Last week, we talked about the rare dangers of drinking out of lakes; the risk of blue-green algae poisoning. This week, the dangers of swimming, or actually drinking out of the ocean.
As I said last week, I don’t want to make you paranoid about letting your dog play on the beach. However, I have seen some pretty severe cases of salt poisoning in the ER and ICU. When it comes to beach-play, make sure you are a pet-savvy owner and understand the following: the unusual sources of salt poisoning (aside from ocean water), the dangers of salt poisoning, the clinical signs, and how to prevent it.
When excessive sodium is ingested, clinical signs of salt poisoning include:
- Walking drunk
- Abnormal fluid accumulation within the body
- Excessive thirst or urination
- Potential injury to the kidneys
Aside from ocean water, other sources of salt poisoning include:
- Table salt (which is why we no longer recommend using salt to induce vomiting in dogs and cats!)
- Ice melters
- Homemade play dough
So, how do you prevent salt poisoning?
When out on the beach, provide your dog with fresh water in a bowl (use the Frisbee as a bowl). Remember to keep in mind that when dogs exercise and play on the beach, they pant excessively and lose water. If left with no water source, dogs will drink ocean water rather than fresh water. Unfortunately, dogs aren’t smart enough to know that this is dangerous. With the high sodium concentration in salt water, it can result in hypernatremia (elevated salt levels in the body), which can result in an increased osmolality of the blood. Later, when your dog has access to fresh water, he may drink excessively to counter this, resulting in potential brain swelling due to rapid shifts in fluid.
Treatment for salt poisoning includes careful administration of IV fluids, electrolyte monitoring, treatment for dehydration and brain swelling, and supportive care.
When any poisoning occurs, the sooner you seek treatment, the better the prognosis. With salt poisoning, immediate veterinary attention is important. You can also call Pet Poison Helpline for assistance at 855-213-6680.
Better yet, avoid the situation to begin with – fresh water at all times when exercising your dog vigorously!
Dr. Justine Lee