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Water Intoxication


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#1 agilityrunningdogs

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Posted 23 August 2009 - 05:09 PM

This happened to a good friend of mine when she took her Border Collie out for a swim. Please read and be warned, your dog will thank you.

I wanted to share what I learned in case it could help someone else because many people and vets may not have have had experience with this. Basically, water intoxication is a potentially fatal disturbance in brain functions that results when the normal balance of electrolytes in the body is pushed outside of safe limits by excessive water consumption in a short period of time. The cells absorb all the water, causing the tissues, including the brain, to swell. When the cell membranes can no longer withstand the pressure, the cells can begin to die. Water intoxication can lead to brain damage, heart failure, and death. The famous artist, Andy Warhol, died from cardiac arrhythmia, a direct result of water intoxication after hospital staff overloaded him with fluids after routine gallbladder surgery. Athletes are also prone to this if they replace lost fluids with large quantities of water without added electrolytes.

I'll list my story below, but the please read this for signs and treatment as the vet you end up with may not be as educated as my vet friend was. Early signs of a problem can include mild lethargy, nausea, and slight weight gain resulting in a bloated appearance. Later symptoms, noting that Siryn went from no significant signs to major distress in about 15 minutes, may include neurological signs such as a loss of coordination (tripping, falling, or collapsing), dilated pupils, and glazed eyes or lack of awareness of their surroundings. They may also have difficulty breathing, have an increased heart rate, be restless, have excessive salivation, have poor color in their gums, and even have seizures or slip into a coma.

TIME IS CRITICAL. If your dog is showing signs of water intoxication, get them to a vet immediately. The vet needs to run bloodwork and it will show very low electrolytes. Some of the other values, like the kidneys, may be "off", too, but this is a result of the electrolyte imbalance. The vet needs to immediately start the dog on a slow drip of IV sodium chloride fluids and with Siryn, they added potassium to it. The fluids need to be given slowly because the goal is not to hydrate the dog but to slowly put the electrolytes back in the system. Here is another key piece the emergency clinic vet didn't know about that my vet told her to do. Give the dog a diuretic, such as Lasix, to help pull the fluid out of the tissue. I believe this was the key to Siryn recovering to normal bloodwork values in 9-10 hours while another friend's dog with this condition who wasn't given Lasix was in the hospital for 2 days. There are more lessons about dealing with the vets in my story below.

Siryn has been swimming all her life and never had this problem. She does not bite at the water and she does not stand there and gulp down the water. She will sometimes bark or whine in the water because she's so excited and probably takes in water when she does that and I would imagine she also ingests quite a bit of water when she's fetching. I don't know why yesterday was different. My friend saw her vomit up several cups of something that looked like water logged dog food. I have no idea where that came from since she eats raw. Perhaps she found it while we were walking. The only thing I can think of to make this trip different is that the dog food absorbed all the water and didn't let it pass through her system like it normally does, though I'll never know for sure. My vet said she could be more prone to this happening in the future now that it's happened once so I will have to be careful with her, watch her for starting to look bloated, and make her take breaks.

Here's my story:

Val and I took the dogs swimming and fetching at the lake for an hour or two yesterday evening. When we were done, Siryn looked bloated, but that's normal for her after swimming for a while. She always swallows a lot of water and either vomits it up or urinates a lot for the next couple hours. Val said her face even looked a little bloated yesterday. After swimming, we went for a walk. We'd walked about a mile when I noticed that Siryn wasn't walking right. She was tripping over her feet and starting to lose her balance. Val suggested I put her in the water to see if she was hot but it didn't help. We checked her color and her gums were white. Within minutes, she was having a hard time walking and within a few minutes after that, she couldn't stand at all so I had to carry her. We waited for Val to run back and get the car. Her breathing was raspy and labored, she was panting heavily, she started excessively salivating, and she couldn't stand or sit. Her eyes were glazed and her pupils were dilated.

We rushed her to the emergency clinic where the technician was so not good. She checked Siryn out, saw her have no color to her gums, unable to stand, panting, with dilated eyes, and told us she would put us in a room for a while until the doctor could see us. Val said she checked her own pulse instead of Siryn's! I told her the doctor either needed to see my dog (who still couldn't stand up!) right away or I was going to take her and find a vet who would see her. She said she'd take her to the back and maybe put her on oxygen or something (not helpful). Apparently, when the doctor saw her, she recognized she was in shock and started treating her immediately.

