Little known danger: Too much water can kill your dog!

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By Terri Nighswonger
No joke. Too much water can kill your pet.

If you have an active dog who likes to play fetch in the water or jump and bite at the outdoor water hose or sprinkler, you need to be aware of the problems of water toxicity.

Water intoxication in dogs is what happens when your dog drinks so much water that the water influx overloads what the internal organs can process. In severe cases, the body’s electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chloride) are diluted.

Know the symptoms
The condition is called hyponatremia and is relatively rare, but it can be fatal. Seek emergency veterinary care if you dog shows any of these symptoms, particularly after a lot of water play:

  • staggering
  • loss of balance or coordination
  • dilated pupils
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • vomiting
  • bloating
  • lethargy
  • glazed eyes
  • light-colored gums
  • swelling
  • bloating
  • salivation
  • breathing difficulties
  • fainting
  • seizures
  • coma

Dogs that love to swim, retrieving floating toys, diving down under the water or swimming back up again gulp in water. Dogs that like to play with water — such as by attacking the garden hose, biting at waves, and similar play activities — are also at a higher risk for developing water intoxication.

All breeds are susceptible to water intoxication, however, the smaller the dog, the more rapidly water intoxication can take effect.

Can water intoxication in dogs be prevented?
I have a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that absolutely loves the water. He will go all day and then fall into an exhausted heap when we are done. The best way to prevent a problem is to take water play in short time increments and then take a break. We make sure he pees every time we stop playing.

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Keira B
3 months ago

This article does not seem to be written by a veterinarian, or by anyone who is trained in the sciences.

Wolfe
3 months ago

Perhaps just as little-known, the same hyponatremia (literally, “low-salt”) condition CAN happen with people as well. The local sports coaches are constantly telling athletes to drink!drink!drink! to avoid dehydration, and at that extreme water intake kids were getting sick. I *think* taking in more salts (eg by drinking salty sports drinks) is meant to combat this, but there is still such a thing as drinking too much of anything. If you can’t run 20 miles in 100+ heat without massive hydration, maybe kids just shouldn’t be doing that?!?

Debby Bradford
3 months ago

Thank you so much for this article. A few years ago, a close friend lost her beloved Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to water toxicity, and on the anniversary of that dog’s tragic death she posts a similar warning. Since you also have a Cavalier, I would like to invite you to join the Facebook group Camping Cavaliers. I will be sharing your article in there. It’s a really fun group and of course filled with pictures of Cavaliers in campers!