Can Dogs Get Sick from the Lake? What to Expect

When the sun is shining and the temperatures rise, there’s nothing quite like taking your furry friend for a refreshing swim in a pristine lake. 

Watching your dog paddle around and chase after sticks can be a joyous experience for both you and your canine companion. 

However, amidst all the fun and excitement, it’s essential to be aware of the potential risks associated with lake water and whether dogs can get sick from it. 

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the various aspects of canine water safety and address the question: Can dogs get sick from the lake?

The Allure of the Lake

Before delving into the potential health risks for dogs, let’s first understand why dogs are drawn to lakes in the first place. Lakes offer an enticing environment for our furry friends, and there are several reasons why dogs love them:

Exercise and Play: Lakes provide ample space for dogs to exercise, play, and burn off energy. Swimming is an excellent form of exercise for dogs and can help keep them fit and healthy.

Cooling Off: Dogs can’t sweat like humans, so they cool off by panting and seeking shade. A dip in the cool lake water offers a welcome relief from the heat, especially during hot summer months.

Exploration: Lakes offer a wide variety of new smells, sights, and sounds for dogs to explore, making it an enriching sensory experience.

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Potential Hazards at the Lake

While lakes offer numerous benefits for dogs, they can also present certain hazards that can potentially make dogs sick. It’s crucial to be aware of these hazards and take appropriate precautions:

Waterborne Pathogens: Lakes can harbor harmful bacteria, parasites, and algae that can make dogs sick if ingested or come into contact with their skin.

Blue-Green Algae: Some lakes may contain toxic blue-green algae blooms, which can release harmful toxins that are dangerous if ingested or absorbed through the skin.

Foreign Objects: Lakes can hide various foreign objects, such as sharp rocks, broken glass, and fishing hooks, which can cause injuries to dogs.

Pollution: Urban runoff and pollution from boats can introduce harmful chemicals and contaminants into the lake water.

Wildlife Encounters: Lakes are often home to wildlife, such as snakes or waterfowl, that can pose risks to dogs if they come into contact.

Can Dogs Get Sick from Lake Water?

Now, let’s address the central question: Can dogs get sick from the lake? The answer is yes, but it depends on various factors:

Ingesting Contaminated Water: Dogs can get sick from lake water if they drink it and it contains harmful bacteria, parasites, or toxins. It’s crucial to discourage your dog from drinking lake water to minimize this risk.

Skin Contact: Some dogs may develop skin irritations or infections if they swim in water contaminated with harmful substances. Rinse your dog thoroughly after swimming to remove any potential contaminants.

Blue-Green Algae: Toxic blue-green algae can be lethal to dogs if ingested. Keep an eye out for signs of algae blooms, such as green scum on the water’s surface, and avoid swimming in such areas.

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Pre-existing Conditions: Dogs with compromised immune systems or pre-existing health conditions may be more susceptible to illnesses from lake water. Consult your veterinarian for guidance on whether it’s safe for your dog to swim in lakes.

Tips for Safe Lake Adventures with Your Dog

Now that you’re aware of the potential risks, here are some tips to ensure safe and enjoyable lake adventures with your dog:

Choose Safe Locations: Research and choose lake destinations known for their cleanliness and safety. Look for signs indicating water quality and potential hazards.

Supervision: Always supervise your dog while they are in or near the water to prevent accidents and ensure they don’t ingest or come into contact with harmful substances.

Prevent Drinking: Bring fresh water for your dog to drink, so they don’t feel the need to drink lake water.

Rinse Off: After swimming, rinse your dog with clean water to remove any lake contaminants from their fur and skin.

Keep Vaccinations Up-to-Date: Ensure your dog’s vaccinations are current to protect them from waterborne diseases like leptospirosis.


In conclusion, while lakes offer a fantastic opportunity for dogs to have fun and cool off, there are potential health risks associated with lake water. 

Understanding these risks and taking appropriate precautions can help ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for both you and your furry friend. 

By following the tips outlined in this guide, you can confidently answer the question, “Can dogs get sick from the lake?” with the knowledge and awareness needed to keep your canine companion safe during your next lakeside adventure.