It’s hard to get mad at a free-wheeling dog, sticking his big head in the birdbath for a drink, or just to nose around…but this may be the filthiest place on your entire property.
Because birds eat constantly, they also “toilet” a lot, often in the birdbath. This means that the water can become a biohazard fairly quickly, in spite of routine cleaning.
Here are easy-to-understand overviews of eight diseases your dog can catch from sticking his face in the birdbath. You will also find ways to avoid the germs, without giving up the pleasure of having a birdbath. Not only can this knowledge save your pup’s life; you will also be able to protect your family from illness – Some of these sicknesses can be transferred from your dog to you and your kids!
Bird Flu – New Strains Emerge
Bird flus are tricky, because new ones can emerge at any time. Even if your dog does not become sick, he could pass the flu on to other animals or people.
Worse yet, once your dog becomes infected, he can spread it to any other dogs he encounters. According to a study by multiple South Korean agencies, including Seoul National University…
“…an avian-origin canine influenza virus isolated from a pet dog can spread from dog to dog by contact infection.”Seoul National University Study on Bird Flu Exposure in Canines
Whether it’s other dogs in your home, in doggie daycare, or those he touches noses with on his daily walk, that can be a whole lot of suffering by one idle drink from a birdbath.
Campylobacter Sometimes Antibiotic-Resistant for Dogs
Campylobacteriosis (pronounced CAM-pih-low-BACK-tee-ree-OH-sis) will really throw your pup’s digestive system into turmoil. Signs of this illness include sluggishness and diarrhea. Antibiotic strains have been discovered in more recent years, and are becoming a concern among veterinarians.
Campylobacter is a triple-threat! Not only can it make your dog quite ill; but there are also strains of it which are antibiotic resistant. In addition, your dog can pass it on to you.
A CDC investigation recently concluded that “dogs can carry Campylobacter germs that can make people sick, even if they look healthy and clean.”US Centers for Disease Control
Cryptococcosis: a far-flung disease
Pronounced (krĭp″tə-kŏ-kō′sĭs), This far-flung disease is found more often in the western United States, Australia, and Canada.
It begins by affecting the dog’s respiritory system, and may progress to his brain. Yeast is the main cause of cryptococcosis, found in the intestines of pigeons and some other common birds.
E Coli can Cause Infection, Pneumonia in Dogs
Although E. coli can make your dog very sick AND pass it on to members of your family, birds do not usually become sick from it. They pick up the disease from pecking at feces of infected animals, especially cows. I know, it sounds gross, but cow flops are a treasure trove of whole seeds.
Giardiasis: all too common in dogs
It’s easy to think that your birdbath’s water might be cleaner in the shade, or in the cooler weather of autumn, but this is not necessarily true. Giardia is even more prolific in cool water.
Another thing that can give you a false sense of security is if the birdbath hasn’t been used lately. The fact is that giardia can remain for several months after the birds have gone.
A case of giardia in one roguish pup who can’t keep his mug out of the birdbath can jeopardize his dog-buddies, as well. It will multiply in your dog’s intestines, and come out in his stool, endangering other animals with whom he shares the yard.
Fungal Infection (Histoplasmosis): Mississippi/Ohio River Valley Hazard
This particular fungal infection is pronounced (his-toh-plaz-MOH-sis). There are two ways in which your hound can catch this illness – By inhaling the fungus, or by ingesting it. Contracting this disease from drinking out of a birdbath is especially bad, because the intestinal version of it is far more severe than that which affects his lungs.
Leptospirosis is Increasingly Common in Dogs
This, along with giardia, are the two most common waterborne illnesses for dogs. It is potentially fatal. Not only can your dog catch it from drinking the birdbath water; its bacteria can also burrow into his skin.
Once the dog is exposed, the disease ravages its way through his bloodstream, which means it goes into his vital organs.
Salmonellosis can Cause Miscarriages in Dogs
When we think of salmonella, we picture food poisoning. On the good side, dogs rarely suffer this effect of the disease. Having had this disease twice, I can sincerely comment that dogs are extremely lucky, in that respect!
That’s not to say that they never contract the disease, though. According to the Cornell University Wildlife Health Lab…
“…domestic animals have become infected through contact with infected songbirds.”Cornell University Wildlife Health Lab
Speaking of how awful salmonella is to humans, you can catch it from your infected dogs, while he is infected and not showing any symptoms. This can happen when he licks you, especially on your face. That is one of the reasons it’s a good idea to wash your hands after handling with your dog, and not to touch him while you are eating.
If reading that doesn’t make you consider safe solutions for your birdbath, nothing will!
How to Prevent Bird Diseases in your Dog
Location, Location, Location
First, and most obvious, move the birdbath. I think we have a default setting in our minds, which tells us to put all our critter-related things in the same area of our property. This is a great time to think out of the box. Although we think of our dogs as being all over the place, they really aren’t.
In the case of greyhounds, they are restricted to an enclosed area of the yard. This makes it easy to relocate your birdbath to someplace out of the dog’s enclosure. Try seeking the perfect spot while indoors, looking out upon your yard, through your windows. That way, you’ll be sure to choose a spot where you can still enjoy the sight of the birds.
Even for dogs who are allowed to roam free, they are still creatures of habit. There are places which they simply will not be interested in going. You can elevate the feeder, or maybe put it behind some bushy plants that the dog doesn’t want to tangle with.
I placed my birdbath on the other side of my driveway, in a flowerbed near a sharp drop-off. My dog never wanders over there; deterred by the bushy plants, and fearful of the ledge.
Keep the Birdbath Clean
A lot of people fail to buy sanitizer for their birdbath’s water, because they think that it is poisonous, perhaps some type of bleach or chlorine. While you do want to clean out your birdbath weekly with a good 10% bleach solution, there are safe products to help keep the water clean in between. I use Sanco Birdbath Maintainance formula, because it is all-natural, and will not harm birds, pets, or kids.
Keep the Water Moving
Another product I find useful in keeping the birdbath water more sanitary is a solar-powered fountain. They are nowhere near as expensive as you might think, and they add an additional dimension of enjoyment to your birdbath. I chose this one, which has a battery back-up, because I live in an area where it’s often foggy.
Keep Your Pup Hydrated
Sometimes, drinking out of random places is a cry for help. Check out my videos and articles on the importance of getting enough water into your dog, with plenty of helpful ideas on how to hydrate your hound.
Using these ideas will not only keep your dog from being interested in the birdbath; they will also improve his health.
Resources for Further Exploration
Learn more about avoiding bird flu.
Keep current on the increasing Campylobacter threat.
Print out the free Cornell Wildlife Lab’s fact sheet on salmonella.