The Effects of Salt Water on Dogs

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

That splendid day spent at the beach with your dog may bring home more than fond memories of the sight of waves and the pleasant scent of the ocean breeze. But dogs may pay a high price for the hours spent rolling in the sand and playfully trying to catch the waves. The culprit of a great day turned bad is known as beach diarrhea, and it comes as a courtesy of the salt water your dog ingests as he enthusiastically romps around amid the waves with that ball or Frisbee in his mouth.

What Exactly is Beach Diarrhea?

Beach diarrhea is quite different from the average diarrhea your dog gets from eating something he should not have. Typically, dog owners report beach diarrhea to being a very liquid, projectile diarrhea that seems to just shoot out of the dog's rear end. This form of diarrhea happens quickly and is caused by the salt water pulling fluids from the intestinal tissues (osmotic effect). It can be diagnosed based on the history of the dog being at the beach and can be confirmed by having the dog evaluated for hypernatremia (a sudden increase in sodium).

A Case of Beach Diarrhea

How to Prevent and Treat Beach Diarrhea

It is very important to recognize that dogs should never be allowed to liberally drink salt water. Drinking salt water in large amounts and very quickly may ultimately cause the dog to vomit it back up, with the devastating effect of making the dog further prone to dehydration, especially if he is romping around a lot under the sun.

The ingestion of sand along with the salt water may further irritate the intestinal tract causing the symptoms to exacerbate. Salt water may also contain microorganisms, toxins, algae, and harmful bacteria.

A common misconception is that in order for a dog to develop beach diarrhea, it must drink salt water. It is often forgotten that dogs may ingest repeatedly small amounts of salt water by grasping that salt water drenched tennis ball or by simply getting splashed by the waves when the dog's mouth is open.

How do You Deal With Your Dog Being Thirsty?

Dogs should be restricted to drink only fresh water brought along just for Rover from home. This fresh water should be offered in a clean bowl frequently throughout the day. Dogs at the beach should also be allowed to rest at frequent intervals in order to prevent excess fluid loss and over heating.

As seen, beach diarrhea can be prevented by providing fresh water and limiting the ingestion of salt water. Should the dog still develop beach diarrhea, the good news is that it is generally short lived and the dog will progressively improve within a short time. If the dog though does not get better, the diarrhea persists for a long time, and the dog becomes lethargic and disinterested in it surroundings and in food, a vet should be consulted promptly.

So how to treat beach diarrhea? These dog upset stomach home remedies may be helpful for mild cases, but if you decide to be fast and cook a bland diet, just make sure you do not use any salt. Your dog has definitely had enough!

© 2009 Adrienne Farricelli

Hi it's Coral Evans on April 02, 2020:

Hi everyone I hope you're ok

Cathy on June 17, 2018:

Thanks to this article, I realized what was happening with our year old boxer! We took her to the beach she played in the sand she did frink the salt water as well as some regular water! We came jome ahe dramk more fresh water! She woke up sick Throwing up and very watery stools! I read this article and immediately started forcing chicken broth and pedialyte down her throat! Within athree hour period she has started to raise her head and return to normal! She is now eating, and drinking on her own ! Of course just pedialyte is in place of water for now! But never did I realize how harmful the sand and salt water could be! Leason learned! Still contacting the vet tomorrow to be safe! Thanks!!!

BNO and Sancho on June 11, 2018:

After beach day Sancho has a scraped small toe, wet nose and enlarged gland/s. This is my worry.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 21, 2018:

Ruby's mom, that is scary! I am glad you caught it fast and had your dog see the vet. Pheww!

Ruby's mom again on February 20, 2018:

I just had a scare with my doberman who goes to the beach many times per week. She never drink sea water and has never had diarrhea after we go to the beach. Apparently this time she may have gotten under and consumed a large amount of water. Around 7:30 the next morning she had an enormous amount of diarrhea and then continued to have diarrhea shooting out of her butt throughout the day so I took her to the vet around 1:30 because she started acting lethargic as well it, even though I was getting her to drink water I knew she could be dehydrated due to how much diarrhea she had been having. Thank goodness I did, she was very dehydrated. They put her on fluids right away and also to keep her hydrated. Her sodium levels were normal so thank goodness it didn't get to toxic but it did lead to severe dehydration which can kill your dog. So the moral of the story is always pay attention and act.

OneCent24 on October 28, 2017:

This is great information. This happened to my dog today and I was so worried. I'm understand now what happened

D on June 14, 2016:

Thanks you for this very informative article. We took our dog to the beach about 5 time before, and he was totally fine, however today after playing with him for a while and as we were getting ready to go home, he had proyectile diarrhea. We waited a bit to make sure he was done, then we walked home and he seems alright now, we will keep an eye on him over night. Thanks again!

