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Is playing in the ocean bad for my dog?

Swallowing too much salt water is harmful. (Photo: Flickr/Ewen Roberts)

Is playing in the ocean bad for my dog?

Tom Musbach

By Tom Musbach on June 19, 2012

Daily Answer is excerpted from the JustAnswer archives and features information provided from a Expert on JustAnswer.

Q: I played at the beach (ocean) with my chocolate Labrador retriever today. She was in and out of the water, which is sort of common, but now she's acting very restless and panting. She keeps hunching over and seems weak in the hind legs.  Could this be from salt water?

A: My concern is that if she ingested a large amount of salt water, she could be suffering from hypernatremia -- also known as salt toxicity.

Generally, the beginning signs of salt toxicity include vomiting and/or diarrhea, but it doesn't always show up right away. I worry that her restlessness and rigid belly could be the beginning signs of it, though.  Signs can rapidly progress to neurologic issues that can include seizures, depression, and problems with coordination. This could absolutely explain the weakness in her legs.

If this is hypernatremia, you need to take action quickly. Getting her to an emergency vet for IV fluids and supportive care generally takes care of the problem with no residual effects. If this were my dog, I'd have her seen at an emergency vet tonight.

-- Answer from Lisa Lepak, veterinary technician on JustAnswer