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


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