Saltwater poisoning in dogs

What to do if your dog drinks sea water

The seaside can be great fun for you and your dog, whether you're going for a bracing winter walk or having a relaxing day in the shade. Spending a day at the beach with your dog is a great way to introduce them to a fun and enriching environment, but beach trips also come with unique dangers for dogs. 

Drinking sea water can be really dangerous for dogs and can result in harmful side effects, such as diarrhoea and vomiting, and in extreme cases it can cause seizures and even death. Generally speaking, a few sips of seawater won’t do your dog any harm, but if they drink a significant amount, you might need to act right away. Let’s take a look at the signs of saltwater poisoning and what to do if your dog drinks sea water. 

Why is it dangerous for dogs to drink sea water? 

It's no surprise that dogs and seawater don’t mix. There are high levels of salt in seawater, and your dog can quickly become dehydrated if they drink too much. It’s really common for dogs to sip on seawater when they’re at the beach; they’ll often have done lots of exercise in an exciting environment, or visited on a hot day, so they’ll be on the lookout for water to quench their thirst.

For dogs, seawater looks like a refreshing source of water, but this isn’t the case and if they drink too much, they can quickly become dehydrated. It’s important to always bring plenty of fresh drinking water with you every time you visit the beach with your dog. 

When a dog ingests excessive amounts of salts, their body will try and correct the imbalance. Cells in their body will release water to even out the high salt levels in their blood, which can result in your dog becoming dizzy, lethargic and confused. 

When the levels of salt in the blood get too high, their muscles stiffen up as they lose moisture, which can result in shaking or tremors. 

white west highland terrier chasing ball on beach

What are the symptoms of saltwater poisoning in dogs? 

Dogs love the beach because it offers a large, open space where they can run, play and paddle. It can be hard to keep a watchful eye on your pooch when you’re by the sea, even if you are vigilant, it can be hard to tell if they’ve been drinking sea water. 

Some of the most notable signs include extreme thirst, excessive urination, and confused behaviour. The common symptoms of salt poisoning include:

  • Excessive urination
  • Extreme thirst
  • Confusion
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting 
  • Nausea 
  • Odd behaviour 
  • Muscle spasms
  • Seizures
  • Death (in extreme cases)

If you have been at the beach and your dog seems to be behaving differently, such as looking confused or walking strangely, it could be a sign that they have ingested too much sea water. 

What to do if your dog drinks sea water 

If you’re planning a trip to the beach with your dog, there are a few essentials to bring along to make sure that your dog is comfortable and catered for. It’s always a good idea to bring an umbrella so that your dog has somewhere shady to cool off, poo bags, treats, and plenty of fresh drinking water. 

By making sure that they have lots of clean, fresh water to drink, you'll lower the chances of them trying to drink sea water in the first place. If your dog has been drinking sea water, they might experience vomiting and diarrhoea. Offering your dog sips of fresh water every 30 minutes or so will help to rehydrate them and will replenish their bodily fluids.  

Most dogs will recover after drinking sea water, but you’ll need to monitor your dog to make sure that nothing changes. If your dog continues to show symptoms of saltwater poisoning or you have any concerns about their wellbeing, speak to your vet. 

Need more info?

For more information on saltwater poisoning, keeping safe on doggy days out, or any other aspect of your dog’s health and wellbeing, contact us to speak to our team of experts.