Water Intoxication in Dogs – A Scary, Life-Threatening Condition
20 June, 2016

We all know how important it is to keep our dogs hydrated all year long.  But, with summer here and our dogs either swimming, playing in the pool or just getting cooled off by the garden hose, it is possible for pups to drink too much water.  And, while it might not seem like a big deal (and most of the time it isn’t), there is chance that your dog will ingest so much water that your pup develops a condition called “Water Intoxication.”

What is Water Intoxication?

Water intoxication, which results in life-threatening hyponatremia (excessively low sodium levels), is a relatively rare but frequently fatal condition in dogs.  Hyponatremia is when more water enters the body faster than it can be processed. The presence of so much water dilutes bodily fluids, creating a potentially dangerous shift in electrolyte balance.

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.

What are the symptoms of Water Intoxication?

Some of the symptoms of water intoxication are the following: staggering/loss of coordination, lethargy, nausea, bloating, vomiting, dilated pupils, glazed eyes, light gum color, and excessive salivation. In severe cases, there can also be difficulty breathing, collapse, loss of consciousness, seizures, coma, and death.

Dogs most at risk for Water Intoxication

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.

Treatment of Water Intoxication in dogs

Treatment of hyponatremia in dogs typically includes IV delivery of electrolytes, diuretics, and drugs to reduce brain swelling. With aggressive veterinary care, some dogs are able to recover from water intoxication, but sadly, many are not.

How you can prevent Water Intoxication in Your Dog

1. If your dog loves the water, make sure you’re there to watch and supervise. If your dog is repetitively retrieving a ball or other toy from the water, make sure to include some breaks.  Be especially vigilant on days when the water is rough and more will water can then be ingested.

2.  After a period of hard play or exercise, be mindful of how much water you are giving your dog shortly thereafter. If your pup immediately drinks up all the water, rest him a bit before you refill his bowl.

3.  If your dog enjoys interacting with water from the hose or sprinkler, you should monitor that activity as well. Water from a hose or sprinkler is under pressure and your dog, especially if he likes to “catch” the water can ingest a lot in a short amount of time.

4.  Dogs that are of the highest risk are those that enjoy playing in the water for long stretches.

5.  Familiarize yourself with the symptoms of water intoxication so that you can get your dog to the Veterinarian ASAP if your pup shows any of the above symptoms.

It is almost important during the summer to make sure that your dogs, on the other hand, don’t get heatstroke.  Here is what you need to know:  Preventing Heat Stroke in Dogs.


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