Dog drank salt water

Dog dies from saltwater poisoning: What is it and how can it be prevented?

Chris Taylor, a 29-year-old student at the University of South Florida, was having a great day at the beach with his water-loving black Labrador retriever, O.G., on July 9. They enjoyed the sunshine and played in the water for hours.

Little did he know it would be his last fun outing with his furry best friend.

WATCH BELOW: Pet owners warn about dogs ingesting marijuana

2:06 Pet owners warn about dogs ingesting marijuana Pet owners warn about dogs ingesting marijuana

Shortly after Taylor and O.G. got home, the dog started vomiting and had diarrhea; the following day, he was able to eat some food and drink some water, but he was very lethargic. By July 11, O.G. wasn’t eating, he was non-responsive and walking around as if he was in a daze.

Taylor rushed him to the vet, but by that point it was too late. O.G. was dying from saltwater poisoning.

Story continues below advertisement

According to Pet Poison Helpline, salt poisoning in dogs and cats can result in vomiting, diarrhea, inappetance, lethargy, walking drunk, abnormal fluid accumulation within the body, excessive thirst or urination, potential injury to the kidneys, tremors, seizures, coma, and even death when untreated.

“He was convulsing, and I asked if he was in pain. said, ‘I don’t even think he knows where he is,’” Taylor said to WFLA. “They told me, ‘there’s nothing we can do right now.’ I thought, this is my son. I don’t have children of my own.”

Sadly, O.G. passed away, but vets say this isn’t an isolated incident.

“Tourists and people come to the beach and they bring their dogs and they’ll go to the ocean and think it’s just a big bowl of freshwater,” Dr. Gerrie Barr with Vets Pets in Panama City Beach, Fla., said to WJHG. “It can happen in pigs. It can happen in cattle. It can happen in all the animals.”

Typically, one of the first symptoms is vomiting, but it can rapidly escalate.

READ MORE: Dogs can read our minds, especially when food is at stake: study

“If they don’t have freshwater, the symptoms can get quite worse,” Barr said. “They can have anything from seizures to muscle cramps to disorientation. It can be a big problem.”

Experts recommend limiting your beach outings with your four-legged friend to two hours and ensuring they gets lots of freshwater every 30 minutes.

If your pet starts to exhibit signs of saltwater poisoning, immediately take them to the vet; treatment will likely include careful administration of IV fluids, electrolyte monitoring, treatment for dehydration and brain swelling, and supportive care.

Story continues below advertisement

Taylor wants to get the message of his experience with O.G. out there to help prevent this from happening to others. In the meantime, he remembers his seven-year-old Lab fondly.

“He always wanted to be doing what I was doing,” he said. “He’s my family. He’s just so goofy and just always excited to see me when I came through the door.” © 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

LOS ANGELES – It’s almost summertime and that means you and your canine companion can head out to the beach to enjoy the sun, but be careful that your pet doesn’t consume too much saltwater or they can become severely ill.

Last year in Florida, Chris Taylor lost his beloved friend O.G., a 6-year-old black lab, to saltwater poisoning.

Taylor said his pet accidentally swallowed too much saltwater at the beach. He said the signs were subtle at first: O.G. appeared tired, wobbly and had diarrhea.

The next day, O.G. seemed to feel better, but the following day his condition deteriorated. O.G. stopped eating and eventually stopped responding to his name, Taylor said.

Taylor rushed O.G. to the hospital, but the dog’s brain began to swell and his body stopped responding to medicine. That’s when Taylor had to euthanize his best friend.

When a dog drinks too much saltwater, the sodium content builds up in their body and causes cells to release water content in an effort to balance out the salt. This leads to further problems for your pet, such as swelling, lethargy and seizures.

So how can you determine if your pet had too much saltwater?


The common signs of saltwater poisoning are vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, lack of appetite, lethargy, swelling and confusion. If left untreated, the dog’s brain begins to swell, leading to seizures and eventually death.

Dog owners can try to prevent saltwater consumption by having pets drink plenty of fresh water before heading out to the beach.

Once you’re there, make sure your pet drinks enough fresh water every 15 minutes or so, especially if it’s hot out, because the sun can also dehydrate your pet.

When you’re back from the beach, experts urge owners to pay attention to your dog’s behavior. If you believe your pet had too much saltwater, you should call your vet as soon as possible.

