What you should know about “Water Intoxication” when it comes to your Dog
You certainly understand the importance of your dog getting enough clean, fresh water throughout the day – especially in the hot summer months. What you may not know, however, is that your dog can actually ingest too much water, which can lead to water intoxication.
Water intoxication may result in hyponatremia (excessively low sodium levels), which occurs when more water enters the body that it can process, shifting the electrolyte balance with the excess water depleting your dog’s sodium levels. Sodium maintains blood pressure, nerve and muscle function.
While water intoxication is relatively rare, it is to be taken very seriously, as it can be fatal.
In theory, water intoxication can happen to any dog that ingests too much water too fast. Seemingly innocent and fun activities, such as playing in the water for long stretches of time, constant biting at the water and swallowing it unintentionally, diving for toys, over-hydrating after exercise, playing with the garden hose or sprinkler, etc. While it may seem that water-centric sports, such as Dock Diving, pose a higher risk, numbers of intoxication are actually low! This may be due to higher awareness, the limited continuous time in the water, frequent breaks between runs and plenty of opportunity to rid their bodies of excess water.
The condition typically advances more quickly in small dogs, simply because their bodies may be more easily overwhelmed by the excess fluid. High-drive dogs which were not bred for work in the water (e. g. certain Retrievers), also seem more likely to develop it than other breeds.
Proper education of handlers and preventative measures are essential to avoiding this condition.
So, familiarize yourself with the symptoms and monitor your dog’s appearance and behavior closely during and after excessive interaction with water sources. Limit your furry friend’s time in/playing with/drinking too much water, taking frequent breaks – especially, if your dog has no “self turn off” button. Make your dog take frequent potty breaks to get rid of excess fluids through urination. Use caution when your dog rehydrates, limiting the amounts of water it drinks at once. Take breaks before re-filling the bowl. You may also offer moderate levels of electrolytes (such as coconut water) for your dog’s rehydration, instead of regular water.
What are the signs of Water Intoxication?
First signs of water intoxication include lethargy, bloating, vomiting, loss of coordination (stumbling, falling, staggering), restlessness, increased salivation, pale gums, dilated pupils, and glazed eyes. Should you notice any combination of these symptoms, or if your dog seems “off”, take your pup to the vet immediately and mention potential water intoxication (it’s often misdiagnosed/overlooked!).