The Need for Well Water Tests to Keep Pets Healthy, Too

Millions of Americans choose to obtain their daily drinking water from bottled water, resulting in 50 million bottles of water sold each year. Many pets are not that lucky, getting their drinking water from wells, household taps, hoses or even from the swimming pool.

Pet owners routinely love their pets and want the best for them. They may not realize that the lower quality water from taps, hoses or pools can make their furry friends ill. It is, of course, much harder to tell when minerals or contaminants cause painful or problematic symptoms in a cat, dog, bird or other pet.

It’s important, therefore, for humans to monitor pets’ actions and health for signs that can typically result from tap or well water that is either contaminated or has too many minerals or chemicals. It’s possible that some veterinarians may not associate pet health problems with water quality so you may have to bring this information to your vet.

Pet Health Problems That May Be Associated with the Water They Drink

  • Too much calcium or magnesium: In many areas, well water has high levels of calcium or magnesium, resulting in mineral buildup on plumbing equipment. When cats drink this water, they can develop urinary problems. Dogs can suffer bladder damage or urinary infections if they get kidney stones from this water.
  • Lead in household water: While well water seldom contains lead, this metal can enter household water supplies if lead pipes, lead solder, or brass fittings are corroded by acidic groundwater. States with groundwater that has the greatest lead solubility include Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware, Tennessee, and Arkansas. The Mid-Atlantic and New England States in general have higher lead solubility than most other states. Resulting health problems can start with gastrointestinal problems like vomiting and diarrhea. Chronic exposure can lead to lack of energy, tender abdomen, anxiety, anorexia, seizures and even blindness. Birds may suffer paralysis of the feet, general weakness and convulsions. 
  • Nitrates and nitrites in well water: These contaminants are common around agricultural areas. Discharges from municipal wastewater treatment plants or septic tanks can also add nitrates to water supplies. Animals exposed to higher levels of nitrates and nitrites can suffer abdominal pain, diarrhea and more frequent urination. If levels get too high, pets can suffer tremors, convulsions or even comas.
  • Iron in well water: Small amounts of iron in water is not a problem. If levels get too high, signs of iron toxicity include swollen abdomen, no appetite, vomiting and fatigue.
  • Chlorine in municipal or pool water: Small quantities of chlorine are added to municipal water supplies as a disinfectant. Of course, nearly every swimming pool is treated with chlorine. A constant diet of chlorine from city water or drinking out of the backyard pool can cause vomiting, nausea, red eyes and itchy skin. Chronic ingestion of chlorine-heavy water can also cause irritation or erosion of the esophagus.
  • Salt water from pools or the seaside: Too much salt can be very harmful to pets. In addition to gastrointestinal upsets, high consumption of salt can lead to tremors, weakness, confusion and strange behaviors.
  • Bacteria and parasites: It is not uncommon to find microorganisms like E. coli, Giardia, Salmonella and Cryptosporidium in well water. Until a well with any of these microorganisms is disinfected, neither pets or humans should drink this water. These microorganisms can cause diarrhea, vomiting and seizures in dogs. In cats, weight loss and chronic intermittent diarrhea may be noted.

Correcting Contaminated Household Water

It’s not that difficult to correct well or household water that is found to have these contaminants. In the case of microorganisms, it’s a simple matter of properly disinfecting the well, followed by a water test to ensure the water is now pure.

Metals, minerals and chemicals can be eliminated through treatment with reverse osmosis, carbon filtration or ion exchange filtration. But not every filter eliminates all contaminants. It’s important to start out with a comprehensive test of your well water so you know what needs to be filtered out.

A service we provide to our well water test customers is a consultation interpreting the results of their water test. We don’t want them to buy an expensive water filtration system if a less expensive one is what they actually need. This service is provided at no additional charge. If you need help providing your pets with pure healthy water, give us a call at (800) 344-9977 or check out our test packages to learn which water test is best for you!