What to do when your dog drinks Salt Water

Some tips on what you can do if your dog drinks salt water or sea water at the beach. You’re here because as much as you tried to persuade them otherwise, your dog drank more salt water than they should. Now you’re either experiencing the wrath of Poseidon, or trying to anticipate it, but either way you’ve come across a page full of helpful tips!

Before you read the rest of this, get out the plastic furniture covers cause it’s about to get messy.

When any dog, or other mammal for that matter, drinks salt water they become dehydrated by all the extra sodium now in their system. This throws their electrolytes out of wack and in most cases causing vomiting and diarrhea. In our experiences with Finlay (our beagle puppy), even 10 seconds of sea-water-slurping can result in a whole day of disgusting.  He vomits without any heaving, it just comes up suddenly, and has lots of gas followed by fairly runny stool (sorry if that was TMI, but you’re most likely about to experience it first hand).

For most dogs this is a 24-hour or less ailment, but it can be fairly serious and sometimes fatal so use your best judgment– if your dog looks like he’s on death’s door don’t be a fool, take them to the vet.

In the mean time, while you’re trying to determine if this is a life or death situation, here’s a few things you can do to help your sea-sick furry-friend pass the time.

–We are NOT vets and the information below is just a compiling of things we’ve gathered around the internet and tested on our dog. Once again, we are not vets and you should use your judgment/consult your vet on all of the suggestions listed below–

#1 Keep them Hydrated

I know, this is more fuel for them to fire at you, but your dog needs water, especially if he’s expelling food and/or liquid from his body. Give your dog small amounts of water every 1/2 hour, even if it means you’ll be cleaning it up, and monitor how long it takes/ how much of it is being vomited. Keeping him hydrated is #1 because if you don’t he can get much sicker very quickly.

If he’s vomited but is able to keep water down for 2 hours, he can then have apple juice diluted 50:50 with water, or water from a can of tuna diluted 1 part tuna water to 10 parts plain water. Again, give the fluids in small, frequent, amounts.

#2 Don’t get Mad

If your dog is throwing up it’s because he’s not feeling well, so try your best to keep calm. You can set them up for success by keeping them off the carpets, on an easy to wipe down surface. We don’t suggest putting them outside alone, if your dog is really sick you probably need to monitor him, plus he’ll feel like he’s done something wrong if you exclude him from the pack.

#3 Quarantine

Just in case he’s vomiting from something other than sea water, you may want to take your other, well-feeling pets somewhere else. Your dog may try to eat its own vomit and as we all know it’s easier to keep one dog from eating something, than 3. You’re also going to want your dog to rest, and without their mates around you may have a better chance of this happening.

#4 Make them a comfortable, washable place to lie down

I recommend bunching up a sheet or old towel on an easy to clean floor surface. This way if they continue to get sick you can just toss it in the wash, mop down the floor, and press on.

#5 WITHHOLD FOOD until it has been 24 hours since they last vomited.

This gives the intestines a chance to rest and heal. After 24 hours without vomiting, you can start your dog back on a bland diet. Many vets online recommend a mixture of 75% cooked white rice, and 25% low fat protein. For the protein you could use extra lean ground beef, boiled with the fat scooped off, or chicken breast boiled with fat scooped off or even scrambled egg cooked without fat in the microwave. Feed small frequent meals, avoid anything salty. Day 3 post incident, if there is still no vomiting, your dog can go back to normal dog food.

We also saw a lot of people saying you could give your dogs a few different over-the-counter meds, but we’re not into that so you’ll have to find that information on your own.

Our dog has never gone to the vet after drinking saltwater, but there are a lot of really sad stories about owners who thought their dogs were fine and their animals ended up dying (because of salt water, or because something else they ate). Saline saturation causes swelling which can lead to all kinds of complications. We don’t want to scare you, but we also don’t want to assure you that everything will be fine. Use your judgement and sorry about all the sick you’ll be cleaning up!

