In addition to the incredible property and psychological damage floods can inflict on people, the health of pets can be impacted when they come into contact with flood water.
Contaminated water can bring significant and serious diseases. Leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that can affect almost all mammals, is particularly adept at finding a suitable host in water. This disease can cause kidney or liver failure and needs aggressive therapy when diagnosed.
Sewer leakage or overflow into normally clean rivers also can spread gastrointestinal diseases such as salmonella and other bacterial and viral infections.
Even after flood waters have receded, a spike in illnesses such as heartworm disease that may be carried by mosquitoes can occur.
While these dangers are on the microscopic level, pets that enter flood waters are susceptible to physical injury from larger threats as well, such as barbed wire, building materials and logs. Injuries to the skin and foot pads should be examined and treated as soon as they are discovered.
A more obvious threat is the risk of a pet drowning or aspirating unclean water and developing respiratory infections such as pneumonia. River currents are always unpredictable and more so in swollen rivers. Even strong swimmers can be in danger of being swept away.
Flood waters also may contain chemicals not normally encountered as upstream contaminates wash down. Pets may suffer eye or skin injury from this type of exposure and, at a minimum, should have a thorough shampooing and evaluation for injury to delicate tissues.
Since the safety of flood waters cannot be determined visually, pets AND people should avoid contact completely and recognize that a flooded parking lot can just as easily harbor danger as a rain-swollen stream.
Dogs who live in areas frequented by wild animals as well as floods should be vaccinated against leptospirosis and owners should make sure diseases such as heartworms are addressed and prevented.
For more information on how to protect or treat your pet during this difficult time, discuss these issues with your veterinarian.