Thelma Alberts from Germany and Philippines on May 11, 2015:

I have not heard about this beach diary. Thanks for sharing this very useful and informative hub. Voted this up and useful.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 02, 2013:

Vanessa, you should have her see the vet if there is mucus, she may have an infection or a corneal ulcer due to sand and she may need medicated eye drops prescribed by a vet.

vanessa on July 02, 2013:

toook my dog to beach and now her eyes are watering with mucus, what do i do?

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on January 21, 2013:

Thanks for stopping by Josephine and sharing your story. First time I took my male to the beach, he ingested water while playing through the waves. When he got home in the night he vomited and peed on the floor. He hadn't peed on the floor since he was an 8 weeks old pup. I hope she feels better soon, best wishes!

Josephine on January 21, 2013:

Thanks for your helpful site, my dog absoutely loves the beach swims in the lake and races in the ocean not to deep up to her chest when not rough playing in the gentle waves retreiving her ball. Yesterday I noticed her gulping seawater pulled her out of water telling he to stop didn't know how much she'd gluped as it happened quickly. Usual routine we get home I wash her down and dry her she goes inside and drinks water then I rush off to work. When I came home she'd had an accident vomited a few times i guess the rest of last nights dinner as she'd down her normal routine on way to beach 3 times which was normal. I cleaned it up suspected it was from the seawater opened door for her to do her normal thing initially didn't til she was ready then it skirted out plus a little vomit again. She wasn't interested in food at all I'd encouraged her to drink water, this morning there was a little blood in her vomit she got up early not to disturb me had a drink in the lounge one contained a little other foamy. I'll certainly give her chicken tonight with rice and go for quite walk not on beach as she hangs for it but loves being with me. Thank you for your invaluable information :)

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 26, 2012:

Sorry, iby, I don't understand your point. Are you referring to that study where dog's blood was replaced with diluted, filtered sea water? If so, that is whole different from a dog ingesting pure salt water.

iby on September 25, 2012:

Thank God dod's can't read.

Unlike us a dog will simply do what's best for himself. If he drinks saltwater but has fresh available he will simply drink of it as soon as he can. Check out (dogs seawater blood) on the internet

I feel sorry for the day dog's can read, then they will read so much rubbish and begin to get really sick.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 02, 2012:

thanks for sharing, didn't know that!

Sarah S on April 01, 2012:

We also learned the hard way that you really have to rinse out their beards for them to get a proper drink of fresh water after being in the ocean. Otherwise, as they drink the fresh water, the salt in their fur/beard just turns the fresh water into more salt water!

Kathy B on February 10, 2011:

Our pudelpointer, Gretta, loves to play fetch and bodysurf. Even if you don't see your dog actively drinking the ocean water they are consuming copios amounts. I was horrified the first time I saw it shooting out her back end. We always walk and play (out of the water and with plenty of fresh water drinks) for half an hour to insure a "dry trip home".

Doggie Devotee from Danville KY on July 25, 2010:

Never knew that salt water would have this effect. i have never taken my dog to the beach or on vacation thus far but would like to in the future. very nice informitive hub.

Carmen Borthwick from Maple Ridge, B.C. on October 30, 2009:

Very good hub, I wasn't aware of the salt water issue. I suppose the sand thing would apply at a lake as well. Good info for dog owners.

judydianne from Palm Harbor, FL on October 30, 2009:

Didn't realize this. Thank you for the informative hub.

kartika damon from Fairfield, Iowa on October 29, 2009:

Fantastic hub - I did not know this. I have a website on pets and learn more everyday! Thanks for this! Kartika

Peg Cole from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on October 29, 2009:

This is valuable information about the effect salt water can have on dogs. Loved the picture which looks just like my Bucky who was with me for 16 years. She loved the water.

Many people think of salt and automatically think of sodium, although the two are not exactly one and the same. Sodium is just one part of salt, as it also includes chloride. The bulk of commercial canine foods available on the market contain some salt. Talk to your veterinarian to get suggestions on dog foods that have appropriate levels of sodium. At suitable levels, sodium actually is helpful in dogs' physiology, assisting in equilibrium of fluids.

Too much salty food and dogs are not a good combination, however. If your dog enviously stares at you as you eat a salty French fry, don't give in to the urge to feed him a bunch of them -- or even one of them. If your dog takes in a lot of salt, it could trigger numerous not-so-pleasant health consequences, including immoderate urination, seizures, heightened thirst, uncontrollable quivering, depression, throwing up, runny stools and raised body temperature. Sodium ion toxicity in dogs can sometimes even be life-threatening, so take the possibility extremely seriously. Urgent veterinary assistance is crucial in these situations.