45 thoughts on “What to do when your dog drinks Salt Water

  1. Pingback: Finlay, Week 13: Don’t Drink the Water | House of Sand and Dog

  2. Thank you so much for this post! We are at this moment caring for our lil dog who drank too much ocean water while playing. She’s vomited, drank lots of water, vomited, and now resting. We’re watching her closely, and hopefully that was all the sicky she’ll be tonight. Thanks for the suggestions!

  3. It was a first for me yesterday. My dog drank seawater. It came out of her behind like a hydrant! She was also sick in the car, mainly liquids. I felt so sorry for her knowing what had done it. She is fine today, thank goodness, although she dragged her bottom once. Maybe the result of the hydrant and a sore bum! Will wait and see.

    • Poor puppy, it honestly is one of the common mistakes we make as owners… or like our dogs, who insist upon drinking sea water, they get used to it and stop having such crazy issues.

      I still try to tell them “No!” but when did they ever listen to me lol.

      Thanks for the comment, Ian!

  4. We took our 10 month black lab to the beach today :0/ o my days I have never seen anything like it ! Ian you’ve hit the nail on the head, describing the bottom end experience as a hydrant , poor pup it was awful :( then when she vomitted , well I was stunned !!
    Thank you so much for your info sharing and tips Kris , we now know what to do :)

    • Hey Em!
      We’ve never experienced the hydrant butt, but it sounds pretty shocking to observe (and most likely worse to experience as the dog). Glad to know our tips are going to good use. Hang in there, your pup should be feeling gradually better as the day continues :-)

      • This happened to our dog today. I still don’t know what to do. She vomited 2-3 times but she seem better, she’s resting now and she drank some water and did not vomit. I don’t know if we should take her to the ER.

      • Use your best judgement. Finlay threw up I think 3-4 times throughout the 1st day. It’s a good sign your dog is now not throwing up though– it means she’s getting some of the hydration instead of just purging it.
        Good luck and let us know how it goes!

      • lol yup just also took my boy to the beach for the 1st time. He chased the waves and now has an ocean spewing out of his but. All over my other dog too ewwww. We are now bathed and laying in a comfy blanket with a bucket of water. Going to be a long night I’m sure.

    • god the same thing happened to me today took our lab to the beach was so funny him attacking the waves but later started to throw up hes resting now but is not the dog we know

  5. She seems better now. 10 hrs w/o vomiting and actually ate a bit of rice and lean beef because she was really hungry. I was so scared something could happen to her, hopefully she will continue to feel better.

  6. Thank you so much for putting this blog online. You have just saved our family vacation with our Portuguese Water Dog, Zoey. She had a wonderful morning on the beach, playing a game of fetch in the surf. Big mistake. We didn’t make it back to the condo before the symptoms of Poseidon’s wrath came on. Being from the Northern Midwest, we really had know idea that just playing fetch would be be enough salt water to hurt her.

    Fortunately, I went online and found your blog. Your description of symptoms were right on, in our case. And fortunately your advice on taking care of Zoey was also right on the mark. After the first onset of symptoms, she was going crazy begging for water. But, thanks to you, I only gave her small amounts of water every half hour. It’s been 12 hours, without major symptoms, so we let her eat some food. She seems back to normal. But heeding your warning, we’ll continue to monitor her behavior. (and won’t hesitate to take her to the vet, should she change, dramatically).

    Thank you again,

    • PS Hydrant Butt is a very accurate description. You’ve heard of projectile vomit ?? In this case, it’s projectile diarrhea! Poor doggies.

    • Great to hear! I’m so glad your dog is feeling better. Whenever our dogs get sick I want to be the doting parent and give them everything they want… And the Boom! They’re barfing again!

      Being strict with our dogs when they’re ill is hard, but I’m glad you were able to stick with it with the water and skip on all the extra clean ups. :-)

  7. Going through this right now with my chocolate lab unfortunately for me we were on a kayak not so much fun :( … He has had the hydrant before but never this extrem and never with throwing up. Right now he seems to be holding things down. Thanks for the post I thought he ate something on the island but no it’s just to much salt water :)

  8. Took our pit/lab to the beach and had a great time but the biting and chasing the waves all of sudden the trip turned into a nightmare for him and us, and it happened before we could leave the beach. Water running out of his backside like a pressure washer and eventually just running uncontrollably like a water spout. Before we could get to the truck he vomited all he had eaten up. I rode in the back of the truck with him water still running and we made it home .I give him a bath and put him on his cable run an some fresh water,( which he was ready to drink) the water stopped running out of his back side and he had a good night. Hungry this morning guess he’s fine. I have lived here all my life and this was the first for me.

