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Hyponatraemia - Water Intoxication in Dogs

Many dogs love a good swim or playing fetch in the water. These activities seem pretty harmless to your pup, especially considering how much fun they are having. However, your pup can have too much of a good thing. A lot of pet owners don't realize that it's actually possible for your dog can have too much water. Water intoxication, which results in life threatening hyponatremia (excessively low sodium levels), is a relatively rare but frequently fatal condition in dogs. Dogs who enjoy playing in water for long periods of time are at the highest risk. However, even a lawn sprinkler or hose can pose a hazard for pets that love to snap at or "catch" spraying water.

Hyponatremia occurs when more water enters the body than it can process. The presence of so much water dilutes bodily fluids, creating a potentially dangerous shift in electrolyte balance. The excess water depletes sodium levels in extracellular fluid (fluid outside of cells). Sodium maintains blood pressure and nerve and muscle function.
When the sodium concentration in extracellular fluid drops, the cells start filling with water as the body attempts to balance the sodium levels. This inflow of water causes the cells - including those in the brain - to swell. The central nervous system can also be affected.

Any dog can develop hyponatremia, however, it's most common in dogs who stay in lakes, ponds, or pools for long periods of time, or pets that lap or bite at water continuously while playing in it. This also includes dogs that swallow water unintentionally as they dive for a ball or toy. You may not think this is a lot of water, but it is. This condition has also been reported in dogs that over-hydrate during or after exercise. Water intoxication can effect any size or breed of dog. Water intoxication progresses quickly and can be life threatening - if you notice any of the symptoms, take your dog to the vet immediately.

Symptoms include:
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.

If your dog loves the water, make sure you're there to supervise his activity. If your pet is repeatedly retrieving the ball or toy from the water, make sure you are taking frequent breaks, especially on days when the water is rough.
Observe how your dog interacts with water - if her mouth is open a lot - even if shes holding a ball or stick - understand that she's likely ingesting a fair amount of water.
After hard play or exercise, use caution when your dog rehydrates. If he immediately drinks the entire bowl, rest him for a bit before refilling the bowl. If your dog is very active, take water with you and give him frequent, short water breaks.

*** Salt Water Toxicity
With beach season in full effect, keep in mind that excessive intake of salt water can result in hypernatremia, or salt poisoning, which is the opposite of hyponatremia. Always have fresh, clean water available, especially when your dog is around salt water. Try to prevent as much intake of salt water as possible, do not let them drink this water. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of coordination, seizures, progressive depression, and severe brain swelling. Hypernatremia is potentially life threatening and immediate vet care is needed.


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