With all the recent flooding in the United States and the East Coast looking at an active hurricane season this year, boil water alerts have been much more in focus. A boil water alert, advisory or notice usually occurs when there is a loss in water pressure. This can be caused by a number of things, including a broken water pipe, loss of power and/or system pressure at your local water treatment plant or a scheduled outage for repairs. The concern is that contaminants can seep into pipes, allowing pathogens (aka disease-causing germs) into the water supply with the potential to cause illness. It's important to note that precautionary boil water alerts extend to all family members, including dogs.
Dogs & Human Illness
Why dogs? According to scientists, many pets, such as dogs, are susceptible to the very same diseases we humans are at risk for. What it boils down to, no pun intended, is that there are certain bacteria that can disruptively tear through their system and digestive tract just like ours. The risks from drinking contaminated water include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. While these things surely sound unpleasant and worth avoiding, they can have far more serious side effects, such as death from dehydration, which is purportedly a horrifically painful way to go. Your body begins cramping and spasming and delirium sets in. Even taking death off the table as the extreme, there’s still the fact dehydration can lead to substantial cardiovascular stress, which in turn leads to increased heart rate.
Compromised Immune Systems
Anyone with a compromised immune system or suffering from chronic illness needs to take extra precautions. This applies even more so to anyone identified with these conditions that happens to be elderly or very young. This would apply to older dogs and cats or puppies and kittens, too. And it isn’t just drinking questionable water while a precautionary boil water alert is in effect. You see, while most alerts don’t prohibit bathing in temporarily questionable water during the course of the alert, they do discourage it if you have new cuts, wounds or surgical incisions not yet healed. If that’s the case, boil a substantive amount of water first and bathe in it instead. Experts also tell you to avoid getting iffy water in your eyes, mouth or nose while bathing and not to brush your teeth with it.
Contaminated Drinking Water
So, how do you make water safe to drink? Bring it to a rapid boil for at least one full minute before allowing it to cool and drink. This should be done beforehand for beverages you’re making that are water based like coffee, tea, powdered drinks, juices made from concentrate and baby formula. You also can’t use tap water during a boil advisory to make ice cubes, because the freezing process won’t kill the germs, and once the ice melts you’re back to square one with contaminated water. If you’re wondering if a water filter can help you to bypass these precautions, the answer depends on the type. Water filters in fridges, ice makers, pitchers and the kind you screw on the end of your faucet won’t help. For under-sink filters, refer to the manual.
Washing Dishes & Preparing Food
If you hand wash dishes during a boil water notice, you’ll need to use plenty of hot, soapy water and then rinse with boiled water. For dishwasher use, it’s fine as long as the hot water cycling through the system reaches 170 degrees or your model has a sanitizing cycle that includes a full dry cycle using heat, not air. Disease-causing bacteria, viruses or parasites that may be present will be destroyed by heat. For food prep, use bottled water or boiled water to wash your hands prior to handling edibles. If any of the food requires rinsing, again you’ll have to perform this task with bottled or boiled water, including foods for your pets. While it may seem like an inconvenience, it’s better for everyone involved if you take these simple precautions. Remember, better safe than sorry.