I think not all, but a lot of the vets who work the night and weekend shifts at the emergency clinics are new in practice (who else wants to work weekend overnights?!) and may not have a lot of experience. This vet figured out to put her on slow fluids with the additives, but it took having my awesome vet (thanks Laura Beth!) calling her to suggest Lasix to really get the ball rolling. The emergency vet also was thinking perhaps Siryn had Addison's Disease based on her bloodwork but my vet was able to tell her that she's known Siryn all her life and she's never shown any signs of that and that she needed to just treat her for water intoxication and stop looking for other things that it could be.

Siryn was groaning while she was lying on the table and the vet asked me if she normally did that. I told her no and she started saying that it might be a sign of something else and we might need to do x-rays. I told her that Siryn was probably miserable because she was so fat at that time from all the water in her body. She looked at me and asked, incredulously,"This is fat for her?" It was kind of laughable because Siryn is an in shape competition dog and very thin compared to the fat pet dogs most vets are used to seeing. So what was obvious to me as discomfort from severe bloating she didn't see because Siryn looked like the normal weight of dogs she was used to seeing!

Remember, you and your vet know your dog and the emergency vets don't! You have to be ready to speak up, demand an immediate assessment by a doctor if you don't feel the entry staff are giving you proper attention, and educate them about what is and isn't normal for your dog (like the lack of Addison's symptoms and the groaning from being bloated). If she would have started treating for Addison's, we could have gone in the whole wrong direction. I am so lucky my wonderful vet was willing to call up there late in the night and make sure Siryn got the appropriate care.

So, that's my story. Since posting this yesterday, I have heard from several other people who have had dogs have this or who know people who have. I hope this helps educate everyone on a potential problem many don't know exist. I sincerely hope this note won't discourage people from taking their dogs to the water to have fun. Siryn will still go swimming because it's her favorite thing to do and I refuse to keep my dogs in a glass bubble just because something might happen. We are fortunate to have every day we have with each other and I want my dogs to love their life; however, I will be more educated in the future about making each trip as safe as possible.

Thank you again to everyone for your huge outpouring of support and good wishes. You have no idea how much it means to me.

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#2 Guest_amylobdell24_*

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Posted 24 August 2009 - 07:41 AM

Whew! So glad Siryn is okay! Give my thanks to Donna for her posting - I'll bet this comes up sometime with my own dogs - I know they drink a ton of water when we go to the park. Never realized this could happen. Now I at least know what to look for.

#3 Liz P

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Posted 24 August 2009 - 10:24 AM

I almost lost Freya to water intoxication. She stumbled, collapsed, started moaning, vomited a large volume of water, lost consciousness and began having seizures. She was revived but suffered permanent brain damage. She isn't exactly as smart as she used to be and I retired her from sheep work because she has a hard time understanding commands, especially when it comes to confusing her flanks. Even minus a few brain cells she is smarter than the average dog. :rolleyes:

Based on a retrospective study at Tufts (not published last I checked) Border Collies are the most common breed to be affected. I guess because they are workaholics who refuse to quit.

#4 KrisK

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Posted 24 August 2009 - 10:38 AM

thanks for posting this. My dogs both love to swim and fetch when swimming...I think I'll cut this out and post it on my fridge for future reference!

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#5 bc4ever

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Posted 24 August 2009 - 11:05 AM

thanks for posting this. I think I'll cut this out and post it on my fridge for future reference!

Exactly what I was about to post! Lifesaving information that might come in handy some day, if not for me, for someone else's dog that is exhibiting those signs. Thanks!

#6 Liz P

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Posted 24 August 2009 - 11:15 AM

One important thing to remember is that water intoxication can resemble an Addisonian crisis. One of the first signs you can see looks like back or hip pain. When my dog left the water she was limping as if her hips hurt. I took her home thinking she had a musculoskeletal injury and needed rest and pain killers. She didn't collapse until more than an hour after we left the park.

#7 Megs

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 07:28 AM

WOW, what an amazing but scary story! I will remember this for sure as my boy loves swimming. :rolleyes:

I wanted to ask if it is possible to post this on our local forum? So I can educate others? see our forum here: www.capehandlers.co.za

Thanks
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#8 agilityrunningdogs

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 07:39 AM

Of courses, post it everywhere you can so that more people become aware.
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#9 ejano

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 08:37 AM

This happened to a good friend of mine when she took her Border Collie out for a swim. Please read and be warned, your dog will thank you.


