Beware of excessive water intake by your dog while playing in the water this summer! Ingesting too much water may lead to "water intoxication", a condition that can cause serious brain damage and even death in extreme cases. Be sure to read on to find out the symptoms, treatment, and prevention of this problem.
We all know that dehydration can be fatal to our dogs, but did you know that too much water intake is equally dangerous?
During summertime, we love to see our dogs frolic in the water - It's so much fun watching them play in their kiddie pools, run around the water sprinkler, or jump into a lake or river to retrieve a ball or stick... However, these activities all have one potential danger - our dogs may inadvertently ingest a large volume of water.
When there is too much water in the body fluids, sodium levels outside the body cells become significantly depleted (a condition known as "hyponatremia"). In order to rebalance itself, the body increases fluid intake inside the cells. As a result, the cells are "swollen" with fluid, making them bigger in size. As you know, the brain is encased inside the hard skull, if the brain cells are swollen with fluid, there is no room for the brain to expand, this causes an increase in the intracranial pressure and a lot of damage to the brain.
So does that mean we shouldn't allow our dogs to play in the water?
Of course not! This condition does not happen as frequently as dehydration (but it doesn't mean it won't happen!) As responsible dog parents, we should be aware of the potential danger and know the symptoms. Also, we should learn different ways to prevent this from happening in the first place! So if you don't want to swear your dog off swimming and playing in water, please read on...
Information on Water Intoxication in Dogs
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Symptoms of Water Intoxication in Dogs
If your dog has been diving, retrieving, and playing in the water for a while (around 20-30 minutes), there is a possibility that he may already have ingested too much water.
Watch out for these signs and symptoms:
- Loss of coordination (your dog may stagger, stumble, or fall down)
- Pale gums
- Drooling excessively
- Dilated pupils
In more serious cases, the dog may have problem breathing, develop seizures, and lose consciousness.
All dogs may be affected by water intoxication; however, some dogs are more prone to this problem. They include:
- Small dogs: Because of their smaller bodies, it takes shorter time for water to build up in their bodies. Therefore, they tend to show symptoms quicker than larger dogs.
- Dogs with little body fat: Dogs who are fit (e.g. agility dogs) and have little body fat are more prone to this condition since there is not much extra fat tissue to absorb the extra fluid in the body.
- Dogs with high energy: Dogs who are highly focused and have a lot of energy tend to be more persistent in their activities. Therefore, they will jump and dive to retrieve that ball or stick as long as their dog parents allow them to do so. This greatly increases the risk of excessive water intake.
- Dogs with obsessive-compulsive behavior: Some dogs are obsessed with water hoses or sprinklers - they can spend minutes, even hours, biting at the jets of water coming out from a hose or sprinkler, and by doing so, they ingest excessive amounts of water.