Is drinking seawater dangerous for dogs?

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What are the dangers of your pooch consuming seawater? Sean McCormack at tails.com explains:

“Seawater contains a high balance of salt, approximately 35 grams of salt in every 1 litre (1000 ml). If your dog drinks too much it can quickly become dehydrated, and symptoms can worsen if your dog isn’t provided with fresh drinking water.

Even if you keep a watchful eye over your furry companion during your visit to the beach, it can be challenging to tell if they have been drinking seawater whilst splashing about, taking a dip and playing fetch in the water.

The high levels of sodium chloride (salt) in the seawater can disrupt the fluid balance in your dog’s body, drawing water from the blood into your dog’s intestines. If your dog has ingested too much seawater, it can start to display the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhoea

  • Vomiting

  • Lack of appetite

  • Lethargy

  • Convulsions

  • Increased heart rate

  • Instability, loss of coordination

  • Loss of appetite

  • Excessive thirst or urination

  • Tremors

  • Seizures

 

If you recognise these signs within your pup during your trip to the beach, you need to get them to the vet as soon as possible. If left untreated they could suffer serious kidney damage, brain damage and rapid dehydration which could prove fatal.” 

How can you prevent seawater poisoning?

“Dogs love the beach, but playing fetch, jumping the waves, and swimming can all lead to a very thirsty dog. When our furry friends are thirsty, they will almost drink anything - and this includes seawater. It’s essential when heading to the beach to bring a dog bowl and fresh water for your pup to drink (you can buy a portable water dispenser from your local pet store.)

It’s also a good idea for your dog to take a break from the sea every 15 minutes or so. Use this time to offer your dog fresh water, if they are refusing to drink, squirt or pour it directly into their mouth. Regularly drinking fresh water will help to rehydrate them.

Keep a close eye on your dog when they head down to the waters and limit your beach outings with your furry friend to two hours.”

What to do if your dog drinks too much seawater?

“Saltwater consumed in small quantities is usually not harmful and may only cause diarrhoea, but drinking larger amounts can disrupt the fluid balance in your dog’s body, and high levels of salt can be fatal for your dog.

If your dog has consumed a lot of seawater, take them home and monitor them. If they are showing the above signs, take them directly to an emergency vet to be observed. The vets will help to reduce the sodium levels in your dog’s blood.

Providing a relaxing and calming environment for your pup is crucial for recovery. Bring their belongings into a quiet room, one that can be easily cleaned as your dog may suffer from vomiting and diarrhoea. Give your dog small amounts of water every 30 minutes, to help their bodies replace the fluids.”

Tailored dog food brand tails.com has issued a helpful list of things to bear in mind if you’re planning to take your four-legged friend to one of the UK’s beautiful beaches this weekend.

How can you protect your dog during a trip to the beach
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Photo by Ion Ceban @ionelceban from Pexels

Beware of hot sand

“Sand can become extremely hot and reach dangerous temperatures during the summer months. Your dog’s sensitive paw pads could easily burn when playing in the sand. Wherever possible, keep your dog from walking on sand that’s exposed to the direct sun, and monitor your pet’s paw pads for signs of burning, such as redness, blisters and swelling.

The beach is no place for your four-legged friend when the temperature is high. Try to beat the heat and visit before 9 am or after 6 pm - and always check the sand and ground temperature before allowing your dog to run, walk or play.” 

Stop your pup from eating sand

“Sand is unavoidable when visiting the beach, and believe it or not, some dogs are known to eat sand, mostly by accident, but some pups do it purposefully. Swallowing sand is extremely dangerous for dogs as it can cause a blockage in the intestine, which is called sand impaction.

If your dog is vomiting, showing signs of constipation, has abdominal pain, reduced appetite, or is lethargic after a trip to the beach, this may indicate that a large amount of sand has been ingested. If you notice that your dog is displaying any of these symptoms, consult a veterinarian immediately. When at the beach, keep a close eye on your pup and prevent them from eating any sand and bring water to clear toys of large clumps of sand.”

Provide shade

“A fun day at the beach can turn into a disaster if you don’t take the correct precautions. For your dog, heatstroke can develop quickly, especially when shade isn’t provided. Our furry friends can’t handle the hot temperatures like us humans because they only have sweat glands in their feet and nose, which are less efficient at cooling themselves down.

Make sure you provide shade to get your dog out of the sun quickly. We recommend a pop-up beach tent, beach umbrella or a small beach canopy. If you see your dog panting and drooling excessively, and their gums have become more red than normal, they could be experiencing heatstroke. In this case, you’ll need to get out of the sun and cool your dog down.”

Bring plenty of fresh water

“Dogs love the beach, but playing fetch, jumping the waves, and swimming can all lead to a very thirsty dog. When our furry friends are thirty, they will almost drink anything - and this includes seawater.

Saltwater consumed in small quantities is usually not harmful and may only cause diarrhoea, but drinking larger amounts can disrupt the fluid balance in your dog’s body, and high levels of salt can be fatal for your dog. It’s essential when heading to the beach to bring a dog bowl and fresh water for your pup to drink.”

Pack dog-friendly sunscreen

“Just like us, dogs can quickly get burned from sun exposure. This is particularly common on parts of the body that are sparsely covered with hair. Sunburn can not only cause pain for your four-legged friend but can lead to more severe health problems, such as skin cancer.

Dogs that typically have thin hair or light coloured coats are more vulnerable to sunburn, for example; Dalmatians, Boxers, Greyhounds, Beagles, Whippets and Bulldogs. But all dog breeds are at risk of sun damage because they all have areas on their body where there is little to no fur, including the belly, ears, the tip of the tail and nose.

Before heading to the beach, find a sunscreen that is designed to protect your pup. It’s vital that you only use formulas that have been produced for dogs - they should not contain zinc oxide or para-aminobenzoic acid.”

Protect Your Pups From Parasites

“A day at the beach is the perfect way to get some fresh air and relax. But as you search for the ideal location to lay down your towel, you should know you’re not just sharing the beach with fellow ocean lovers - you’ll be sharing it with some creepy parasites too.

Ticks are prevalent near beaches. They can be found in the dunes or in the grass nearby, and when our canine companions walk by and brush up against these, the ticks dislodge. Before heading on your journey, remember to pack a tick remover tool.”

Keep them safe in the water

“Your dog may be a confident swimmer, but big waves and strong tides can be hazardous. Bring along an extended leash so your pup can take a dip in the sea without going too far, and purchase a dog-friendly life jacket to ensure their safety at all times.

The sea is full of hidden dangers, from sharp shells and rocks to broken glass and washed-up rubbish. All of these items can be dangerous to your dog’s paw pads. Not only can some of the items be sharp and cut your pup, but they can also be dangerous if eaten. They can cause bacterial infections, cracked teeth or intestinal obstructions. Protect your pooch by investing in some dog-friendly beach boots and never leave them unattended in the water or on dry land.”

Keep clear of seaweed and sea creatures

“Natural objects found in the sea that wash up on the beach, such as seaweed, dead or alive creatures, might be fun to play with but could cause serious health issues for your dog. When consumed, seaweed can be dangerous as it can cause a blockage in your dog's intestine.

Keep a close eye on your pup and prevent them from rolling in or eating anything that could make them ill. Some beaches have high levels of sea creatures, such as jellyfish and crabs, so be sure to keep them on a tight watch around the water area.

It's really important as dog owners that we don't allow our dogs to chase or disturb marine wildlife, for example, seal pups and marine birds can be prone to be disturbed by dogs. Our wild animals are just as important as our pets so it's important to be responsible around wildlife."