1. Salt Water Toxicity

Salt toxicity or hypernatremia (excessive body sodium)  occurs when there is too much sodium in the blood. This Electrolyte (or body salt) imbalance occurs when there is excessive sodium in the body, or possibly a decrease in body water.

How does a dog get salt water toxicity

There are many ways our pets can get salt toxicity. This includes the use of salt pastes when trying to induce vomiting at home, ingestion of sea water, ingestion of pool water (salt water pools) and eating playdough. Sometimes excessive water loss from the body (eg vomiting, dehydration ) can be a cause.

    Clinical signs of salt water toxicity

    • Excessive panting
    • Excessive thirst
    • Excessive urination
    • Weakness
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Confusion
    • Head pressing
    • Staggering
    • Mental depression
    • Twitching or trembling muscles
    • Seizures
    • Coma

    How to avoid salt water toxicity

    Avoid the use of salt pastes to induce vomiting. Monitor your pet while at the beach and discourage drinking of sea water. A thirsty dog drinks – they don’t always pay attention to what they’re drinking.  Lots of salt can even be ingested just from toys that get soaked in salt water that they squish and squeeze with their mouths! Keep an eye on your dog’s water ingestion while at the beach and take them out of the water if it seems excessive. Always make fresh water available so they do not feel tempted to drink the sea water.

    2. Sand Impaction

    Sand impaction happens when a dog ingests sand. This can be because something tasty has fallen into the sand and the dog eats the sand along with the food.  Playing at the beach can also lead to sand impaction when picking up toys from the sand, or in some cases dogs just eat it! Though usually owners are often unaware that the dog has eaten sand in any quantity until they see the x-rays.

    Signs of sand impaction

    • Vomiting
    • Abdominal pain
    • Constipation/ straining to defecate
    • Tiredness/  lack of energy
    • Loss of appetite

    How to avoid sand impaction

    This can be a challenge as the ingestion is often accidental. Monitoring your pet while at the beach, limit access to sand pits and teach your dog the ‘leave’ command, to prevent them eating unwanted things, such as a sausage that has fallen on the sand.


    Depending on how much sand has been eaten, sometime hospitalisation is required. They are placed on fluid therapy and can be given medications to assist on moving the sand along the intestines. Usually this isn’t life threatening, but can cause quite a bit of discomfort along the way.

    3. Fish Hook Ingestion

    Whether you’re an angler with a furry fishing companion or someone who walks your pet near a popular fishing spot, it’s smart to know how to avoid a fishing accident and what to do if your pet gets hooked. It only takes an instant. Your dog sniffs out and snacks on bait or a fish attached to a hook and the hook ends up stuck in her mouth, throat, stomach or embedded in their skin. If your dog swallows a fish hook, do your best to keep them calm and seek veterinary assistance immediately.

    If there is line hanging from their mouth DO NOT pull on it as this can cause or worsen internal injuries. If your dog has a fish hook embedded in their paw, piercing a lip or stuck anywhere else on their body, cover the area so your pet doesn’t gnaw, lick, or tug at the fishing hook and exacerbate the injuries and seek veterinary assistance immediately.


    If your animal has swallowed a hook it may be able to be retrieved with an endoscope. This is a non invasive method to look into the stomack and remove foreign objects. If it is deeply embedded into the stomach sometime surgery may be needed.

    Skin piercings usually can be removed with your animal heavily sedated to prevent struggling during the hook removal.

    4. Tetrodotoxin

    Tetrodotoxin is a toxin found in the skin and within the internal organs of a puffer and toad fish. In Japan, fugu (puffer fish) is considered a delicacy and chefs prepare the fish so that diners experience a small tingle or numbness to the lips when eaten.  If ingested in enough quantities however, puffer fish can be fatal to both humans and pets. This toxin interrupts normal electrical signal in the nerves and can cause fatal paralysis.

    Where and when do you find puffer fish

    During the spring and summer months, puffer fish toxicity is relatively common, however, due to our warm climate, we can see them year-round. The abundance of dog-friendly beaches, canals and salt water rivers means both cats and dogs have access to these fish, either when they wash up on the sand or have been caught and discarded by fishermen. Always supervise your dogs at the beach!

    Signs of Tetrodotoxin 

    • Vomiting and diarrhoea
    • Trembling and drooling
    • Wobbly when walking
    • Limb weakness/dizziness
    • Difficulty breathing which can lead to respiratory failure
    • Blue-tinged gums
    • Dilated pupils and reduced blink
    • Paralysis


    • No antidote is available, and supportive care is required with severe paralysis
    • When paralysis involves the respiratory muscles, then intensive care, such as mechanical ventilation, may be required
    • Symptoms can occur anywhere from as little as 60 minutes and can take up to 5 days to resolve


    Harvey the Tabby: Paralysis Tick

    One Saturday evening tabby cat Harvey began wheezing and meowing ever so strangely. On Sunday morning, he appeared to have difficulty breathing and was uninterested in food. By Sunday evening, worried owner Dennis noticed that he hadn't moved all day, collapsed when...

    Prepare Your Pet Bushfire Plan

    Preparing to leave with your pet is an important part of your bushfire plan. In this blog, Dr Gerardo Poli shares tips and instructions to follow to keep your pet safe during a bushfire.Keep up to date with Bushfire activity:It is important that you keep...

    Ruby Eats a Sewing Needle

    What would cause a normally calm and mild-tempered puppy to start yelping, screaming and crying out of the blue and cowering away from her family? Ruby’s unusual behaviour was later explained at our Carrara clinic when a sharp foreign object was found lodged deep...

    Bullie’s Story: Bones and a Bottle Cap

    One morning, Bullie's owners found little their 15-week-old Bull Terrier snacking on a cooked rib bone. Suddenly, he swallowed it whole, in one gulp! The family rushed him to Animal Emergency Service immediately. Dr Brooke quickly took x-rays to see if the bone was...

    Mission Critical

    Originally published in Vet Practice Magazine June 26, 2019 Within the emergency veterinarian industry, understanding new techniques and best practices are of the utmost importance, as it can mean the difference between life and death. However, finding the time to...

    Sushi: The Importance of Regular Vet Checks

    Meet Sushi, a fierce young feline with a gorgeous coat of fur and a perfectly scrumptious name. Sushi visited her vet for a routine dental and groom. Being a young adult cat, she was seemingly healthy and normal as one would expect. Thankfully she has regular vet...

    Emergency Veterinarian 

    Due to continual growth within the hospital, we are now on the lookout for experienced full-time or part-time Emergency Veterinarian to join the team.

    Flip’s Stick Injury – Dangerous Dog Toys

    Playing a fun game of fetch with your best friend is one of life’s simple pleasures and not one you’d expect to end in the emergency hospital. It may still come as a surprise to some dog owners to hear that as well as being a choking hazard, sticks can cause severe...

    Grass Seeds Pandemonium

    Meet Panda. Panda presented to Animal Emergency Service at Carrara one weekend with acute back pain and elevated temperature. He had no previous history of spinal issues that could potentially bring on these problems and with further testing (x-rays and bloods) still,...

    Staff Profile: Laura – PICU Nurse

    Laura Greenup Pet Intensive Care Unit Vet Nurse Certificate 4 Veterinary Nursing When did you join the Pet ICU? I joined Pet Intensive Care Unit (PICU) in April 2017 after working at Animal Emergency Service (AES) for four years. What drew you to helping animals? I...

    How useful was this post?

    Click on a star to rate it!