Water Intoxication & Salt Poisoning in Dogs – Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention Tips

Dog days of summer are here…sand to roll in, lakes, beaches and pools – lots of water to splash around and play! All this is fun as long as long as precautions are taken to safeguard your pooch from water intoxication and salt poisoning.

What is Water Intoxication?

As pet owner, we all understand the importance of providing clean, fresh water to our canine pals. But what many of don’t realize is that its possible for a dog to ingest too much water, leading to water intoxication. Yes, too much of a good thing can actually be bad.

When your dog takes in more water than the body can process, it causes a dangerous shift in the electrolyte balance. What that means is too much water can deplete body salts. The body salts are essential for maintaining blood pressure, nerve and muscle function. The depletion of body salts causes the cells to swell with water, affecting the central nervous system.

What is Salt Poisoning?

When a dog swallows sea water or carries toys that absorbed a lot of sea water (like a tennis ball), it can result in an electrolyte imbalance that is the exact opposite of water intoxication. The high sodium content in sea water dehydrates the dog and plays havoc with their electrolyte balance.

How can that happen?

If your dog bites/lap water when playing in it or likes to stay in the lake, pond or pool/sea all day if you let them, then he is likely to swallow a few sips of water. Although a few sips of water shouldn’t hurt your pup, but your pup he could be in danger if he swallows large amounts of water.

Symptoms of Water Intoxication

Water intoxication progresses very quickly and can be life threatening. This is especially true for Kapha dogs, as their blood tends to have a lower osmotic pressure resulting in water retention. So if you pet exhibits any of the following symptoms, seek immediate veterinary assistance:

  • Loss of co-ordination
  • Lethargy
  • Nausea
  • Bloating
  • Vomiting
  • Dilated Pupils, Glazed Eyes
  • Light Gum Color
  • Excessive Salivation

In severe cases, there can also be difficulty breathing, collapse, loss of consciousness, seizures, coma, and death.

If you suspect water intoxication, take your pup to the vet immediately since brain damage can occur very fast.

The treatment usually involves administration of electrolytes and diuretics to help restore the salt balance and eliminate excess water. If your vet suspects brain swelling, drugs to reduce the intracranial pressure may be given.

Prevention Tips:

If your dog enjoys paying in water, then make sure you’re there to supervise his/her activity and follow these tips:

  • Frequent rest breaks to allow your dog to eliminate excess water.
  • Curry n Pepper, Kapha Savory Herb Biscuits bites during rest breaks help eliminate excess water.
  • Use a flat toy instead of a round toy like a ball.
  • If using water hose or sprinkler, ensure it is set to low pressure

Symptoms of Salt Water Poisoning

  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Loss of coordination
  • Seizures
  • Progressive depression
  • Severe brain swelling

An acute lethal doze of salt in dogs is about 0.07oz/lb. If your dog has already consumed a lot of seawater, then treatment consists of removing the excess salt from the body by providing fresh water. Depending on the severity of the condition your vet may need to provide oxygen and IV fluid therapy to manage dehydration and electrolyte balance. Your vet will treat the condition with a slow treatment process, as aggressive treatments can cause brain damage. It can take a few days to clear the salt from the body. It is important to feed a low sodium diet for at least (just put a space between at least) 30 days after the episode.

Prevention Tips:

If your dog loves the water, then make sure you’re there to supervise his/her activity and follow these tips:

  • Frequent rest breaks to allow your dog to re-hydrate. Offer fresh water after a period of hard play or exercise, so they are not tempted to drink the seawater.
  • Ensure that he/she does not lap the fresh water too quickly
  • Use a flat toy instead of a round toy like a ball.

Note: Sometimes it may be challenging for your vet to diagnose water intoxication or salt poisoning properly, as the symptoms are similar to other conditions. So, if your dog has been in water and is showing symptoms of either condition, let your vet know about it to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.