the dangers of salt poisoning

The Dangers Of Salt Poisoning | ginger white rough collie walking on beach drinking from a water bottle
Posted by Dr. Rebecca Jackson on Jun 24 2013

Now that the weather is warming up, you and your family are probably moving outdoors for playtime. Long forgotten are the indoor activities and all of those crafts that you came up with to entertain your antsy kids and pets while they were stuck inside.Your kids are probably trading in their home-made play dough and puzzles for swing sets and sand buckets. It can be during these transitions that we sometimes lose track of things, and they can end up becoming unwanted toys for our four legged friends. Although safe for your kids, home-made play dough is one of a few things that can actually be quite toxic to your pets if ingested. Why? The salt. Believe it or not, but salt can actually be toxic to pets. And homemade play dough isn’t the only culprit.

Sources of salt toxicity

Other sources of salt toxicity (also known as hypernatremia) for animals include paintballs, rock salt, table salt, enemas, seawater, etc. That’s right! Those wonderful long walks on the beach with your dog bounding in and out of the water can be detrimental if certain precautions are not followed. Don’t let your dog drink to his heart’s content from the salty water, and make sure you bring along a bottle of water just for your four legged friend, and offer the fresh water frequently.

Signs and symptoms of salt toxicity 

So what does a pet look like if they are suffering from salt toxicity? Common clinical signs include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, incoordination, excessive thirst, excessive urination, tremors, seizures and sometimes death. Of course, there is usually an indication that they got into something (torn packaging, play dough remnants on the floor or in the vomitus, missing salt shakers, etc.).

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So, what do you do if you suspect that your pet got into something with a high salt content? Call your vet, or an emergency vet if after hours, and have your pet seen as soon as possible. Your vet will do a thorough exam, may recommend inducing vomiting if recent ingestion occurred and will likely recommend blood work, including electrolytes. Treatment involves hospitalization, careful intravenous fluid therapy, symptomatic care (treating any nausea, vomiting, etc.), and re-establishing electrolyte balances. There is a concern for brain swelling, so it is imperative that your pet remain in your vet’s care until electrolyte balances are restored.

Salt toxicity can be life threatening to pets, so the sooner you are able to get your pet to a veterinary hospital and begin therapy, the better. Don’t let your summer fun be ruined by an unexpected ER visit and a pet insurance claim! As you and your family prepare to move outdoors, make sure that those soon-to-be-forgotten indoor crafts, and soon-to-be-accessible outdoor activities are pet proof.

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