Saltwater poisoning in dogs

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) – After a south Florida man’s Labrador Retriever died just days after a trip to the beach, veterinarians across the nation are speaking out about sodium toxicity, or saltwater poisoning.

“We see it here a lot due to the ocean,” Dr. Gerrie Barr with Vets Pets in Panama City Beach said. “Tourists and people come to the beach and they bring their dogs and they’ll go to the ocean and think it’s just a big bowl of freshwater.”

One of the first signs of saltwater poisoning is vomiting.

“If they don’t have freshwater, the symptoms can get quite worse,” Dr. Barr said. “They can have anything from seizures to muscle cramps, to disorientation. It can be a big problem.”

Dr. Barr said it’s a problem that doesn’t discriminate among size, breed, or even animal.

“It can happen in pigs. It can happen in cattle. It can happen in all the animals,” Dr. Barr said. A few animals are more sensitive than others. It’s thought to be the swine population is the most sensitive.”

The best advice veterinarians can give is to take breaks and always provide your pets with plenty of freshwater.

Dr. Barr said it’s important to give your dog freshwater regularly. Drinking too much freshwater too quickly can also make your dog sick.

Is It Dangerous for Dogs to Drink Salt Water?

Anyone who has ever swallowed a mouthful of salt water when swimming in the ocean knows how unpleasant it tastes. When dogs drink salt water, it can be dangerous for them, and it can even be deadly.

Dogs Drinking Salt Water

Dogs love the beach, but playing games of fetch, chasing waves, and swimming can all lead to a thirsty dog who consumes salt water. In most cases, a few mouthfuls of salt water may only cause diarrhea. Consuming large amounts of salt water, however, can be fatal.

When a dog ingests salt water, the excess salt draws water from the blood into the intestines, leading to diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration. Salt water also disrupts the fluid balance in your dog. Dogs with toxic levels of sodium in their systems have a mortality rate higher than 50 percent, regardless of treatment.

When too much salt builds up in a dog’s body, her cells release their water content to try and balance out the sodium disparity. This, in turn, causes a litany of serious health effects. It can cause seizures, a loss of brain cells, injury to the kidneys, and severe dehydration. If a dog with saltwater poisoning isn’t treated medically, the condition can easily lead to death.

Treating Saltwater Poisoning in Dogs

If you suspect that your dog has consumed a toxic amount of salt water, your best bet is to get him to the veterinarian as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for saltwater poisoning in dogs.

Your veterinarian will attempt to restore your dog’s water and electrolyte balance to normal levels. Lowering sodium levels too quickly, however, can be dangerous, increasing the likelihood of cerebral edema (fluid on the brain). A veterinarian will administer IV fluids to try and flush the excess salt out of your dog’s body. He’ll also monitor her electrolytes, provide treatment for brain swelling, control seizures, and offer supportive care.

In ideal cases, the water and electrolyte balance will be restored over a period of 2-3 days. This usually involves hospitalization. Further supportive care and medications may be given, depending on your dog’s condition.

Symptoms of Saltwater Poisoning in Dogs

Drinking excessive amounts of salt water typically results in vomiting within a few hours. While mild cases may only involve a few bouts of diarrhea, in severe cases the dog may suffer from weakness, diarrhea, muscle tremors, and seizures. If your dog shows any of these signs, even diarrhea, call your veterinarian or local veterinary emergency hospital for advice.

One of the most noticeable symptoms of dog saltwater poisoning is odd behavior. Too much sodium in the body can cause your dog to become confused, non-responsive, lethargic, or otherwise just off.

Preventing Saltwater Poisoning

The amount of salt water required to reach toxic levels depends on your dog’s access to fresh water. The best thing you can do to keep your dog safe at the beach is to make sure he always has access to fresh water. If you notice your dog drinking ocean water, restrict his access, provide him with fresh water and shade, and keep an eye on him for signs of toxicity. Take a break away from the water every 15 minutes to help avoid salt poisoning as well.

Too Much Fresh Water

Dogs can also drive their salt content too low if they drink too much fresh water when swimming in a lake or pool, according to Heather Loenser, DVM, the senior veterinary officer for the American Animal Hospital Association. “The body works very hard to regulate the balance of salt and water,” she says. “If your dog’s behavior changes after swimming in either fresh or salt water, take him to the vet immediately for bloodwork.”

