Can Ocean Water Make Dogs Sick?

Have you ever wondered, “can ocean water make dogs sick?”

For dogs, swallowing a bit of ocean water is harmless. However, if your dog accidentally swallows too much ocean water, the aftermath can be fatal.

Have you ever gulped down a mouthful of salty ocean water? Not only will you find the taste unpleasant, but also there’s a high chance you’ll have to take medication for a mild stomach upset.

Dogs are much smaller than us and more susceptible to getting sick. Let’s take a look at the specifics.

How Much Ocean Water Can Kill a Dog?

A trip to the beach on a hot sunny day is an experience you and your pup probably do often. This fun-filled endeavor can cloud your need to stay vigilant. The seaside is packed full of dangers for humans and dogs alike.

Research shows that there are about 35 grams of salt in every one liter of seawater. If a dog consumes 2.2 teaspoons of salt for every pound of the dog’s body weight, it can be toxic.

Dogs playing catch along the beach, splashing water, rolling around the sand, biting the waves, and taking a refreshing dip in ocean water often means swallowing a few gulps.

If you are not careful enough, the dog will end up downing gallons of ocean water which could result in a worst-case scenario.

For instance, a ten-pound dog ingesting a gallon of ocean water is equal to taking 22.4 teaspoons of salt. This amount is enough to kill the dog if fast action is not taken to detoxify the dog.

Effects of Salt in the Blood of a Dog

When the salt in ocean water reaches your dog’s bloodstream, it can lead to a fatal condition known as hypernatraemia.

Pets that do not drink freshwater or drink too much ocean water can develop salt toxicity.

For dogs, the effect of ingesting salty water is like dry drowning. Owing to the long duration it takes for symptoms to manifest, it may be difficult for a dog owner to take the necessary measures to eliminate the toxins and reverse the symptoms.

Increased sodium levels in a dog’s system can increase a dog’s mortality rate by up to 50 percent. This increase is irrespective of whether or not the dog receives treatment.

What Happens When a Dog Drinks Too Much Ocean Water?

Salt in ocean water drains water already present in the blood and channels it to the intestines.

This draining leads to a myriad of symptoms like diarrhea. Ingested ocean water also causes an imbalance of fluids in your pet.

How? A salt build-up in a dog’s body forces the cells to release more water in a bid to try and bring the fluids back to balance.

Symptoms of Ocean Water Poisoning in Dogs

After drinking too much ocean water, the symptoms show up within an hour or two. Mild salt toxicity cases could see your dog show signs of weakness, vomiting, and diarrhea.

These symptoms tapper away quickly after taking a quick visit to the vet or if first aid is administered swiftly.

If the problem goes untreated, it can lead to severe symptoms like:

  • Severe dehydration
  • Seizures
  • Kidney failure
  • Brain cell loss
  • Muscle tremors
  • Poor appetite
  • Excess thirst
  • Irritability
  • Dizziness
  • Frequent urination
  • Collapse
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Difficulty walking
  • Death

Even to the untrained eye, it’s easy to tell when your dog is exhibiting unusual behavior during or after your time at the beach.

If you notice lethargy, a lack of response, or feel like something is off, immediately call your local vet and ask for emergency hospital services for your dog.

How To Treat Ocean Water Poisoning in Dogs

Nothing beats the professional attention of a vet whenever you suspect that your dog has taken too much ocean water.

The faster you get to the vet after your dog shows saltwater poisoning symptoms, the higher the chance that your dog will make it.

There’s no instant treatment for saltwater poisoning for dogs. However, your vet will explore a wide array of options to attempt to restore the dog’s electrolyte and water balance to normal.

Note that lowering sodium levels in the dog’s system can prove fatal. It can cause cerebral edema, a condition caused by fluid build-up in the brain.

It’s only advisable for a vet to diagnose and treat a dog showing signs of saltwater poisoning.

Here, your vet will attempt to flush excess salt from the dog’s system by administering IV fluids.

