Water Intoxication in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, Therapy

In midsummer, dogs have to drink a lot to be able to shed their excess body heat. However, drinking too much water can also be harmful and lead to what is known as water intoxication. In this article, you will find out how water intoxication occurs in dogs and what you can do about it.

What is water intoxication in dogs?

If a dog drinks too much water or if it unconsciously ingests it while playing, the balanced electrolyte balance in the four-legged friend’s body cells is thrown off balance. Vital electrolytes include minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. The sodium content in the cells decreases and water is stored. This causes the cells to swell and expand.

Water retention occurs in important organs such as the brain, lungs, and/or liver. In the brain, this edema leads to neurological disorders. The lungs are also quickly affected, as the alveoli fill with water. To ensure that the body no longer excretes electrolytes, the kidneys also stop producing urine – the dog can no longer excrete the excess water through the urine. Experts also speak of hypotonic hyperhydration when it comes to water intoxication in dogs.

What causes water intoxication in dogs?

Water intoxication is not caused by polluted or toxic water, but simply by drinking too much water. This clinical picture occurs mainly in the summer months when dogs bathe or play in or with water. Extensive swimming and playing in the lake or in the sea is a blessing for four-legged friends on hot days, but you should make sure that your dog does not drink too much water. The danger also lurks when retrieving: If your dog repeatedly grabs a stick or water toy in the water, it will take up water every time. Therefore, you should not let him play in cool water for too long. The same goes for dog pools and lawn sprinklers.

Is saltwater dangerous for dogs?

What happens when dogs drink too much saltwater? That’s the question many holidaymakers ask themselves. Too much salt water can cause water intoxication, just like too much freshwater. Even small amounts often cause diarrhea and vomiting in dogs.

How much can a dog drink?

Dogs should drink around 100 milliliters of water per kilogram of body weight every day: a three-kilo Yorkshire Terrier is therefore only allowed to drink 300 milliliters of water; a Labrador weighing 30 kilograms, on the other hand, three liters. Normally, a dog does not drink more than it needs. When playing and romping, however, he swallows the water automatically without noticing it.

How does water intoxication manifest itself?

Watch your four-legged friend closely after playing on or in the water. Symptoms of water intoxication in dogs include:

  • Vomit,
  • bloated stomach,
  • restlessness
  • strongly dilated pupils,
  • exhaustion,
  • heavy salivation,
  • coordination disorders,
  • muscle twitches,
  • Cramps,
  • inability to urinate to the point of
  • Unconsciousness.

Not all symptoms will necessarily appear at the same time: if your darling shows only a few of them and is not feeling well, you should act quickly and consult a veterinarian immediately, because water intoxication can lead to the death of the animal within a few hours.

Water intoxication in dogs – first aid measures

What to do if your dog has water poisoning? If you feel your dog has drunk too much water, take the water away from him or get him out of the water. Watch if he urinates. If he shows symptoms, you should go to the vet immediately. Meanwhile, you can feed him savory snacks like pretzel sticks to provide him with electrolytes. The vet will do blood tests and start water-restriction medications and mineral supplements to treat the dog’s water intoxication.

The best way to protect your dog from water intoxication is to keep an eye on him and not let him play in the water for more than 20 minutes.

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