  9. We had the same experience with our Shar pei, we went to the beach, and he as normal went for a swim with my hubby, within minutes of coming out of the sea he was experiencing the hydrant from the bottom end, lucky no sickness, he would not take any fresh water from us at the beach but drank small amounts when we got home. He was back to normal in 24 hours.

  10. Its nice to know we are not alone. Our chocolate lab young girl had her first visit to the beach and identical symptoms, all quite embarrassing in front of the posh harbour flats! Second visit resulting in the same, she just goes into the sea for a drink! I think no more sea swimming for Jessie, which is a shame as it was lovely watching her enjoy herself.

  11. Pingback: The waves… they be too loud | We Live In A Flat

  12. Thank you so much for the advice. Yesterday, we took our 85 pound Golden for the first time to the beach and he had a blast playing in the shallow tidal pools on the beach. He romped and played fetch for an hour and then before we knew it he started having diarrhea in the tidal pool. Thank goodness it is off season and the beach was fairly deserted. Within 15 minutes he had effortless projectile vomiting , but at the same time was fiercely thirsty. I let him drink fresh water although he threw up faily soon after. Eventually he stopped drinking water and became less distressed. As I began to investigate online whether the sea water was the culprit, I came across this site and it was a life saver! Thank you much. Our big guy is much better today, and I am hoping that by tomorrow all systems will be back to normal. We have learned our lesson.

  13. Thanks so much for this post! We have just arrived home from our first beach visit with our 8month old Leonberger boy. Ted, had a fab time frolicking in the water and running around for the hour we were there. As we were packing up, a massive eruption from his rear… like nothing I had ever seen! Oh dear!! Quickly put him in the car and drove home. Gave him lots of water, he did vomit once, only a small frothy amount so far. Have rung the emergency vet before reading this post and she said it sounds like to much salty water and keep an eye on him. Will try and dter him in the future.:)

  14. The first time Gucci got “beach diarrhea”(BD) I did not know what was wrong. All of the sudden, she started projectile BM and constantly going. I could not pick up the BM as in its original form. I had to add sand to the BM (dog kitty litter) so I could bag them. I did not want other animals or humans on the beach to step or ingest the “BDBM”. Every time I sand her BM she would go again. I ended up putting my shirt on her bum until we got inside the house. I showered her and put a doggy diaper on. I called my vet. He told me she had “BD”. He said it would be fine to give her some Pedialyte with H20 to balance her electrolytes. Dogs can over heat.
    A common misconception is that in order for a dog to develop beach diarrhea (BD) it must drink salt water. It is often forgotten that dogs may ingest repeatedly small amounts of salted water by grasping that salt water drenched ball or by simply getting splashed by the waves when the dog’s mouth is open. Also, before leaving the beach or as soon as possible, shower or rinse your dog off due to the sand being in the fur. When they lick/clean themselves they ingest the salty sand which also can have sea lice.

  15. So happy I found this blog. Loads of great advice. We went they very similar yesterday with our 16 month old golden retriever. He has wen going to the beach since he was 3 months old but always on the lead and yesterday was his first time of the lead and we are guessing the sea just looked like a giant water bowl as he happily swam about with his mouth wide open. I had an idea of what was coming and I’m so thankful he waited all through his bath, the drive home, called into the shops and once home he franks heaps, had a pee and then threw up twice. Drank more then was sick again he continued to have water on his own and we tried to keep it to a minimum. He threw up 2 more times with each one getting less… We didn’t give him food til late that night and only cos he was really asking for it so we have him a 1/4 of what he normally has.. He wasn’t sick again after those 5 times, his stool has been fine and after loads of sleep he seemed ore like himself but then today he has been real sleepy then normal then real sleepy and then normal. I’m
    Hoping by tomorrow he will be more like his usual self otherwise I’ll be taking him to the vet…. Thankful for all the comments to read through… Jett is our first dog and it’s scary and horrible when he is sick…

  16. We took our 9mth old sharpei x ridgeback for her daily swim, she has never drank the water but today with her woodtoy in her mouth inhaled under water. She vomited straight away and the poop came next. Being a Sunday afternoon there is no vet open in our location and am getting worried. She won’t drink and she’s very lethargic. If there’s anyone with something I can try before the vet opens in the morning please reply, its just not her being quiet.