Simultaneously, your vet will also keep an eye out on the dog’s electrolytes and administer treatment for symptoms like seizures, vomiting, and so on.

In about two to three days, your dog will receive supportive care and regain normalcy on an inpatient basis.

Depending on your dog’s response, the vet may prescribe further medication, or you may be allowed to take your furry friend home.

Ocean Water and Your Dog’s Skin

In moderation, salty ocean water can benefit your dog’s skin. It appears stronger and hydrated. Natural ocean water is full of minerals that can prove beneficial for human and dog skin.

However, drinking salty ocean water can adversely affect your dog’s health. Did you also know that over-exposure to ocean water can poorly affect your dog’s skin?

If your dog fails to take a fresh water bath after you visit the beach, any wounds on the skin are exposed to salt for longer than necessary.

If your dog has a fresh wound, it’s advisable to let that heal first before going to the beach for a swim. Saltwater can irritate the wound and delay the healing process.

What’s more, excessive exposure to ocean water can cause your dog’s skin to become too dry. You may notice symptoms such as skin flakiness and skin tightness.

The dog’s coat may also turn from shiny and vibrant to dull and thin.

Ways to Prevent Salty Ocean Water Poisoning

Owing to over-excitement, dogs cannot stop themselves from overindulging in salty water at the beach.

To prevent saltwater poisoning, here are some measures you could take.

Carry Plenty of Fresh Water for Your Dog to Drink

Increased activity at the beach means your dog is guaranteed to get thirsty. Ocean water is easy for the dog to access while looking to quench their thirst.

However, if you keep him hydrated with clean freshwater, there’s less chance your dog will drink ocean water and get poisoned.

Restrict Access

If your dog is thirsty or hungry, do not allow him near the ocean water. Wait until your dog is calm and settled before allowing him to run or play around along the beach.

Take Many Breaks

Take an umbrella or look for a nice shady spot where the dog can take quick snack and water breaks away from the ocean.

For at least ten minutes, guide your dog away from the water to monitor him and check to see if he’s consumed some ocean water.

Stay Vigilant

No matter how safe you think your dog is, always stay vigilant. Observe your dog and look out for any unusual behavior signs and symptoms.

Note that while your dog may not consume enough salty water to kill him, a tiny bit of salty water may still cause some discomfort or sickness.

Emergency Treatment If You Suspect Ocean Water Poisoning

The moments right when you notice signs and symptoms of saltwater poisoning can determine whether or not your dog lives.

The moment you see signs of saltwater poisoning, give him a cup of fresh water.

Note that allowing your pet to take too much fresh water at a go will cause severe vomiting.

If, for twelve hours, your pet’s salt levels remain high, offering too much freshwater will abruptly drop these salt levels. This drop is a condition that may result in brain edema or a coma.

The best emergency treatment in the event of saltwater poisoning is to offer your dog small sips of fresh water as you quickly head to the nearest veterinary hospital.

What Happens at the Vet

Upon arrival at the vet’s emergency room, the doctor conducts several physical exams to evaluate your dog’s behavior and point out symptoms.

The vet may draw blood from your pet to establish electrolyte levels and determine the best treatment.

Depending on the severity of the symptoms, your pet can be treated and discharged or left at the hospital for further care and treatment.

Some of the activities that happen here include the following.

Blood Testing

The doctor tests for various problems and comes up with appropriate responses and treatments.

IV Treatment

Intravenous treatments often help quickly administer medication into the bloodstream to alleviate symptoms like seizures and vomiting, and more.

IV fluids also help safely lower salt concentration in the blood.


Close monitoring of your pet and proper management of severe symptoms can only happen during hospitalization.

The dog may have to stay at the vet’s for two to three days until the doctor is confident enough that the dog can recover fully at home.

Bottom Line

Prevention is key to keeping your pet safe from saltwater poisoning. A well-hydrated and adequately fed dog is less likely to drink large volumes of ocean water.

With the tips above, your pet is guaranteed to enjoy regular trips to the beach without any sudden incidents of sickness.

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