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Water Intoxication in Dogs: Vet Reviewed Signs & Treatments

Written by: Jessica Kim

Last Updated on April 12, 2024 by Dogster Team

a border collie dog looking sick covered with blanket on couch

Water Intoxication in Dogs: Vet Reviewed Signs & Treatments


Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo


Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Water intoxication in dogs is rare, but it can happen, especially if your dog enjoys playing with water. They may gulp and intake a lot of water in a short amount of time while swimming or playing with a running hose.

There are three main types of water intoxication—hyponatremia, hypernatremia, and chlorine ingestion. Hyponatremia refers to a significant loss of sodium in the body. Hypernatremia refers to excessive salt intake, which can occur if a dog plays in the ocean and doesn’t have access to an adequate amount of fresh water. Lastly, dogs that drink from pool water, can get intoxicated by ingesting chlorine.

Water intoxication can quickly lead to serious consequences. So, here are some signs of water intoxication and information on some of the available treatment options.

Dogster_Website dividers_v1_Jan 18 2024-03 The 3 Types of Water Intoxication

1. Hyponatremia

dog drinking from a portable dog water bottle

A dog can experience hyponatremia in a couple of different ways, including ingesting too much water. This can happen if a dog constantly swallows water while retrieving items out of water.

Signs of Hyponatremia

Hyponatremia can become serious very quickly, so it’s important to react immediately.

Dogs can show some of these signs:
  • Bloating
  • Glazed eyes
  • Disoriented
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Salivating
  • Loss of coordination
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures

In extreme cases, dogs can fall into a coma. The best thing to do for hyponatremia is to take your dog to emergency animal care.

Treatment for Hyponatremia: Administering Electrolytes

Administering electrolytes is one of the main ways a veterinarian will treat hyponatremia. This method will help raise a dog’s sodium levels back to a safe amount.

Electrolytes are administered slowly with an IV. Doing this process too quickly can cause more harm than good, so it’ll take some time before a dog gets stabilized.

Sick mastiff dog sitting on table in a vet clinic
Image By: UfaBizPhoto, Shutterstock

Treatment for Hyponatremia: Diuretics

A veterinarian may have your dog take diuretics along with delivering electrolytes with an IV. The purpose of diuretics is to help flush out excess fluid from the body.

If a dog has a particularly severe case of hyponatremia, a veterinarian may consider administering hypertonic saline, furosemide, or mannitol

2. Hypernatremia

One cause of hypernatremia is if a dog ingests too much saltwater. So, it’s important to be mindful of how your dog plays near the ocean and other large bodies of saltwater.

Signs of Hypernatremia

Hypernatremia can also progress very quickly, so it’s important to watch out for these signs and symptoms:

  • Disorientation
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased thirst
  • Seizures
  • Confusion
  • Coma
  • Vomiting

Just like hyponatremia, make sure to respond quickly and take your dog to emergency care if you suspect it’s experiencing hypernatremia.

Treatment for Hypernatremia: Fluid Therapy

Fluid therapy is commonly used for hypernatremia to restore balance to sodium levels. Fluid therapy is administered with an IV, and veterinarians will closely monitor a dog’s condition. Dogs will have to stay hospitalized until the veterinarian can confidently determine that they’ve been stabilized.

One of the things a veterinarian monitors is the dog’s electrolyte levels. Once a dog is stabilized, the veterinarian will continue to monitor it post-treatment.

Low-Sodium Diet

Another treatment for hypernatremia that a dog may undergo after being stabilized and discharged is eating a low-sodium diet. This is usually a temporary diet that further helps to bring a dog back to recovery.

Several dog food companies produce low-sodium meals in both dry and wet food. Make sure to communicate clearly with your veterinarian about which brands will work best for your dog and closely monitor your dog’s condition.

Make sure to contact your veterinarian if your dog has any difficulty eating and ingesting the food or starts to show a recurrence of previous hypernatremia symptoms.

Corgi eating dog food
Image By: Paul’s Lady. Shutterstock

3. Chlorine Ingestion

If a dog consumes too much pool water, it is not only at risk of developing hypernatremia, but will also suffer consequences from the ingestion of chlorine. The level of intoxication and damage corresponds with the amount of chlorine present in the pool. To prevent this, you should be mindful when playing with your dog at the swimming pool. If your dog has developed the habit of drinking water from the pool, you need to address this before it causes a health problem. Your dog should always have access to fresh and clean drinking water.

Signs of Chlorine Ingestion

If you suspect your dog has ingested pool water, watch out for the following symptoms:
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Erosion of esophagus
  • Stomach irritation
  • Ataxia
  • Weakness
  • Hyponatremia

If you notice any signs suggesting that your dog is intoxicated from drinking pool water, please do not hesitate to bring it to the veterinarian for evaluation and treatment.

How To Prevent Water Intoxication

Water intoxication can place a dog in a dangerous situation and may even have fatal consequences. So, it’s best to protect your dog from it and take preventative measures to avoid it entirely.

When playing with your dog in the pool, lakes or oceans check to make sure your dog isn’t swallowing large amounts of water. If your dog is swimming and having difficulty keeping its head above water, consider purchasing a life vest.

When you take your dog to play, always make sure to bring a water bowl and plenty of fresh water for your dog to stay hydrated. This can greatly help avoid both dehydration and water intoxication.

Another preventative measure you can take is to provide frequent breaks while your dog plays in the water. Even if your dog is having a lot of fun, it’s best to err on the side of caution and let your dog rest and stay out of the water for a few minutes before returning to play. This can also help you to monitor your dog and look for any signs of distress or water intoxication.

dog drinking water
Image Credit: Zivica Kerkez, Shutterstock

Dogster_Website dividers_v1_Jan 18 2024-03 Conclusion

Water intoxication can quickly develop into a serious condition with long-term or fatal effects. So, it’s best to be prepared before having your dog play with water. Make sure to know what signs to look for and have information on nearby emergency animal hospitals just in case an urgent situation occurs.

With the weather getting warmer and the summer months soon arriving, it’s important to keep your dog safe so that you can have a fun-filled summer with many happy memories.

Featured Image Credit: Lindsay Helms, Shutterstock

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