Blue-Green Algae Poisoning

You should also be aware of potential blue-green algae poisoning in lakes and ponds. This so-called “algae” is not actually a type of algae but a bacteria known as cyanobacteria. Cyanobacteria isn’t visible to the naked eye, but it often gives the appearance of algae when it clumps together in bodies of water. This bacteria is often found in non-flowing freshwater during hot seasons with little rainfall. Toxic algae can also grow in backyard pools and decorative ponds if they aren’t routinely cleaned.

Toxic algae often stink, sometimes producing a downright nauseating smell, yet animals may be attracted to the smell and taste of them, according to the EPA. Do not let your dogs drink directly from lakes or ponds, especially if you sense the water might have algae. If you suspect your dog has come in contact with the toxins, rinse your dog off with clean water and call your veterinarian immediately.

What to Do If Your Dog Swallowed Salt Water

Many dogs love to visit the beach: games to play, sand to roll in, and plenty of water to splash around in. But there are a few hidden dangers at the beach, such as your dog drinking salt water. Although a few sips of sea water shouldn’t hurt your dog, you could be in trouble if your pooch drinks a larger amount. Here’s our advice on what to do if your dog swallows sea water.

Harmful sea water

Sea water can be surprisingly harmful to your dog. Sea water is definitely not for drinking, mostly due to its high salt content. When a dog drinks sea water, or carries toys that have absorbed a lot of sea water (such as tennis balls), it takes extra sodium, as sea salt is made up of sodium chloride. The extra sodium dehydrates the dog and plays havoc with their electrolyte balance, which often results in mild diarrhoea.


If a dog has ingested large amounts of salt water then the effects can be much more serious. Symptoms of salt water poisoning include diarrhoea (which may contain blood or mucous), vomiting, dehydration, seizures and lack of coordination. Depending on their severity, your dog might need vet care if these symptoms occur.


Prevention is better than cure, so you should try to avoid salt water poisoning. Bring a bottle of fresh water with you to the beach, so that your thirsty dog has clean water available to drink. It’s also a good idea to take a break from the sea every 15 minutes or so. You can use these breaks to offer water to your dog. You can give him a bowl to drink from, or squirt water into his mouth with a sports drink bottle or similar.

If your dog swallowed salt water

If your dog has already drunk a lot of sea water, take them home and monitor them. Give the dog an old towel to lie on in a quiet room (preferably, one that is easy to clean). Continue to offer them fresh water to drink. Offer small amounts of water every 30 minutes, even if your dog is vomiting or suffering from diarrhoea, as they need water to help replace their body fluids.

If your dog can go without vomiting after about two hours, you can give him a slightly sugary drink. Such as a half and half mixture of apple juice and water, or a slightly salty drink. The idea behind these drinks is to help restore the dog’s electrolyte balance. Again, offer these drinks frequently, but in small amounts.

Do not try to feed your dog until at least 24 hours have passed since they last vomited. Try to provide bland food such as a small amount of rice and some chicken breast or scrambled egg. Keep these meals small but frequent for a couple of days. If everything seems normal after two or three days, your dog can start eating its normal diet again.

Although most dogs should recover from salt water poisoning, it is crucial to monitor your dog. If your dog doesn’t appear to be recovering and shows symptoms such as fits, you should definitely go to the vet. If you are at all worried about your dog, call your vet and ask for advice.

Dangers in Water Are Often Invisible

We can’t live without water. But our waters can often be dangerous to us and our pets.

A Florida television channel reported last week about the deaths of two men who had contracted a rare flesh destroying bacteria found in salt water. Six others were reported to have been stricken with the same bacteria. Whether the condition was contracted directly from the water, or from oysters or fish from those waters, is still not clear.

There have been no reports of dogs being stricken by the same bacterial infection. The incident, however, got me to thinking about the many ways that water can harbor danger to our pets. This post will explore a few.


Quintanilla /

Jellyfish washed onto the shore are a very common finding for beach combers and their beach combing dogs. The tentacles of these creatures have organs that release a stinging toxin whose potency varies with the different species of jelly fish. Even dried out tentacles in the sand or mixed in seaweed can still release the toxin.

