For the dog lovers (myself included), taking your dog on a fun day out to the beach is one of the coolest things to do in the summer. The curious love they have for the water is usually refreshing to see. Playing fetch in the water, sunbathing together (please keep them under a shade), and watching them chase seagulls can bring a sense of peace while being oddly euphoric at the same time. Dogs are true love personified, which is why we have to protect them at all cost. This may even mean depriving them of long wonderful ocean dips in the heat of the summer because as fun as this salty water can be, it can also be deadly.
Christopher and his retriever, O.G.
On a hot summer day in July 2017, Christopher Taylor took his Labrador retriever, O.G to Honeymoon Island Beach in Central Florida. O.G had been his canine buddy for seven years, and they had a strong bond. The dog had a great time at the beach that day, fussing about in the water and meeting new people. Unfortunately, he spent a lot of time in the water, and he apparently lapped up way too much of it.
“He was like any other Lab. He loved to play in the water, loved people, and was a big old goofball,” Christopher told WebMD . “We were swimming and having a good time. We took breaks, and I made him drink fresh water, but we just stayed out too long.”
Christopher explained that usually, after some beach outings in the past, O.G would suffer diarrhea and vomiting, but they’d usually clear out after one or two rounds. Unfortunately, two days after that visit to Honeymoon Island, O.G. was still ill. He was exhausted, moody, lethargic, and had totally lost his appetite.
When Christopher discovered what was wrong with his dog, it was already too late. He took him to the vet, but the damage had already been done. While at the vet, O.G suffered a seizure due to swelling in his brain.
“They put him on a standard IV and tried to get some electrolytes back in him, but he wasn’t really responding to that. The last-ditch effort was a drug called mannitol, which reduces swelling in the brain. But the vet said if he doesn’t respond well to the mannitol, there’s nothing we can do for him,” said Christopher.
Unfortunately, O.G passed away from salt water poisoning.
What is salt water poisoning?
One liter of ocean water contains 35,000mg of salts and excess intake (by dogs or humans) can cause severe dehydration. It elevates sodium levels in the blood, causing a condition known as hypernatremia . This build-up causes our bodies to react in an attempt to balance the high sodium concentrations. To do this, cells dump their water into the bloodstream in an attempt to rebalance and dilute. This reaction can be so strong that cells all over the body lose excess water and ‘shrivel up’, leading to severe dehydration on a cellular level. When brain cells are affected by this exosmotic movement (water moves from inside the cell, to outside), it could lead to fatal seizures, as seen with Christopher’s dog, O.G.
Saltwater poisoning: Signs and Symptoms
Fatal cases of saltwater poisoning do not occur very frequently, according to Dr. Heather Loenser of the American Animal Hospital Association. Your dog may show mild symptoms which would clear upon the consumption of plenty of fresh water, but extensive periods in the ocean could lead to irreversible damage.
“The body works very hard to regulate the balance of salt and water,” Loenser explained. “Dogs can also drive their body’s salt content too low if they drink too much fresh water when swimming in a lake or pool. If your dog’s behavior changes after swimming in either fresh or salt water, take him to the vet immediately for bloodwork.”
Symptoms of saltwater poisoning include :
- Excessive thirst
- Loss of appetite
- excessive urination
Upon the first sign of any of these symptoms occurring in your dog, take him to the vet immediately for a checkup. Intravenous fluids would usually be administered if they are diagnosed with saltwater poisoning. This is intended to flush out the salt buildup. They may also receive other medications to control seizures, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Summer safety tips for dog owners
Each season comes with different adjustments for your pet. The summer is a hot one to consider, and dehydration is usually a common problem. Try not to keep your dog in out-house kernels, especially when the weather is extremely hot. Bring them inside if it’s air-conditioned and allow them frequent cool dips if a doggy pool. This helps to regulate their body temperature. According to Dr. Loenser, certain breeds highly susceptible to heat strokes. These include bulldogs, Boston terriers, pugs, and larger breeds such as Labradors, German shepherds, St. Bernards, Newfoundlands, and Golden retrievers.
At the beach, if your dog desperately wants to have a go at the ocean, make sure it’s just for a few minutes, and let them drink enough fresh water right after that. It’s safer to keep them away from the water completely, or at the very least, right at the ocean banks.
Grooming is important
For the summer, it’s necessary to keep your dog flea and tick-free. The heat and discomfort from fleas and ticks can drive them nuts. Use a flea-repellent shampoo to scrub your dog down regularly. You can also a flea comb and a vet-approved flea spray, and be sure to vacuum the rugs and carpets regularly.
For the purpose of keeping these bugs away, you’ll have to trim your dog’s fur, but be careful not to trim away too much of it. The fur acts as an insulating layer to heat and cold. Check with your vet before you groom your dog for the summer.
Keeping them cool is a priority
Walk your dog at the coolest time of the day, preferably in the morning when it’s still dewy and the asphalt isn’t warm yet. Don’t bathe them in icy water, but let them have plenty iced treats at home. Try to give them dog-healthy treats.
Ensure that the dog house is properly shaded from the sun and well-ventilated. If the airflow is obstructed, the dog could suffocate in there. You could actually put an air conditioner in the kernel if you don’t want them sleeping over in the main house.
Take them to a licensed vet upon the first sign of distress.
- Heather. Saltwater Poisoning in Dogs. Vetted Pet Care. https://vettedpetcare.com/vetted-blog/saltwater-poisoning-dogs/. 11-09-18
- Rogers, Cameren. Summer Safety: Saltwater A Lethal Threat to Dogs. Web MD Pets. https://pets.webmd.com/news/20180719/summer-safety-saltwater-a-lethal-threat-to-dogs. 19-07-17
- Website. American Animal Hospital Association. https://www.aaha.org/default.aspx
- Miller, Diana. Top 5 Best Flea Shampoos for Dogs. Top Dog Tips. https://topdogtips.com/best-dog-flea-shampoos/. 07-01-18
- Loewentheil, Hannah. 13 Frozen Treats To Make For Your Doggo All Summer Long. Buzz Feed. https://www.buzzfeed.com/hannahloewentheil/frozen-treats-for-dogs. 16-06-17