Is it dangerous for your dog to drink seawater?

Watching your pet race up and down the sandy beach, playing fetch or splashing around in the water make for a great summer day.

But what are the dangers of drinking saltwater? And what can dog parents do if their pooch consumes too much seawater?

Consuming seawater can result in harmful side effects for your canine companion, such as diarrhoea and vomiting and in extreme cases can lead to seizures and even death. Head Vet at Sean McCormack explains the dangers of your pooch consuming seawater.

He says: “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?

Sean adds: “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.”