Dehydration vs. Water Toxicity

200205796-001We all know the dangers of dehydration both in ourselves and in our pets. But is there such a thing as drinking too much water? The answer is YES! Lately we’ve been hearing more and more about hyponatermia or water toxicity in dogs. Any physical activity can lead to water intoxication when water enters the body more quickly that it can be removed. Any person or pet that is exposed to extreme heat or humidity for long periods of time must take care to drink and eat in ways that will help maintain electrolyte balance. Overexertion and drinking large amounts of water in short periods of time can lead to electrolyte imbalance, thus causing water toxicity.

Dogs that are most at risk for water toxicity are the ones that you have to drag away from the lake in the summer time. Labs who would be in the water 24/7 if they could, or Retrievers that dive off the deck after the ball for hours at a time. But remember that all dogs who have participated in prolonged water activity are at risk. While dogs are swimming, they can ingest a lot of water. It is important to keep a close eye on your dog and take breaks often.

How does water toxicity happen? When water enters the body faster than it can be removed, bodily fluids are then diluted and a potentially dangerous shift in the electrolyte balance occurs. This shift causes cells to swell as a result of the changes in internal pressure, which can affect systems such as the central nervous system and the brain.

Signs that your dog could be experiencing water toxicity:

  • Ataxia (staggering, falling over)
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness, lethargy
  • Pale gums
  • Bloating
  • Excessive salivation
  • Dilated pupils, glazed eyed
  • Seizures, convulsions

If you suspect your dog is experiencing water toxicity, you must contact your veterinarian immediately! Putting off treatment could be a matter of life and death for your dog!

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