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Drinking sea water is dangerous for your dog

Posted by Dr Claire Jenkins on Jan 6, 2016 6:15:06 AM
Dr Claire Jenkins

Taking my dog to the beach is one of my favourite pastimes. It brings me so much joy to see my mate running in and out of the water, fetching the ball and generally loving life. Although I’m writing this post to warn of the dangers of sea water ingestion, I am in no way discouraging you from taking your pup to the beach, (in fact, I encourage it!), I just want you to be aware that sea water when drunk, is a potential danger.

Sea water contains water and a very high level of salt. The concentration of salt is much higher than our body can handle and whilst our kidneys try to get rid of the salt through increased urination, they are removing excess water at the same time. So more water is being lost than is going in, so basically, we dehydrate further. The same is true for dogs.

When your dog is running around loving life at the beach and they feel thirsty, they don’t think, no wait, this will make me sick and even more dehydrated, they just see water, and drink it.

Signs of seawater ingestion are:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Increased thirst and/or urination (body trying to get rid of the salt)
  • Wobbly, unable to walk properly
  • Seizures

Of course, it’s the dose that makes the poison. A small amount may result in a simple 24-hour mild vomiting and diarrhoea situation where the provision of fresh water and rest is all that’s required. With larger amounts, some dogs need to be admitted to the veterinary hospital for rehydration and very close monitoring of their electrolytes, as too quick a correction of body salt concentrations can have disastrous consequences on the nervous system.

Clearly, prevention is the best method.

Tips to prevent seawater ingestion:

  • Prevent thirst. Carry around plenty of fresh water with you. I use a great travel water bottle for dogs with an attached bowl, and you can also buy foldable bowls that are easy to carry and fill.
  • Offer water every 15 minutes or so
  • Ensure lots of breaks from running with periods of rest in the shade.

Enjoy your time together at the beach, and by taking the above precautions you will have a far more pleasant drive home!

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Topics: Behaviour, dog drink sea water