Dogs that come in contact with the tentacles or bite them can have a mild to serious local allergic reaction, or a more serious anaphylactic reaction resulting in shock. That is exactly what happened to 2-year-old pit bull named Diamond after she bit the tentacles of the most toxic of jellyfish, the Portuguese Man O’ War. After several days in intensive care, including transfusions, Diamond survived and is back to her old self. Many dogs are not that fortunate. If your dog has been stung by jellyfish tentacles, even one of the less toxic species, remove the tentacles without touching them directly with your bare hands and immediately seek veterinary care.

Blue-Green Algae

basel101658 /

Warm weather can promote massive growth of blue-green algae in standing bodies of fresh or brackish (the slightly salty waters of lagoons, estuaries, and ponds near the ocean) waters. The musty or foul smell of the algae is often attractive to dogs. It can cause skin rashes for dogs swimming in the algae infested water. Dogs should be thoroughly washed as soon as possible. For dogs that drink algae contamintaed water, toxins in the algae can affect the kidneys, liver, intestines, and nervous system. Initial symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, and difficulty walking. Immediate veterinary care is also advised in these cases.

Parasites and Bacteria

Martin Christopher Parker /

Standing areas of fresh water like small lakes, ponds, and even puddles can host various parasites and bacteria. Giardia and Cryptosporidium are the most common parasites. These parasites cause gastrointestinal distress resulting in vomiting and diarrhea. Most dogs recover quickly from the infection, but puppies and older dogs with compromised immune systems can be severely affected and need medications and diet modification in order to recover.

Leptospirosis can also be found in small bodies of water that have been contaminated by rodents and other small animal that urinate in the water. Although not as common as water-borne parasites, the bacteria is much more dangerous to dogs that drink the contaminated water. Leptospirosis causes kidney damage that can lead to kidney and liver failure. Infected dogs may be lethargic and vomit. With early diagnosis and treatment, dogs do not suffer long-term kidney or liver problems. Vaccines are available to prevent the disease but they are somewhat controversial due to their tendency to cause allergic reactions and because of the vaccination frequency needed to effectively prevent the disease.

Salt Water Poisoning

Susan Schmitz /

Dogs love to frolic in the ocean, but salt water is toxic to humans and dogs if they drink too much. Ocean soaked tennis balls or other absorbent fetch toys contain enough salt to cause problems for the dogs that are fetching them. Mild ingestion of salt water can cause “beach diarrhea.” The excess salt (or hypernatremia) in the intestines draws water from the blood into the intestines, causing the diarrhea. The diarrhea can sometimes contain blood and mucous. If your dog drinks large amounts of salt water, hypernatremia can lead to vomiting, dehydration, incoordination, seizures, and require veterinary care.

Avoid salt poisoning by taking a break every 15 minutes away from the water to offer fresh water to the dog. If your dog won’t drink willingly, use a bottle with a sports cap and squirt fresh water into the mouth.

Water activity is great for dogs and the exercise far outweighs the risks, but it is important to be mindful of the risks in the water you dog so dearly loves.

Dr .Ken Tudor

Read Part 2 of Dogs and Water Borne Diseases

Image: Stanimir G.Stoev /

Related Content

Parasites and Dog Parks

The Challenges of Diagnosing Giardia in Cats and Dogs

Leptospirosis in Dogs

Video: The Rise of Leptospirosis and Combating this Bacterial Disease

  • This post contains affiliate links. Read more here.
  • Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.

Is there really anything better than spending a sunny day lounging at the beach or taking a relaxing walk along the shoreline? Not really—unless you get to bring your beloved dog along. Watching your pet dart up and down the sandy dunes, playing frisbee, or splashing around in the water as the waves roll in can make for some of the best memories.

But some dogs can’t seem to stay away from salt water and gulp it down before you can warn them off. Sound like your pet? Here is some information to keep your pal happy and healthy during your time at the ocean.

Why is my dog drinking salt water?

The first reason may be the most obvious: because she’s thirsty. You are most likely spending a warm, sunny day at the beach, and that means your dog needs lots of water to stay hydrated, just as you do. You know your own thirst, but it may be harder for you to recognize, and for your pet to tell you, how often she needs a drink as well. This can lead to your dog eagerly drinking from the ocean to quench her thirst.

Another reason may simply be that your dog loves playing with, and, by extension, drinking water. Water from the garden hose, water from the pool, and now water from the ocean, too. Many dogs can’t resist the attraction of water and are eager to lap it up in whatever form it takes when they get the chance.

