Saltwater poisoning in dogs is more common than you think, particularly if you go to the beach frequently. Much like dry drowning in dogs, its effects can take some time to appear, and it’s difficult to spot by the untrained eye. Every year, at least one or two high-profile cases of saltwater poisoning make the rounds in the news.
Here’s what you need to know to keep your pet safe.
How Does Saltwater Poison Dogs?
When too much salt builds up in a dog’s body, her cells release their water content to try and balance out the sodium disparity. This, in turn, causes a litany of serious health effects. It can cause seizures, a loss of brain cells, injury to the kidneys, and severe dehydration. If a dog with saltwater poisoning isn’t treated medically, the condition can easily lead to death.
Interestingly, the opposite is also true. If a dog (or a person) drinks too much fresh water on a hot day, the body can overcompensate and actually drive salt content to dangerously-low levels. This is very difficult to do, however, and is usually only seen in extreme circumstances.
How to Diagnose Saltwater Poisoning in Dogs
The most noticeable symptom of dog saltwater poisoning is odd behavior. Too much sodium in the body can cause your dog to become confused, non-responsive, lethargic, or otherwise just off. If you notice something seems wrong – even if you’ve been back from the beach for hours – but you can’t put your finger on it, call your vet.
Immediately after going in the ocean, dogs who’ve ingested too much saltwater might also vomit or have diarrhea. As the hours pass, you may notice your pup become reluctant to drink fresh water or to eat. Other signs might include accumulation of fluid in the body (which appears as swelling) and excessive thirst or urination.
Treating Dogs for Saltwater Poisoning
It’s imperative that you take your dog to the vet immediately if you suspect she might have saltwater poisoning, and even to an emergency vet if necessary. A veterinarian will administer IV fluids to try and flush the excess salt out of your dog’s body. He’ll also monitor her electrolytes, provide treatment for brain swelling, control seizures, and offer supportive care.
Preventing Saltwater Poisoning in Dogs
The easiest and most predictable way to prevent your dog from suffering from saltwater poisoning is to ensure she doesn’t drink saltwater! Before hitting the beach, offer her lots of clean, fresh water to get her nice and hydrated before your dip. It’s also important to keep a water bowl full of clean water on the beach with you, encouraging your dog to stop playing and drink from it every 15 minutes or so. (The sun and lots of frolicking can be shockingly dehydrating for dogs!)
If see your dog drinking ocean water or if you suspect she accidentally swallowed a significant amount, it’s a good idea to induce vomiting if possible. Either way, be sure to watch your dog very carefully for the next few hours to ensure no poisoning symptoms pop up down the line. When in doubt…call your vet!