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What is Dog Water Intoxication?
Dog water intoxication, also known as acute water intoxication or water toxicity, is an uncommon problem in dogs that can occur due to increased amounts of fluid in the body which changes blood sodium levels. This is a rare condition but one that has potentially fatal consequences.
In a normal dog there are very specific amounts of fluid and electrolytes inside cells and outside the cells. When the body is overwhelmed and cannot process the fluids, electrolytes in the body which are normally present in very precise ranges begin to shift. For example, excess water can dilute the sodium level in the fluid outside the calls. The body tries to compensate, which ends up causing water to go into the cells, including the brain cells, which can cause life-threatening neurological damage.
Learn more about what is normal – How Much Water Should a Dog Drink?
Causes of Dog Water Intoxication
Dog water intoxication can occur from the following:
- Dogs going to the pond, lake, or swimming pool that ingest or drink excessive amounts of water.
- This can occur from dogs drinking too much from playing in the water and ingesting water. Some dogs will ingest water while swimming or fetching toys.
- Excessive water ingestion after deprivation. This can occur after dehydration from excessive exercise or from excessive drinking after restriction of water such as a dog being accidently locked in a room without water.
- Dogs that excessively drink out of a sprinkler or drink from pressurized water flows such as a garden hose or sprinkler.
What Are Signs of Dog Water Intoxication?
Symptoms of dog water intoxication may include:
- Abdominal distension or bloating
- Difficulty or labored breathing (dyspnea)
- Low body temperature (hypothermia)
- Low heart rate (bradycardia)
- Nausea or drooling
- Trouble walking
- Unsteady walking or incoordination (ataxia)
Treatment of Water Intoxication in Dogs
The treatment of water intoxication will depend on the underlying cause and the symptoms displayed by the patient.
- Very mild cases may be treated with a temporary restriction to water with close observation of blood electrolyte levels and monitoring for progression in symptoms.
- Advanced water intoxication may require intravenous fluid (IV) therapy with fluids that contain sodium. It is critical that the sodium level in the blood be raised slowly. There are very specific criteria for the treatment. For example, the goal of treatment is to increase the plasma sodium concentration no faster than 0.5-1 mEq/L per hour. Increasing the sodium level too quickly can result in shifts of fluids in the body that can be fatal. Abrupt changes in sodium levels can cause brain damage that may not be apparent for 72 hours post-therapy. Drugs such as furosemide or mannitol may be recommended to help remove fluid and reduce pressure in the brain.
How to Help Your Dog
If you believe your dog has water intoxication, please call your local veterinarian or veterinary emergency clinic immediately. They will help to guide you on the recommendations for care.
You can prevent water intoxication by monitoring your dog’s interaction while swimming or with pressurized water sources such as the sprinkler or garden hose. Give your dog frequent breaks when exercising and offer frequent opportunities to drink fresh clean water.
Additional Articles that May be of Interest About Dog Water Intoxication
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Should I Give My Dog Tap Water?
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Excessive Drinking (Excessive Thirst) in Dogs
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