Thank you so much for posting this....Robin and Brodie both love to swim . I've seen Brodie gulping water as he chases the ripples and Robin would keep jumping in to the point of exhaustion if he were allowed. As it is, they get about 5 -10 minutes then go for a walk in the field.

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#10 FoxyRoxy

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Posted 11 June 2015 - 01:55 PM

Here is my story:

 

January 2015 - I burried my 16 year old goldie. After too much heartache (about 2 weeks) we decided to get a new puppy - this time a BC. 

 

Roxy was 8 weeks old when we got her, chocolate/white female. She had the most gentle, submissive/timid personality that loved everyone. She developed a relationship with water, in that she liked to stomp moving water and bite at it. We thought it was "cute" in that she was fishing. Few times we brought her to streams with melt water but she quickly started shivering so we took her out at about 5 minutes of play - this saved her. 

 

At 6 months old, 2 weeks ago, wife took her to a lake to walk and go "fishing". After an hour of stirring water and biting at it, it was time to go home - about a 12 minute walk to the car. 

 

1. At 4 minutes, she started walking funny, stumbling.

2. At 6 minutes, Roxy barfed water and a bone she ate for lunch. At this time, wife thought she was just sick from the bone.

3. At 12 minutes, Roxy was in the car on the way home, salivating and closing her eyes

4. At 26 minutes, Roxy got home and when I opened the car door, her eyes dialated and she was becoming listless. I immediately sped to the hospital with her.

5. At 34 minutes she was in the doctors office - he ordered blood work, thinking it was just a seizure. He, nor we ever heard of water intoxication. Also, we were thinking it could have been toxic algae. Her pupils were non-responsive and the doctor was worried about brain damage.

6. At 44 Minutes the blood work came back with low electrolytes.

7. At 45 minutes, Roxy's heart went up to 295. Doctor administered IV with sodium and other stuff, plus drugs to suppress her heart rate. 

8. At 50 minutes Roxy stopped breathing and was put on a ventilator. 

 

I left the hospital to drive wife home and to tell our child that Roxy was not going to make it. I drove back to hospital hoping that by the time I got there, a miracle was going to happen and Roxy was going to come around. 

 

So when I got back in about 30 minutes, Roxy was pronounced brain dead or severely brain damaged as she did not have primary reflexes. Her eyes we open and dialated, she was not breathing on her own. Doctor recommended that I put her down. In 5 minutes, I was holding her paws as the doc administered drugs to put her down and she died in my arms. From frolicking in water to death in 45 minutes, the light of my life was gone. 

 

After much research we came across this post, and it felt like seeing a "bridge out sign" too late. I will forever blame myself for not doing more, for not knowing, for not driving faster, for waiting for the blood work ... for .. anything and everything. 

 

I will miss my Roxy forever. 

 

-M

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#11 highway61

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Posted 11 June 2015 - 02:59 PM


Based on a retrospective study at Tufts (not published last I checked) Border Collies are the most common breed to be affected. I guess because they are workaholics who refuse to quit.

 

I wonder why BCs are more prone to be affected? I get they're workaholics but refuse to quit...drinking water? 

 

My BC is all turf and no surf but he does like to wade and snap/bite at the mini waves that crash to the beach at Lake Washington. I always wondered if this was play or was he slightly freaked at it? Now after reading this it looks like that may threaten his life so I'll be keeping him off the beach. 



#12 waffles

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Posted 11 June 2015 - 03:16 PM

I am surprised the vet had never heard of water intoxication. It happens to people as well as dogs. There was a story where someone died after doing some drinking water contest for a radio station and another where a mother forced her kid to drink water as punishment, she too died. I remember warning a coworker about it when she would squirt the hose at the dogs who liked to jump and bite at it.

The recent story (as I see the thread is 8 years old) is so sad considering she was just a puppy. I'm so sorry your family went through that. You can't blame yourself, many people let their dogs swim and play in water with no problems. We let our boy play in the creek but he doesn't full on swim unless we through toys in a deep area, so we limit that. Otherwise, he obviously takes in a lot of water as he will pee a ton after swimming.

#13 gcv-border

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Posted 11 June 2015 - 05:55 PM

I am very sorry you had to go through this experience. If you decide to get another BC, please stay on this forum and read, and read, and read, through present topics and past. You WILL get an education.

 

With BCs, a good rule is "everything in moderation".

 

RIP Roxy.


