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Safe doggy play time in hot weather

I was giving one of my first aid for pets courses recently when I was told a very sad story.
A family had recently lost their young dog, after he had had a lovely day playing by a river.
He had been jumping in and out of the water, chasing a ball, and having a swim, so his
owners had felt confident he was safe, despite the lovely sunshine they were all enjoying.
But later he collapsed, and he died, despite their vet’s best efforts.
They were told that he had the signs of water intoxication.
This is a medical disorder of dogs that occurs when playing around water in hot weather.
The dog inadvertently drinks more water than he needs, resulting in a dilution of the
important electrolytes in the blood stream.
He showed all the classic signs, including vomiting, weakness, restlessness and muscle
cramps. At first his owners thought he might have been exposed to a toxin in the water.
He collapsed, and experienced difficulty breathing due to changes in his lungs. These
changes were not due to him inhaling the water he was playing in, but because he had over-
diluted his blood electrolytes by swallowing too much water.
I have never diagnosed a case of water intoxication myself, but feel that it might be helpful to
mention this to all owners of playful dogs. In the coming hot weather, I do encourage water
play as a method for keeping our doggy friends cool. But, as with everything, moderation is
key.
Restrict water play to a limited time, and restrict play altogether in the hot sun, so that you
need not suffer the heartbreak that this family experienced.
Pet owners should also be aware that astroturf gets hotter than grass in the sun.
Be careful of your dogs’ paws, if you have astroturf in your dogs’ outdoors area. As with all
very hot days, before asking your dog to walk out – check the surface, be it artificial grass, or
pavement, with the skin on the back of your hand.
For details of our next pet first aid course go to themewesvets.co.uk/events

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