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Summer Safety: Water Intoxication

July 2, 2018

Our hot summer weather has definitely arrived! Cooling off with a dip in the water can feel great, but you should be aware of a rare but serious condition called water intoxication.



The body maintains a very strict balance of many substances in the blood & in fluids found in and around cells of the body. In particular, sodium helps maintain blood pressure and normal concentration of these fluids. When an individual drinks too much water, it can cause hyponatremia, or low sodium levels in the blood. This leads to a dangerous thinning of the blood that can in turn cause cells in the brain and other organs to swell dangerously.


An individual needs to drink an enormous amount of water to cause water intoxication. It is not something that could normally happen from drinking too much water all at once. The bigger danger is drinking small amounts of water continuously over a period of time, such as when dogs are swimming or fetching from the water or playing in a sprinkler for extended periods (usually hours).



Water intoxication progresses quickly. Early symptoms may include drowsiness/fatigue, poor coordination/stumbling, nausea, or vomiting. More advanced symptoms include pale gums, excessive drooling, weakness/collapse, unconsciousness, or seizures. Treatment is intensive and requires re-establishing normal sodium levels.

Because it progresses so quickly, prevention is really the best treatment. This doesn’t mean dogs can’t play in the water, but it does mean you need to be mindful of how your dog plays in the water. Many dogs unintentionally swallow water when swimming or fetching from the water, so limit the amount of time your dog spends swimming and fetching in the water and take frequent breaks. Make sure your dog is taking potty breaks to get rid of any excess water they may be swallowing.




As usual, if you have any questions, feel free to call the clinic and speak to one of our doctors or technicians!


Karen Christopherson DVM


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