What to Do If Your Dog Drinks River Water? Tips

Dogs are known for their adventurous spirits, and when they encounter a river or a stream during a hike or playtime, their natural curiosity can lead them to drink from it. 

While watching your furry friend enjoy the great outdoors is a joyous experience, it’s essential to be cautious about the water sources they encounter. 

In this article, we’ll explore the potential risks associated with dogs drinking river water and provide you with valuable tips on what to do if your dog indulges in this spontaneous act. 

We’ll also discuss how to keep your canine companion safe during outdoor adventures around water bodies.

Why Do Dogs Drink River Water?

Understanding your dog’s behavior is crucial when it comes to ensuring their safety. Dogs might drink river water for several reasons:

  1. Thirst: Dogs get thirsty during physical activities, just like humans. When a river or stream presents itself, they might find it an appealing source of hydration.
  2. Curiosity: Dogs are naturally curious creatures, and they might be enticed by the sight and sound of flowing water.
  3. Taste: Some dogs simply enjoy the taste of fresh, cool river water.

However, there are potential risks associated with this behavior, which we’ll discuss in the following sections.

Health Risks of River Water Consumption

While a quick sip from a clean river might not cause any harm, there are significant health risks your dog can face when drinking from natural water sources:

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Contaminants: Rivers and streams can contain various contaminants like bacteria, parasites, and algae blooms. These contaminants can lead to gastrointestinal issues, such as vomiting and diarrhea, or more severe illnesses like Leptospirosis.

Chemical Pollution: River water can be polluted with chemicals from runoff, industrial waste, or agricultural runoff. Ingesting these chemicals can have detrimental effects on your dog’s health.

Drowning Hazards: Encounters with swift currents can pose a risk of drowning, especially for small dogs or those not used to water.

Dehydration: Paradoxically, drinking too much river water can lead to dehydration. The excess intake of water dilutes the electrolytes in the body and can cause an electrolyte imbalance.

Immediate Actions to Take

If you catch your dog drinking river water, there are several immediate actions you should take:

Interrupt the Behavior: Gently call your dog or use a command to get their attention and redirect them away from the water source.

Observe for Signs of Discomfort: Watch your dog closely for any signs of distress or discomfort. Symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive drooling may appear shortly after ingestion.

Offer Fresh Water: If your dog appears thirsty, offer them clean, fresh water from your own supply. This will help dilute any potentially harmful substances in their system.

Monitor Closely: Keep a close eye on your dog for the next 24 hours. If any concerning symptoms persist or worsen, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Preventative Measures

Prevention is key when it comes to keeping your dog safe near rivers and streams:

Bring Your Own Water: Always carry enough fresh water for both you and your dog. This reduces the chances of them seeking hydration from potentially contaminated sources.

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Use a Leash: If your dog is not a strong swimmer or is new to water, keep them on a leash near rivers to prevent accidental falls or jumps.

Training and Recall: Ensure your dog has a reliable recall command so that you can quickly call them away from the water if needed.

Research Water Quality: If you plan to visit a specific river or stream, research its water quality beforehand. Avoid areas with known pollution or high bacterial counts.


In conclusion, while it’s natural for dogs to be drawn to rivers and streams, there are potential health risks associated with drinking from these water sources. 

By understanding why dogs indulge in this behavior and taking immediate actions if they do, you can help keep your furry friend safe during outdoor adventures. 

Prevention, in the form of carrying your own water and using leashes where necessary, is the best approach to ensure your dog’s well-being. 

Remember that your veterinarian is your best resource for guidance and advice specific to your dog’s health and behavior, so always consult them if you have concerns about your dog’s health after drinking river water. 

With these precautions in mind, you can enjoy the great outdoors with your four-legged companion safely and responsibly.