Saltwater pools use salt, as opposed to chlorine, to cleanse and sanitize pool water. Much less corrosive than mass amounts of chlorine, saltwater pools are safer for your pets than traditional chlorinated pools, if well-maintained of course. However, don’t expect the pool to taste and feel like the ocean saltwater pools have a salt content of approximately 3,200 parts per million, while ocean water’s salt content is roughly 35,000 ppm. Still, it’s a good idea to give your pup a good freshwater rinse once he’s done swimming.

Salt can be toxic to your dog in large quantities. Always provide plenty of fresh, cool water for your buddy to drink as he frolics, so he’s not tempted to lap up the salty stuff. Stay vigilant for signs of salt poisoning. These include initial vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, stumbling, excessive thirst or urination, tremors and seizures. Seek immediate veterinary treatment if your dog shows signs of salt poisoning.

Also, dogs can tire quickly when swimming. Never leave your dog unattended in water of any kind, and always have an accessible escape route out of the pool. If your dog becomes overly tired, he'll need your help to get him out of the water.

Road Salt is Toxic to Pets

Road Salt is Toxic to Pets

As reluctant as we may feel sometimes, our pets still need to get outdoors for exercise and fresh air in the cold winter months. But even as we bundle up to take Fido for a walk, it's important to be aware of some outdoor hazards, in particular, road salt and other ice melting products used for de-icing roads and sidewalks.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, about 10 million tons of salt are used on roads in the United States each year, and that number doesn't include the amount of salt individuals and businesses use on walkways on private property.

Road salt and ice melting products used for de-icing roads and sidewalks are an irritant and are increasingly recognized as a serious environmental toxin. They are described as a toxic substance as defined by the Canadian Environmental Protection Act of 1999 and pose a risk to plants, animals, and the aquatic environment. Most road salt is composed of chloride combined with sodium, calcium, magnesium or potassium, they may also contain ferrocyanide salts. Unlike table salt, they may contain other contaminants, including heavy metals depending on where they are sourced. While data on toxicity in people and pets is limited, the Precautionary Principle suggests that we should do our best to limit or eliminate our pets' exposure.

Many dogs suffer from painful burning and cracked and dried out pads from walking on salt-treated roads and sidewalks. If not washed off, your pet can also ingest the salt through licking. This can cause serious irritation and inflammation in the mouth and digestive system, and possibly electrolyte imbalance if a significant quantity is taken in. Chronic ingestion adds to your pet's total toxic load, which could contribute to a variety of degenerative diseases.

Where possible, avoid roads, sidewalks, and walkways that have been salted. As soon as you get in from a walk, wash your pet's feet with warm (not hot) water and dry them thoroughly. Also wipe or wash off other areas that have been exposed such as the underside, especially in small or heavy coated dogs.

If your dog tolerates them, boots are also a good solution, but an alternative is to use a natural cream or wax-based paw protection that is applied before going out. An added advantage is that these can soothe and moisturize dry, cracked pads. One caution: Be sure the ingredients are all-natural and food grade. Not only can different compounds be absorbed through the skin and pads, but your dog is likely to ingest some even after the paws are wiped clean. If you do not recognize the ingredients, contact the manufacturer to be sure.

As far as what to use on icy areas on your own property, look for an environmentally friendly, non-toxic alternative to salt such as EcoTraction. Made from an all-natural volcanic mineral it provides excellent traction on ice, and unlike salt, does not lose its effectiveness in really cold temperatures. It is safe around children and pets, even if accidentally ingested, and is actually beneficial for the garden and the environment generally. It releases beneficial minerals into the soil and even helps remove toxins from the environment.

By simply employing preventative care, avoiding salted areas, and using a non-toxic alternative to salt, your pet can enjoy the outdoors this winter without the resulting sore paws or toxic effects.

Overview of Salt Toxicity

, DVM, PhD, DABVT, Veterinary Toxicologist

Excessive salt (sodium chloride, NaCl) intake can lead to the condition known as salt poisoning, salt toxicity, hypernatremia, or water deprivation–sodium ion intoxication. The last term is the most descriptive, giving the result (sodium ion intoxication) as well as the most common predisposing factor (water deprivation.) Salt poisoning is unlikely to occur as long as sodium-regulating mechanisms are intact and fresh drinking water is available.

Salt poisoning has been reported in virtually all species of animals all over the world. Although salt poisoning has historically been more common in swine (the most sensitive species), cattle, and poultry, there are increasing reports of adverse effects in dogs from acute excess salt consumption. The acute oral lethal dose of salt in swine, horses, and cattle is

4 g/kg. Sheep appear to be the most resistant species, with an acute oral lethal dose of 6 g/kg.

Watch the video: Everything You Need To Know About Waders for Saltwater Fishing (September 2021).