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#14 Journey

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Posted 11 June 2015 - 06:05 PM

FoxyRoxy, I am so sorry. I know plenty of first time owners who didn't know about water intoxication, and plenty of long time as well....I also know 4 people that have lost their beloved friend due to it. My condolences to you and your family.
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#15 medic09

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Posted 11 June 2015 - 08:02 PM

Liz P, maybe you can tell us a bit more about dilutional hyponatremia in dogs?

 

I'm a bit familiar with it from human medicine.  Although dilutional hyponatremia certainly does occur; it is by far more common for patients to be dehydrated rather than over-hydrated.  It would typically require a dietary deficiency, such as not ingesting enough needed salt, together with ingesting too much water.  The over-hydration then dilutes the body's normal fluid so that the relative amount of salt in the bloodstream (specifically the sodium) is now low.  The fluid then obeys physics, and migrates to where there is salt - inside the cells.  That overloads the cells, and damages or even destroys them.  The brain is sensitive to  this.  The effect on the heart is different, as the salt imbalance effects electrical conduction in heart muscle; causing dysrhythmias.

 

As I say, in humans it is seen; but pretty rare.  We might see it with someone like an ultramarathoner who didn't take in much salt before the race, but then drank a whole lot of water during and right after.  Together with the salt loss in sweating, that can be enough in some few cases.  (Occasionally medics on scene have misunderstood the problem, seeing seizure and thinking it is a result of severe dehydration.)

 

If a dog eats a balanced diet with adequate salts, how likely are they to ingest so much water to create this dilutional effect?  I'm surprised to see so many cases mentioned here.  I had never run into this with dogs before.



#16 FoxyRoxy

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Posted 11 June 2015 - 09:19 PM

Thank you all for your heartfelt condolences.

 

To loose 2 dogs in 5 months is a bit overwhelming and it helps to have found a warm welcome here. What makes it worse for me is that this was preventable. Only if I/wife knew. If only ....

 

The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Or so I am told. 

 

I hope that my post may help prevent others precious family members from the same fate. As you can see, the thread being 8 years old did not save my Roxy. 

 

Roxy had 3 strikes against her in this regard:

1. She was young and only 27 lb

2. She did not have an ounce of fat on her to absorb the excess water

3. She was hyper focused - high adrenaline dog

 

Roxy would have died sooner or later of this, because our family did not know about this condition and we loved to take her outdoors, rivers, lakes, etc. What bothers me is that the Vet did not clue in - despite being told she played in water for over an hour. Perhaps she was beyond saving by the time we got her to the hospital - but one will never know because immediate steps were not taken to rid her little body of excess water and suppress her brain from swelling. 

 

She was an angel from heaven - as all dogs are to their families. 

 

-M



#17 Liz P

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Posted 11 June 2015 - 09:34 PM

So sorry to hear about Roxy.  With water intoxication, seconds count and some still die despite treatment.  I was lucky to get my dog to a vet who treated her quickly.

 

The thought is that Border Collies are so prone because they don't stop.  If snapping at water once is fun, it's even more fun to do it 1000 times.  If fetching the ball from the water is good, doing for hours is better.   Even if they have choked down so much water that they feel sick, they will not stop.  It's not much different with heat stroke and chasing the ball or working livestock.  The human in the relationship has to take control and keep them safe.



#18 Liz P

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Posted 11 June 2015 - 10:36 PM

Medic, I believe in the cases of swimming or water snapping dogs they are not dehydrated.  I read some reports of sheep, cattle and dogs developing water intoxication secondary to "tanking up."  In livestock it is seen when they did not have access to water then suddenly were allowed to drink their fill.  So these animals would be dehydrated.



#19 teresaserrano

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Posted 12 June 2015 - 06:21 AM

I live by the sea and near a damm and my first 3 dogs where portuguese water dogs, so taking a dog to swimming is part of our life. I also think it's such a great exercise for them. I will often take Tess to swim at the dam and I usually throw her the stick for 20 or 30 minutes. She doesn't drink from that water, she doesn't bite the water or waves at the beach and she doesn't pee excessively afterwards. She just swims entusiastically, back and forth. She never drinks after exercise (her choice, not because i don't offer water), she prefers to wait till she has cooled down. She loves swimming, but now I'm scared, should I limit it more? Or would it be safer to make pauses during swimming, like a 5 minute break for every 10 minutes swimming? What do you all think?


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#20 juliepoudrier

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Posted 12 June 2015 - 10:30 AM

If she's not swallowing water, it shouldn't be an issue.

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