  17. Pingback: The waves... they be too loud | We Live In A Flat

  18. Thank you for all this information! This happened with my little Daschund this afternoon, I didn’t realise he had taken in so much water as he was playing how he usually does at the beach, and has never had any side effects before. He was sick from both ends (the hydrant definitely describes it well), which continued on and off over an hour. I sat with him for about an hour after we got home and by then he seemed to be his usual playful self again. He had water and a bone (which didn’t have much meat on it, and I gave it to him before finding all of this information on this site!). I’ll keep an eye on him through the night though just to be sure.
    He was dragging his bottom on the ground a few times (I saw that one other person commented that their dog did this too), would this just be because he is uncomfortable?? I also noticed that he was standing as though he was peeing but there was nothing coming out, would this just be because he is dehydrated or is this a sign of something more serious??
    Thanks in advance

  19. Thank you so much for these tips! We took our Golden Retriever yesterday to the beach and he spent 2 hours of having fun but drank a LOT of sea water. He started vomiting right after and diarrhea followed. Poor thing, we took him back home and he vomited at least 3 more times. He was so dehydrated that he drank like 3 bowls of water the rest of the night. We took him out every 30 minutes just to make sure he “cleaned” his system. This morning he was so hungry he ate his normal food, but still has diarrhea. No vomiting at least, so it looks like he’s getting better, but his energy levels are zero. Lots of rest for my Shaggy today! If tomorrow diarrhea continues, we’ll take him to the vet.

  20. Thank you for your information. My Labrador did in fact have to go to the vet and was on a drip for the de-hydration caused from drinking sea water. I’m not sure if I would have thought of going to vet so early had I not read your information. Thanks again.

  21. My dog swam for the first time yesterday after seeming to not like water till now took him again today and he swam for ages he loves it but once he got out he puked then fired out the other end like a cannon almost covering a posh suit wearing gentlemans expensive looking shoes he’s drank plenty of water I only came across this article after he chugged god knows how much water but it’s been 3 hours since the incident and he’s his usually annoyingly energetic self should I still hold the feed till Tomorow? (He won’t be best pleased lol)

    • Hi Jake, sorry for the late response. I think in most situations if they seem normal and they are drinking water and using the bathroom like it’s a normal day… you’re fine to try food.

      There is obviously a sliding scale of how bad this can be, some dogs are unaffected (our dogs built up a tolerance and drink salt water all the time, the little punks) and some dogs can’t even take a slurp before they’re barfing everywhere. Sounds like your dog pushed it though his system and carried on.
      :-) Thanks for the comment, I think it will help people in the future who read this article and have had a similar experience.

  22. Quick question. My dog has the symptoms of the water projectile out of her bottom but no vomiting. When we got home she scarfed down a half a bowl of kibbles. Shes 85 lbs and normally eats 1 1/2 bowls of dry kibbles per day. I walked her after to see if she’d pass anything. A littl bit of liquid came ou but not nearly the amount she dumped earlier in the beach parking lot. Do I have anything major to worry about? I noticed alot of the comments state they waited to feed their dogs. Im a little worried now. Thank you for this blog. It’s definitely very helpful and reliving!

    • Hi Gillian,
      Sounds like your dog was a lot like Jake’s

      As I told him, it’s a sliding scale of how bad this can be. My dogs are a little ridiculous and will eat even if they are sick. If your dog barfed up the food then I would go back to square one and withhold food… but if they ate and they’re fine you should just plan an easy evening to supervise, just in case your pup starts feeling ill again.

      It’s never good to come home to sick all over the rug!

      Thanks for the question and hope your gal is feeling better.

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