Water Intoxication - Risks, Symptoms & Treatment

Water intoxication is excessive water intake by the dog; while playing in the water for example. Water intoxication is a condition that can cause serious brain damage and even death in extreme cases.

We all know that dehydration can be fatal to our dogs, but did you know that too much water intake is equally dangerous?

During summertime, we love to see our dogs frolic in the water. It's so much fun watching them play in paddling pools, run around the water sprinkler, or jump into a lake or river to retrieve a ball or stick...

But these activities all have one potential danger - our dogs may ingest a large volume of water. When there is too much water in the body fluids, sodium levels outside the body cells become significantly depleted (a condition known as "hyponatremia").

In order to rebalance itself, the body increases fluid intake inside the cells. As a result, the cells are "swollen" with fluid, making them bigger in size.

The brain is encased inside the hard skull, if the brain cells are swollen with fluid, there is no room for the brain to expand, this causes an increase in pressure and a lot of damage to the brain.

So does that mean we shouldn't allow our dogs to play in the water? Of course not!

This condition does not happen as frequently as dehydration (but it doesn't mean it won't happen!) As responsible dog parents, we should be aware of the potential danger and know the symptoms.


Symptoms of Water Intoxication in Dogs

If your dog has been diving, retrieving, and playing in the water for a while (around 20-30 minutes), he may have ingested too much water.

Watch out for these signs and symptoms:

  • Lethargy

  • Vomiting

  • Bloating

  • Loss of coordination (your dog may stagger, stumble, or fall down)

  • Restlessness

  • Pale gums

  • Drooling excessively

  • Dilated pupils

In more serious cases, the dog may have problem breathing, develop seizures, and lose consciousness.


Risk Factors

All dogs may be affected by water intoxication; some dogs are more prone to this problem. They include:

  • Small dogs: Because of their smaller bodies, it takes shorter time for water to build up in their bodies. Therefore, they tend to show symptoms quicker than larger dogs.

  • Dogs with little body fat: Dogs who are fit (e.g. agility dogs) and have little body fat are more prone to this condition since there is not much extra fat tissue to absorb the extra fluid in the b