The Side Effects of Dogs Drinking Salt Water

Dogs' drinking needs for fresh water should be respected while at the beach, or your dog might drink salt water. Drinking salt water can cause vomiting and dehydration, as well as a phenonmenon known as "beach diarrhea." Here's how drinking salt water affects your dog's body.

Dehydration Can Make Your Dog Drink Salt Water

Most dogs love running, playing fetch, and interacting with other dogs, and a trip to the beach can be a perfect opportunity for your dog to do those things. However, exercise causes increased water loss through muscle contraction, respiration, and evaporation from the skin. Your dog needs to replace that lost water; exercise will leave him with an urge to drink. If you don't provide fresh water often at the beach, your dog will drink salt water.

How Salt Water Further Dehydrates Your Dog

Salt water has an osmotic effect, pulling liquid into your dog's intestines. This can cause diarrhea, which contributes to dehydration. If your dog drinks too much salt water too fast, he could vomit, leading to further dehydration. Even if your dog doesn't actually drink salt water, he can ingest small amounts by handling salt-water-soaked balls and toys or by swimming in salt water.

Sand ingested with salt water can exacerbate the effects of the salt water itself, as it can irritate the lining of the intestines. Bacteria, algae, or other microorganisms or toxins in the water can cause more severe symptoms later on.

Side Effects of Drinking Salt Water

If your dog drinks too much salt water quickly, he'll probably vomit it back up. This contributes to dehydration, so you should offer your dog clean, fresh water to drink.

If your dog drinks a smaller amount of salt water, he might succumb to the phenomenon known as "beach diarrhea." This type of diarrhea occurs because the salt water has caused excess amounts of water to accumulate in your dog's intestines, as discussed above. Beach diarrhea has the following characteristics:

  • A liquid consistency
  • Urgency and frequency
  • Causes your dog to strain to evacuate
  • Contains blood or mucous

How to Keep Your Dog From Drinking Salt Water

Discourage your dog from drinking salt water by offering clean, fresh water frequently while on the beach. Carry a small bowl or collapsible dish for this purpose; ideally, the container should be one your dog is familiar with. If you don't have a container or your dog won't drink willingly, use a water bottle with a sports cap to squirt fresh water into your dog's mouth.

Your dog should take a break from exercise every fifteen minutes while on the beach; take him into the shade and make sure he drinks fresh water. Have your dog sit or lie down in the shade to rest. Try to minimize his exposure to salt water.

Frequently administering fresh water can significantly decrease the incidence of beach diarrhea. Since this type of dirrhea can be unpleasant and difficult to pick up, administering fresh water regularly can make going to the beach more fun for your as well as for your dog.