Hyponatremia: a word few dog owners may be aware of. However, it describes a potentially fatal condition that could affect your dog, and even kill your dog. And if you allow your dog to swim, or play with the hose, it is a word you should definitely know the meaning of! It is the reason why we, at Bach Canine Rehab, are a bit weird about dogs having toys in the pool, especially tennis balls. It is the reason we may use a toy only as a lure, and not allow a dog to take the toy off the water line. It is the reason we may, if your dog demonstrates water catching or extreme drinking behaviour in the pool, opt to work in the underwater treadmill where these behaviours can be better controlled. So what is it?

Hyponatremia means low blood sodium levels, and can also be known in this format as water toxicity. It happens when the body takes on more water than it is able to process. This excess of water dilutes the extracellular fluid, causing electrolyte levels, particularly sodium, to drop. The cells then begin taking on more water, to maintain balance between outside and inside the cells, and so begin to swell. As sodium maintains blood pressure, nerve and muscle function, without it, the body’s systems begin to fail. Cells all over the body, including in the brain, begin to swell.

What symptoms does this cause? The dog can seem fine immediately after taking on a lot of water, but his/her condition will deteriorate quite rapidly, and they will show symptoms such as staggering / loss of co-ordination, lethargy, nausea, bloating, vomiting and excessive salivation. If the dog has taken on a lot of water, these symptoms can progress to difficulty breathing, collapse, seizures, coma and death. If your dog displays any of the above symptoms after playing in water, contact your vet immediately.

So what relevance does this have, to us as dog owners, and as hydrotherapists? Dogs can very easily take on too much water if grabbing for toys off the waterline (whether in a pool, lake or pond), or if they like playing with the hosepipe in the garden.

How do we stop this happening? Well, this is why we get weird about toys in the water! And would also suggest that if you throw a ball for your dog to retrieve in a pond or lake on walks, you are very careful about how much, and how often. Tennis balls are particularly dangerous as they soak up a lot of water, which then sprays back down the dog’s mouth as they chew the ball. We would also advise not letting your dog play with the garden hose, especially if they enjoy biting at the spray.

Playing in water can be hugely beneficial and satisfying for your dog, particularly in hot spells – being aware of hyponatremia or water toxicity means you can enjoy the water with your dog, whilst being clued up on the risks!

Don’t just take our word for it: other blogs on hyponatremia:





Tips for looking after your dog with arthritis

Finding out your best friend has arthritis and is getting older and slower can be upsetting, but there are ways and means you can support your dog, and help them be the best they can be!

Speak to your vet regarding suitable pain relief and any supplements that might help – there are lots of options out there so there is no need for your dog to be in pain or discomfort.

For old, arthritic joints, movement can be very helpful, so don’t stop the walks unless advised to do so by your vet. However, a long walk followed by the rest of the day on the sofa is guaranteed to lead to stiffness! So short, regular walks are the best way to avoid this. Walking little and often keeps joints moving and lubricated and avoids them stiffening up, which can be painful. If the weather is nice, sit outside a café, or in a park with your dog, so that they can be outside socialising without clocking up the miles!

Providing a suitable bed for your dog at home will help them to rest comfortably. An important thing to bear in mind when choosing a bed to support an arthritic dog is to find a balance between softness and support. If the bed is too firm, they may not find it comfortable however if it is too soft they may struggle to be able to get themselves up and out! Memory foam mattress style beds provide support without creating pressure points and are available in a range of styles and thicknesses. (Lots of options are available on the Internet or in your local pet store). Flat mattress style beds also allow your dog to rest lying flat without having to curl up or keep joints flexed, which may not be comfortable.

Unfortunately, playing with balls is very high impact exercise, so even if tennis balls are your dog’s favourite thing, avoiding this type of play will definitely help alleviate any flare ups of discomfort. Jumping in and out of the car, on and off the sofa, or running up and downstairs can produce high concussive forces on the joints, so try to avoid or provide support during these activities. For small dogs, lift them in these situations as much as possible – for larger dogs, consider a suitable harness, or even a car ramp, so that you can help support them without incurring your own injuries!

Keeping your elderly dog nice and trim will also mean less weight on sore joints, and will make life much easier and more comfortable for them. If you are struggling with weight loss, ask your vet as many vet practices run weight loss clinics.

More helpful advice can be found at https://www.caninearthritis.co.uk.