Jen Walsh, her husband, family, and Hanz, their two-year-old Schnauzer, were enjoying a day at the lake.  As always, the dog played happily with them.  None expected a tragic end to a family day at the lake.

Hanz loved for Jen to throw a stick or ball into the water so he could rush out, retrieve it and bring it back to her.  Hanz was a bundle of energy and was happy and excited.  Each time he came back it was obvious he wanted more so Jen kept repeating this retrieval water game.

A Tragic End to a Family Day at the Lake
A Tragic End to a Family Day at the Lake

Hanz had retrieved balls and sticks from the lake more than 20 times over a period of 90 minutes.   He seemed so content, but he was in danger.  No one could have known.  He was a healthy young dog.  But soon, Jen knew something was wrong with Hanz.  She recalled that the last time he came out of the water, he didn’t shake the water off as he usually did.  Instead, looking worn out, he had slumped to the ground.

Jen saw her dog’s condition was quickly deteriorating and the family made the decision that he needed a vet.  During the rush to the vet, his condition worsened, and Jen feared for his life.

Finally, they arrived at the vet’s and rushed the dog into care.  But, it was too late.  Their precious little dog didn’t survive.

The vet explained what had killed Hanz.  He had died of hyponatremia, commonly called water intoxication.  It’s not all that common, but tragically, thousands of dogs die from it every year.

When a dog has an excessive intake of fluid, the body loses sodium.  Then the dog’s cells fill with water and swell.  It can be fatal if the cells in the brain swell, affecting the central nervous system.  This can occur while playing in a pool, lake, river or ocean or even just drinking from a water hose.  Dogs don’t always know when they need to stop drinking.

Symptoms of water intoxication include:

Weakness

Tiredness

Excessive Licking

Dizziness

Vomiting

Loss of Appetite

Nausea

Widened pupils and a glazed look

Bloated Stomach

And in severe cases:

Cramps

Difficulty Breathing

Loss of Consciousness

Because smaller dogs can absorb a lot of water in relation to their size and they are high energy and love the water, they are at the greatest risk.  Dogs who love to completely submerge themselves or throw themselves into waves also puts them at additional risk of taking in too much water.

Get to a vet if you suspect your dog may be suffering from water intoxication.  Better yet, don’t let this happen to your dog.

Please share this information with everyone you know who may have a dog.



3 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you Lori, for writing and sharing this. I tried warning a friend that their dog was drinking too much in a hose game, but she said, “Oh he does it all the time. He’s fine”
    I’m sharing it in the hopes that it will prevent other dogs’ suffering or death.

  2. This is so heartbreaking but very helpful knowledge! Obviously preventing this is the best possible outcome but some info on how to help your dog en route to the vet would be even more helpful (from “the lake” for instance could be a very long drive). Is there anything you can do to help delay the worst?

    • Unfortunately Aimee, there is nothing you can do enroute to the Vet. Treatment requires aggressive vet care including IV delivery of electrolytes, diuretics and drugs to reduce brain swelling.

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