Saltwater toxicity in dogs can result after going to the beach with your dog.One of the best parts of living in Jacksonville is the beach. Most of us enjoy this perk of local living at least periodically, and who can resist bringing their dog along to one of our many dog-friendly beaches?

We must remember, though, that some planning is required to ensure that Fido stays safe during these outings. Saltwater toxicity in dogs is a real issue, and one that has recently hit close to home. At King’s Trail Animal Hospital, we want to make sure all of our pet patients stay safe while enjoying the surf.

Saltwater Toxicity in Dogs

We all need water, and on a hot summer day, our dogs may need even more than usual. Saltwater and freshwater are two very different things, however. In fact, if enough is ingested, the amount of sodium in ocean water can actually be toxic to both pets and people.

An excess of sodium draws fluid into the intestines and away from the organs through osmosis. This outflux of fluid can lead to:

  • Diarrhea (often called “beach diarrhea”)
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy
  • Incoordination
  • Seizures
  • Kidney damage
  • Death

It can also be troublesome when pets try to drink to combat their dehydration. A sudden supply of fresh water can lead to fluid being drawn quickly into dehydrated organs, resulting in swelling. This can be particularly worrisome for an organ like the brain, which is surrounded by inflexible bone.

Protect Your Pooch

Potential saltwater toxicity doesn’t mean that Fido can’t enjoy a good romp in the ocean. Being proactive is your best line of defense. Keep the following tips in mind:

  • Bring along plenty of fresh water, and offer your pet a drink every 15 minutes or so.
  • Carry a collapsible bowl or other container that your pet is used to drinking from.
  • Use a squirt bottle to gently squirt small amounts of fresh water in your pet’s mouth if they’re too busy to drink when offered.
  • Play with toys that don’t soak up ocean water.  

If you think your dog may have ingested a significant amount of saltwater, please call us right away. Saltwater toxicity in dogs is an emergency situation that often needs to be treated aggressively. We may recommend hospitalization and IV fluids, electrolyte monitoring, or other treatments for potential brain swelling.

Being vigilant about preventing saltwater ingestion and maintaining hydration while your pet is at the beach are important to ensure both you and your dog have a great experience.