Dogs and Salt Water

A day at the beach can be fun for the whole family, even our canine members, but it is important to know the potential dangers that can be encountered and how to prevent them.

I recently heard that salt water was bad for my dog, but why? I decided to look into the dangers of dogs ingesting salt water before my next trip to the East Coast. Here is what my research found.

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If carefully monitored, a day at the beach can be fun for the whole family, even our canine members, but it is important to know the potential dangers that can be encountered and how to prevent them.

Dogs tend to drink any water they come in contact with – puddles, spills, pools…. toilets! There are no boundaries. Can you imagine how exciting a whole ocean would look? It could be a drinking frenzy!

I am neither a veterinarian nor a medical professional. The information in this article has been researched and sourced at the end of the post. All medical issues or questions regarding your pet’s health or symptoms should always be brought to the attention of your veterinarian for clarification, assessment, advice and treatment.

Dog swimming while dragging a large stick.
Playing fetch at the beach can cause a
dog to ingest salt water.
Photo by: M. Shea

Unfortunately, this source of water can be very harmful and even fatal for a dog. The salt from the ocean water causes the dog to become dehydrated, as it causes osmosis in the body. This means that the liquid is drawn away from the salt water while in the body and it is absorbed into the intestinal tract leaving more salt to be digested. As with humans (and worse for dogs) salt causes dehydration. The second effect of the osmosis is that it leaves too much fluid in the intestines, which leads to diarrhea. What happens when anyone suffers from diarrhea?? More dehydration. So there you have it, a double whammy.

Keeping the beach safe:

It’s very important to be sure your dog is provided with ample shade and fresh, clean water at regular intervals every day, but while at the beach it is imperative. Dogs get hot in the sun and lose moisture. If there is not a bowl readily available, the dog will resort to drinking from the beach. If your pal is not thirsty, this is not as inviting.

So now you have provided shade and a bowl of a water safe fetch toy or object is an important part of reducing the risk of dogs ingesting salt water. If a tennis ball or other toy that can absorb water is used, and your dog brings it back in in his mouth, the water is being squeezed out of the toy and swallowed. Make sure to choose a solid toy to avoid consuming water as much as possible.

Sand can also be a problem. If enough is ingested, sand can occasionally become stuck in the intestines, causing blockage. Make sure that all food, water and toys are relatively sand free.

When you get home:

Finally, you should always rinse your dog with clean water after a day at the beach to remove and residual sand and salt water. If to much salt remains it can cause the skin to dry, flake and itch.

It is also important to carefully clean all water and debris from your dog’s ears to avoid an ear infection.

If your dog shows any symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, groggy behavior or bloating, head shaking or ear pain after a day at the beach, it would be wise to seek a veterinary attention immediately.

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