Side effects of living by a lake

Finland is known as the land of 60 000 lakes, and living right at the water’s edge is not that uncommon here. As the lagotto romagnolo breed is originally a water dog (lago in Italian means lake), my dogs really enjoy our home lake. However, there are some side effects…

Spring and autumn pose a threat of drowning

All three of my dogs love swimming in the summer and running free on the lake ice in the winter. What worries me is when the lake is just beginning to freeze over or the ice is thinning before it melts away. Do they know then, that it is unsafe to rush after some waterfowl or hare prancing on the ice in front their eyes? No, they don’t.

Just recently my 18 month-old bitch, Lola, decided to go and say hello to the gulls looking for a nesting place on a nearby rocky shoal. I screamed: - Here girl! Come here! But she was too excited to remember anything she ever learned about obedience. I could see the brittle ice breaking under her paws. She fell in twice before she was able to scramble back to her own trail and head home. For two weeks after that the dogs were allowed out on a leash only until the wind finally broke the ice and blew it away.

Ice fishers can cause a health hazard

I do know that lake fish should not be eaten raw/unfrozen/uncooked because of the risk of parasites. I am also aware that the ice fishers are in the habit of leaving their smallest catch on the ice “for the birds”. Although my dogs would not touch raw fish if I served it in their bowls, obviously they cannot resist it when they find it on the ice, which to them is the equivalent of “wilderness”. Unfortunately it isn’t necessarily frozen, when they gobble it up. I happen to know that, having found Toto hiding a fresh little fish behind the piano in our living room not too long ago.

Yet, I never thought my dogs would be at any particular risk since I have always dewormed them regularly, two or three times per year. What I did NOT know is that the broad fish tapeworm (native to Scandinavia, western Russia, and the Baltics, according to Wikipedia now also present in North America, especially the Pacific Northwest) cannot be killed by a normal dose of the usual deworming drugs!

My new swear word: diphyllobothrium latum!

Lola was getting very skinny regardless of her very good appetite. Then one night she had an upset stomach and out came something that looked a bit like tagliatelle pasta. I knew she had not eaten tagliatelle. Yuck! I was not happy realizing what I was looking at!

Our vet said the fish tapeworm (diphyllobothrium latum) is very rare in dogs and she had never diagnosed it before. On the other hand, she also said that according to literature the symptoms in dogs might be very mild, but stomach upsets, vitamin B12 deficiency and anemia are known to be the warning signs to watch for. The only drug effective for it is Praziquantel (present in many of the common deworming medications but not in sufficient dozes).

To get rid of this disgusting nuisance I had to treat all my dogs with Praziquantel in a doze I could hardly believe: 40 mg/kg, which meant they had to swallow 16 pills each in one go! The only positive thing in this story is the fact that it went down with less trouble than anticipated and there were no after effects. Later our vet said this case gave her some doubts about the rarity of Diphyllobothriasis in Finland. After all, we do have those 60 000 lakes, more than enough ice fishers per lake and quite a lot of dogs.


Morning light at 6.30 am at our home lake. Lola is longing to get in the water.

The gulls are nesting and Rita is listening to the noise they are making.

Oh, joy! The ice is finally receding and soon our swimming season can start!

This is The Day! It’s very dramatic when the lake starts shedding its icy cover. When the force of the ice pushes against the shores the dogs must be kept inside.