What happens when dogs drink seawater?

Similar to when humans accidentally swallow some seawater while swimming or surfing in the ocean, saltwater consumption in small quantities is usually not harmful. However, according to the AKC, drinking larger amounts of salt water can lead to a disruption in the fluid balance in your dog’s body, and toxic amounts of salt can be fatal to your dog. This is also known as salt toxicity in dogs.

When should you be concerned about dogs drinking ocean water?

If your dog ingests small amounts of salty ocean water, it can result in what veterinarian Dr. Ken Tudor from PetMD dubs “beach diarrhea.” If you know your dog has been drinking any amount of saltwater at the beach, monitor him closely in the hours and days following. In addition to diarrhea, symptoms of saltwater poisoning to keep an eye out for in your dog are vomiting, seizures, muscle weakness, and tremors.

If your pet displays any of the symptoms outlined above, taking your dog to the vet as soon as possible means you have the greatest chance of restoring his electrolytes and water balance to normal levels.

What to do when your dog drinks saltwater at the dog beach

When your pet loves frolicking in the ocean while at the beach, it can be a challenge to restrict him from consuming any saltwater at all. A good strategy to prevent saltwater poisoning of your dog is taking frequent breaks away from the water (around every 15 minutes) and offering your dog fresh water to drink, says Dr. Tudor.

Frequent hydration is key to ensuring your dog isn’t tempted to drink seawater in the first place. If your dog does swallow some ocean water, drinking lots of fresh water will help their body rid itself of the extra salt in their system.

How to prevent your dog from drinking salt water


On your next trip to the beach, bring along a pet water bottle like the Gulpy Water Dispenser (pictured above on the left) that makes it easy to offer your dog some fresh water at the beach. Or you can pack a few extra cold bottles of your own water to offer him in a handy foldable travel bowl, like the Comsun Collapsible Dog Bowl (pictured above on the right).

Spending time at the beach with your dog is a great way to pass the time, and you don’t have to let your dog’s love of drinking ocean water get in the way of that. For your next outing, just remember these tips to keep your pet safe and having a great time at the beach:

  1. Monitor your dog’s time in and around the water.
  2. Take frequent breaks in the shade while playing.
  3. Offer your dog lots of fresh water to keep him hydrated during and after your visit.
  4. Keep an eye out for symptoms related to saltwater poisoning and see a vet immediately if any appear.

What To Do If Your Pet Drinks Sea Water

Salt toxicity effects the blood and can be life threatening

Salt toxicity, or hypernatraemia, occurs due to an increase in sodium concentration in the blood. Pets that do not have access to fresh water for long periods, pets that drink large amounts of salt water and pets that eat lots of salty food such as beef jerky or play dough are at risk of developing salt toxicity.

  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Mentally dull and depressed
  • Behavioural abnormalities (e.g. pressing head against walls, aimless staring at corners)
  • Trembling and drooling
  • Head bobbing
  • Seizures
  • Coma

Salt toxicity is a life threatening condition, seek veterinary attention.

Emergency treatment before transport to a veterinarian

Do not allow your pet to drink a large quantity of water at once, as this can cause vomiting. In addition, if the pet’s salt levels have been high for more than 12 hours, dropping this level quickly can lead to brain swelling and coma.

What to expect at the vet

Intravenous medications to treat seizures and aid in cooling the body if your pet is experiencing heat stress from exercise on a hot day

Blood testing to assess severity of illness, and response to treatment

Hospitalisation and close monitoring of neurological symptoms

Intravenous fluid administration to decrease the concentration of salt in the blood. This often needs to follow strict guideline to do it at the correct rate.

Salt toxicity is a life threatening condition if not treated appropriately.

The associated seizure activity can cause permanent brain damage and heat stroke leading to organ failure. Treatment of this condition can be challenging and costly. However, with appropriate and timely medical therapy, many patients can and will recover.

Always supply your pet with fresh drinking water, especially when exercising and at the beach. Do not allow your pet to ingest large volumes of salt water, either at the beach, the river or from the pool. Keep salty foods out of reach of your pet.

First Aid for Pets Rescued from Drowning | Pet Has Eaten A Blowfish | Vomiting Pets | How To Perform CPR

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Submit Rating