Water Intoxication Can Be Deadly To Dogs: What You Need To Know

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Water Intoxication Can Be Deadly To Dogs: What You Need To Know


I love summer and letting my dogs play in the pool or swim at the lake is a big part of that.

I recently learned that there is something called water intoxication, or hyponatremia, and it is a potentially fatal condition that commonly affects dogs who love water-based play.

If you have a dog that loves to play in the water, it is important to know what water intoxication looks like, and what you should do about it.

We all know that when it's warm outside, we need to keep our dogs well hydrated. That means water and shade readily available. While most of us know about dehydration,I had never thought about the opposite. What happens to our dogs if they become overhydrated? I wasn't even aware that this could be a problem.

  • Most dog owners are more concerned about a dehydrated pet than one that is hyper-hydrated. But the fact is some dogs can ingest dangerous amounts of water in a short period of time.

Water intoxication, resulting in hyponatremia, is a relatively rare but potentially fatal condition that is most commonly seen in dogs that love to play in the water. Retrieving items thrown into the water and competing with other retrieving dogs is one way a pet can ingest a large quantity of water very quickly. Another way is “catching” pressurized water from a garden hose or sprinkler.

According to Dr. Becker of Healthy Pets, when the sodium concentration in extracellular fluid drops, the cells start filling with water as the body attempts to balance the sodium levels inside the cells with falling levels outside the cells. This inflow of water causes the cells – including those in the brain – to swell. The central nervous system can also be affected.

Dogs suffering from water intoxication may show the following symptoms:

  • Loss of balance and coordination
  • Confusion
  • Bloating
  • Vomiting
  • Profuse salivation
  • Lethargy
  • Glazed eyes
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Coma

Anybody with a water loving dog knows that dogs can consume a massive amount of water in a short period of time. That being said, water intoxication can progress quickly.

If your dog shows signs of water intoxication it's critical to seek veterinary attention right away.

Veterinary treatments include IV of electrolytes, diuretics, and medication to reduce swelling, particularly in the brain. If veterinary care is given early enough, some dogs recover well from water intoxication, however the reality is many do not.

Any dog can develop hyponatremia, however, the condition is most commonly seen in dogs who will stay in the lake, pond or pool all day if you let them; pets that lap or bite at the water continuously while playing in it; and dogs that swallow water unintentionally as they dive for a ball or other toy.

Water intoxication can affect any size or breed of dog, but smaller dogs probably show symptoms more quickly because it takes less time for an excessive amount of water to build up in their bodies.

If your dog loves the water - let them have fun! Just make sure that the fun they have is safe and well monitored.

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