Responsible dog owners understand the importance of making sure their canine companion always has fresh, clean water to drink. But, what a surprising number of pet owners don’t realise is that it’s actually possible for a dog to ingest 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.
At highest risk are dogs that enjoying playing in the water for long stretches. But believe it or not, even a lawn sprinkler or hose can pose a hazard for pets that love to snap at or 'catch' spraying water. During the summer months, this becomes an ever-more concerning issue.
When more water enters the body than it can process, bodily fluids are diluted, creating a potentially hazardous shift in electrolyte balance. Large amounts of excess water deplete sodium levels, making it impossible to maintain blood pressure and nerve and muscle function. As the body attempts to balance the sodium levels inside the cells, the inflow of water causes the cells (including those in the brain) to swell.
Symptoms of water intoxication 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.
Whilst any dog can develop hyponatremia, the condition is most commonly seen in dogs who play in lakes and ponds for excessive periods of time, lap or bite at water continuously whilst playing in it, or swallow water unintentionally whilst diving for a toy. It also commonly affects dogs that over-hydrate after exercise.
Water intoxication progresses quickly and can be life threatening, so if your pet has been playing in water and begins to exhibit any of the symptoms listed above, it’s crucial that you seek immediate veterinary care to save your dog’s life.
It is suggested that, if your dog enjoys playing in the water frequently, you monitor their activity and insist upon regular resting periods.