Problem

What is water intoxication in dogs?

Water intoxication in dogs can occur when dogs swallow an excessive amount of water. This can happen when dogs spend time swimming or playing in fresh water, for example when fetching a ball from a lake.

How common is water intoxication in dogs?

Although water intoxication in dogs is rare, symptoms can take hold very quickly and can prove fatal.

What to do for water intoxication in dogs?

If you think your dog may be suffering from water intoxication, contact your local vet or, out of hours, your nearest Vets Now immediately.

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Water intoxication in dogs can occur as a result of a dog swallowing too much water, usually when swimming or playing in fresh water

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Causes and symptoms

What causes water intoxication in dogs?

When dogs consume too much water it dilutes the sodium concentration in their blood. This can lead to hyponatremia in dogs — seriously low levels of sodium in the blood. This encourages the inflow of water into the dog’s cells which can result in swelling. If water causes the brain cells to swell, this can lead to brain damage.

What are the symptoms of water intoxication in dogs?

When suffering from water intoxication, dogs may be nauseous, lethargic or weak. They may also lose coordination and stagger. Other signs can include dilated pupils, glazed eyes and excessive salivating.

In severe cases, dogs may also have difficulty breathing, collapse, have a seizure or fall into a coma.

Are some dogs more at risk of water intoxication than others?

While all dogs are at risk of water intoxication if they swallow too much water, some dogs are more at risk than others. These include:

  • Small dogs that only need to swallow a small amount of water to have too much
  • High energy dogs that may spend more time in the water
  • Dogs with little fat to absorb excess fluid
More details

My dog drank too much water, does he have water intoxication?

The amount of water your dog has swallowed and the size of your dog determines whether they have consumed too much. For example, a Labrador would be able to swallow more water than a Shih Tzu before being at risk of water intoxication. If your dog drank too much water and you are concerned that they may be showing signs of water intoxication, seek urgent advice from your vet or, out of hours, your nearest Vets Now.

Should I stop my dog playing in the water to avoid water intoxication?

No, playing in the water is a great form of exercise for dogs, and of course, a great source of fun. It’s not necessary to keep your dog out of the water completely, just limit their time to avoid overconsumption.

Image of a dog in water for Vets Now article on dog drank too much water and water intoxication dogs advice
Swallowing too much water can dilute the sodium levels in a dogs blood, causing swelling in the blood cells and possibly leading to brain damage
Treatment and prevention

How will my vet treat dog water intoxication?

The treatment your vet will use will be determined by the severity of your dog’s condition. If your dog has a severe case of water intoxication, your vet’s main goal will be to raise the concentration of sodium in their blood. In milder cases you vet may observe your dog for signs of neurological problems and give them fluids containing a sodium concentration.

In some cases, your vet may decide not to administer a sodium concentrate as a large increase in serum sodium concentration can increase the risk of brain dehydration (also known as osmotic demyelination).

How can I prevent water intoxication in dogs?

The best way to prevent water intoxication is to limit the amount of time your dog spends in the water. Encourage your dog to play on land every 10 to 15 minutes to limit their risk of swallowing too much water.