it can affect the health of children in your family too. This means that nitrates in well water are a no-go.

Signs That Your Dog Is Sick from Drinking Well Water

We get it – sometimes, regulating an overenthusiastic pup’s water intake can be quite ruff.

If your pet drinks contaminated well water, watch out for any signs and symptoms that they are sick.

Diarrhea and an unnatural poop cycle are  usually the first signs of a water-borne illness. This can be accompanied by vomiting and tiredness. 

In rare cases, there may be neurological problems like seizures and tremors. This is more common in dogs that have pre-existing conditions, are prone to allergies, and older pets.

If your pup seems lethargic, sleepy, or in a semi-comatose state, this could also be a sign of water-borne illness. They may drool unnaturally, or their saliva may smell weird.

In all these cases, seek medical help immediately. Treatment usually ranges from immunity-boosting drugs and medicine to combat parasites.

Testing Well Water

So the question remains – how can you make sure your dog doesn’t get sick from well water?

Here’s the Mantra you should follow – drink and let drink. If you  wouldn’t drink the water from your well, your pup shouldn’t either.

Testing your well water regularly is the best way to ensure the safety of your family and your fur baby. You can order a home testing kit online and check for levels of bacteria, arsenic, nitrates, and many more. All you need to do is send in a water sample to a testing facility.

If you’re looking for a professional laboratory-based well water test, we recommend MyTapScore for well water testing.

If you want more information, click on the MyTapScore link below for professional water tests for wells and springs.

Test Your Well Water Today!

The quality of well water changes with time. We recommend testing your well’s water every year. Additionally, watch out for any changes in the appearance, color, taste, and odor of the water.

There are many options to choose from when it comes to filtration systems. A simple over-the-sink filter combined with a water softener is a great way to purify your well’s water. You can also invest in an RO purifying system for great results. Make sure to change your filter regularly.

These steps help you tap into your personal water resources in the safest way possible – one might even say they hold the corg-key to water purification.

A Clean Bowl

Regardless of what water your dog drinks, you must clean their bowl frequently, especially if you leave your dog’s bowl outdoors. Change the water twice a day. Wash your pup’s bowl every day. It takes only a few minutes, and your pet’s health will thank you.

Moreover, the bowl may become moldy. This leads to nasty bacterial growth that can seriously impair your pooch’s health. Avoid using plastic bowls too; they may contain toxins. Opt for a good stainless steel bowl like this one that can be found on Amazon – they’re more durable and less prone to bacteria. Glass or ceramic bowls are also good.

Another great option is to use a pet drinking fountain. They are perfect for well water. This one is our favorite as it has an inbuilt filter, is easily cleaned and of course it’s BPA free. Click on the image below to check it out on Amazon for yourself.

Dogs can also get sick if they drink too much water. This is common, especially in the summer months. More often than not, getting sick from drinking too much water can be a sign of something more serious. In this case, we recommend visiting your vet.

What About Bottled Water?

Many advice against bottled water for both you and your dogs. Bottled water is terrible for the environment, and contains harmful toxins as well – particularly BPA. BPA can cause hormonal issues and even cancer, so that’s a hard pass!

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is simple – treat your dog just like you would a member of your family. Do not compromise on water quality when it comes to your pooch. Here’s the golden rule – don’t give your dog water that you wouldn’t drink yourself. All it takes is some good water and love to stay paw-sitive!

Recent Posts