Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.
Can Dogs Drink Salt Water?
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 be 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).
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 repeatedly ingest 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 drinking 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 overheating.
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 its 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!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2009 Adrienne Farricelli
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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 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 North 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.