Beware of excessive water intake by your dog while playing in the water this summer! Ingesting too much water may lead to "water intoxication", a condition that can cause serious brain damage and even death in extreme cases. Be sure to read on to find out the symptoms, treatment, and prevention of this problem.
We all know that dehydration can be fatal to our dogs, but did you know that too much water intake is equally dangerous?
During summertime, we love to see our dogs frolic in the water - It's so much fun watching them play in their kiddie pools, run around the water sprinkler, or jump into a lake or river to retrieve a ball or stick... However, these activities all have one potential danger - our dogs may inadvertently ingest a large volume of water.
When there is too much water in the body fluids, sodium levels outside the body cells become significantly depleted (a condition known as "hyponatremia"). In order to rebalance itself, the body increases fluid intake inside the cells. As a result, the cells are "swollen" with fluid, making them bigger in size. As you know, the brain is encased inside the hard skull, if the brain cells are swollen with fluid, there is no room for the brain to expand, this causes an increase in the intracranial pressure and a lot of damage to the brain.
So does that mean we shouldn't allow our dogs to play in the water?
Of course not! This condition does not happen as frequently as dehydration (but it doesn't mean it won't happen!) As responsible dog parents, we should be aware of the potential danger and know the symptoms. Also, we should learn different ways to prevent this from happening in the first place! So if you don't want to swear your dog off swimming and playing in water, please read on...
If your dog has been diving, retrieving, and playing in the water for a while (around 20-30 minutes), there is a possibility that he may already have ingested too much water.
Watch out for these signs and symptoms:
In more serious cases, the dog may have problem breathing, develop seizures, and lose consciousness.
All dogs may be affected by water intoxication; however, some dogs are more prone to this problem. They include:
Dogs with mild cases of water intoxication may stagger a bit when coming out of the water, and they can usually get over the problem by urinating.
However, dogs showing more symptoms should be taken to the vet immediately since brain damage can occur very fast.
Treatment includes careful and gradual administration of electrolytes intraveneously, using diuretics to help get rid of the excessive water in the dog, and using drugs (such as Mannitol) to reduce intracranial pressure due to brain swelling.
Note that some vets may not be abe to diagnose this problem properly! Yes, you read me correctly - since water intoxication does not happen so frequently in dogs, some vets, based on the symptoms, may misdiagnose the problem as being head trauma, or hypothermia, or plain old over-exertion.
Therefore, if your dog has been in the water for a while and, after getting out of the water, starts showing some of the symptoms mentioned above, rush your dog to the vet and suggest that it may be water intoxication.
Since water intoxication can kill (and even if it doesn't, it can cause brain damage), preventing your dog from ingesting too much water is important.
Here are some suggestions:
If you take your dog to the sea, it is of course equally important to prevent your dog from ingesting the sea water.
Drinking too much salt water will result in a condition known as "hypernatremia" (salt poisoning).
The symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, which can then gradually progress into neurological symptoms (e.g. poor coordination, seizures).
As always, if your dog is playing in the sea, monitor your dog closely. Take frequent breaks. Also be sure to offer fresh drinking water to your dog.