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Is your water safe?

As published in Canadian Dogs Annual
Is your water safe?

Proper hydration is essential to your dog’s health, so ensure his water is free from toxins.

Your dog needs access to fresh water 24/7. Water is vital to all living beings – it keeps the body hydrated, enhances cell and organ function, aids the lymphatic system, and flushes away toxins.

But there’s a problem. Widespread environmental pollution, along with overworked or outdated water treatment facilities in many regions, is undermining the quality of our drinking water. The water coming from your tap may look and taste pure, but chances are it contains chemicals and contaminants you may not even be aware of. A recent article published on Torstar’s website metronews.ca reported that “13% per cent of household water tests conducted in Toronto over the past six years showed unsafe levels of lead.” The data, collected between 2008 and 2014, came from 15,000 water samples. The majority of the problems are in areas where real estate values are higher and infrastructure is older.

Lead isn’t the only problem. Along with the ubiquitous chlorine, tap water has been found to contain varying traces of everything from nitrates and salts, to fluoride, arsenic and numerous pesticides. Even if these toxins appear in only trace amounts, they can accumulate in your dog’s body and contribute to health problems, including cancer and neurological conditions. And because our dogs are smaller than we are, they’re more at risk from the effects of these toxins. Whether you buy a home testing kit, or have the analysis done by an independent water testing laboratory, the first step is to get your water tested. For the best accuracy, the latter is the best way to go, but it can be more costly depending on what you want done.

Individual sample tests are inexpensive, running around $6 each and many companies now offer “package” testing – a comprehensive analysis that covers the gamut of toxins, pesticides and metals – for between $100 and $200. To find out what options are available in your area, contact your local health department or water utility. Make sure the lab you use is certified, and carefully follow their instructions for collecting and delivering the sample. Home water testing kits vary in quality and what they test for. Some only look for bacteria, iron, chlorine or lead, while others can also detect nitrates, arsenic and up to a dozen different pesticides. Many also test the hardness and pH levels of your water. The kits are an economical investment, but they won’t give you the same level of accuracy as a lab test.

Once you’ve determined which issues affect your water supply, you can decide if and how you want to filter them out. Water filter systems range from those that sit on top of the faucet to more comprehensive systems, such as reverse osmosis, which reside under the sink. For more instructions on how to filter out specific contaminants in your water supply, visit the Environmental Working Group’s website at EWG.org and search for the “Water Filter Buying Guide”. You can enter your specific information into the search grid, and specific systems that match your criteria will pop up.

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