Published: 02 June 2021

We heard from one of our students about an incident involving their pet dog who suffered from water intoxication, which is also known as hyponatremia. Here we hear from Amanda, whose dog Charlie was the unfortunate sufferer of this condition but, thankfully, survived to wag his tail another day:

Does your dog LOVE playing in the water? If so, PLEASE read this... it could save your dog's life! Especially if your dog excitedly laps up/chomps at water whilst playing or snaps at hosepipes/sprinklers etc.

This weekend we could have lost our little Charlie (4 year old Jack Russell). Knowing how much he loves playing in the water and given how hot it was over the weekend, we did what we always do this time of year and set up a paddling pool for our two dogs in the back garden, to help them keep cool whilst having some fun (supervised at all times!).

Little did we know that just 2 hours later, he would be fighting for his life from what is called "Hyponatremia" which results from "Water Intoxication".

In a nutshell, he consumed so much water in such a short amount of time (just from playing) that he literally flooded his body and caused his Sodium levels to drop dangerously low, sending his body into shock.

He went from being a happy doggy to lying immobile on the floor in no more than 30 minutes. First he started shivering and groaning in apparent discomfort. His stomach was hard to the touch and obviously bloated. Then he started vomiting water and weeing frequently. Then suddenly he was staggering and falling over, unable to balance with his back end (as if he was drunk). Within 5 minutes of that, he had a seizure.

As he came round from the seizure, all he wanted to do was lay down and groan and he began drooling excessively and continuously from the mouth.

Having recently heard of something called "Water Intoxication", we quickly googled it and sure enough, he matched every symptom short of being in a coma. We immediately rang the emergency vets and rushed Charlie in for assessment (thank heavens for pet insurance!).

The critical thing with Hyponatremia is time. It has to be treated as quickly as possible in order to give your dog the best chance of survival and of coming through it without serious neurological damage.

By the time we got to the vets (around 20 mins later), the inside of Charlie's eyelids were so swollen that the inner layer of skin was bulging from the corners of his eyes. You can imagine how shocked and devastated we were, seeing him in so much distress.

Water Intoxication / Hyponatremia is so rare that most vets have never dealt with (or possibly even heard of) it before. The vet we saw (Sarah at Vets Now in Alfreton) was absolutely amazing! Having never treated it before, Sarah consulted with colleagues across the country before making a final decision on the best course of treatment for Charlie.

Sarah did an incredible job and kept us informed of his progress through the night. By the following morning, Charlie's bloods were back to normal and he was acting like his mischievous self once again. Later that afternoon, we were able to bring him home safe and well.

Despite being a rare condition, Water Intoxication / Hyponatremia is terrifyingly easy to develop if your dog, like ours, has an obsession with water and drinks far too much whilst playing. The simple prevention is not to let your dog spend too long in the water if he/she shows signs of water-obsessed behaviour.

But heaven forbid you ever find yourself dealing with symptoms similar to Charlie's, PLEASE do not hesitate to go to the vet and tell them you are concerned about Water Intoxication / Hyponatremia.

The treatment is to very steadily increase the Sodium levels in your dog's system, whilst simultaneously draining off excess fluid. It is a very delicate process and is not something that your dog could just correct naturally at home.

The faster you can get treatment for your dog, the better chance there is of survival and the less chance there is of any long term damage.

PLEASE be careful this summer and don't find yourselves in our agonising position!

For any more information on Water Intoxication / Hyponatremia, here is the website we first consulted.

Please SHARE this to spread the word amongst fellow dog owners!

And finally, a HUGE thank you to Sarah and the team at Vets Now in Alfreton! You brought our little man back home 🐶❤ xx


Thank you to Amanda for this cautionary tale and some essential advice.

Don't forget that you can improve your First Aid for Dogs knowledge by joining us on a course. We've dates coming up in Sussex (Brighton & Hove and Angmering), or you can join our Zoom course from home. If our dates don't suit you, then our distance learning course where you can learn at your own pace from home is perfect for you! All our First Aid for Dogs course options are detailed here.

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