Summer brings its share of pet emergencies from exposure to water—whether chlorinated, salt or fresh—so review these common toxicities explained by the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center and be ready!
Ocean creatures: Starfish, jellyfish, sea urchins, squid—there are a lot of critters in the water that can cause harm. Fortunately most of them live far enough out in the water that most pets won’t come in contact with them. Pets often find sea creatures dead on the shore when they are likely to pose less of a problem.
Salt water: Many dogs just love playing in the waves—and when they do they can drink a lot of salt water in a short time. Because of the salinity, hypernatremia can occur. Clinical signs may include vomiting, polydipsia, ataxia, depression, tremors and seizures.
Red tide: This is a common name for an algal bloom caused by certain species of dinoflagellates; they are recognizable by their red-brown color. Not all red tides produce toxins, however when they do regional differences are noted.
Brevetoxins are primarily isolated from blooms in the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf of California. Concerns may include ocular and respiratory irritation, gastroenteritis, disorientation, ataxia and possible seizures. Pets can become ill from drinking the water, eating dead fish (mainly bivalves), or inhalation.
On the northern Atlantic and Pacific coasts, paralytic shellfish poisoning may occur and is often noted by ataxia, restlessness, paralysis, tachycardia and potentially respiratory distress. Pets generally become ill by eating contaminated shellfish, particularly bivalve shellfish.
Blue green algae: Salt water has its red tides and fresh water has its blue green algae. The latter is a phylum of bacteria that gets the name from its color. Large accumulations or “blooms” of these organisms can be found in lakes, ponds and rivers. These bacteria can produce several types of very nasty toxins with microcystin (hepatotoxic syndrome) and anatoxin–a (neurological signs) being the most notable.
Sunscreen: Not one of the bigger worries at the beach, but make sure you know the basics by reading up on the common ingredients and potential concerns of sunscreens.
Pool chemicals: Chlorine, pool shock, pH balancer; there seems to be a never-ending list of pool chemicals. Even so, there are limited concerns, mainly gastrointestinal upset and oral and gastrointestinal ulceration.
Water intoxication: This scenario is the same as at the beach; the pet is having fun playing in the water and ends up drinking a lot. But instead of become hypernatremic like with salt water, the pet becomes hyponatremic. Pet owners often don’t think their pets drink that much, so a good history is important along with knowing the common signs: nausea, vomiting, lethargy, ataxia, weakness, coma, seizures and hypothermia.