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Victoria dog owner warns others of water intoxication after dog’s death

Jessie Weninger said it was a “very rare, freak accident”
Winter, Jessie Weninger’s dog who died likely due to water intoxication, was an avid swimmer and loved playing in the water, according to Weninger. (Courtesy of Jessie Weninger)

A Victoria dog owner is warning others of the risks of water intoxication after her dog died in a “very rare, freak accident.”

Jessie Weninger was out in the garden with her border collie Winter on a sunny day on June 11. Weninger had set up a paddling pool for Winter with a few inches of water to play in. The dog was an avid swimmer and had played in the water many times before. But this time something was different.

In less than an hour, Winter was panting and asked to be let inside. When Weninger opened the door, Winter threw up a large amount of water and started shaking, drooling and whimpering. Weninger rushed her dog to the Canada Central Victoria Veterinary Hospital, while Winter was going in and out of consciousness in the back seat. The veterinarians took Winter and performed CPR but couldn’t resuscitate him.

“The whole ordeal was very quick and pretty intense as well,” said Weninger.

Weninger said the vets told her Winter had consumed large amounts of water and had low sodium levels, signs of water intoxication. Although rare, the condition can happen when dogs are playing games in the water that involve retrieving items or biting at a pressurized jet of water like a hose, according to SPCA Ouest, a shelter in Quebec. Consuming too much water too quickly can lead to low sodium levels, which can cause cells to fill up with water and swell. If that happens in the brain, it can be fatal, especially for smaller dogs.

In the aftermath, Weninger took to social media to warn other dog owners of the risks.

“Winter loved the water. I would take him to the lake with me and he’d be swimming all day. So that’s why this particular incident was so uncalled for in a way because Winter was just such an experienced swimmer, he loved the water.”

Signs and symptoms of water intoxication include loss of coordination, lethargy, bloating, vomiting, glazed eyes, excessive salivation, difficulty breathing, seizures, and falling into a coma, according to SPCA Ouest. If a dog is showing signs of those symptoms, they recommend calling a veterinarian immediately.

“I remember when I was posting online, it wasn’t a matter to scare people or cause a panic in anyone – it was just, unfortunately, this happens and it happened to my dog,” she said. “I would hate for this to happen to somebody else and have them go through the pain and loss I experienced from losing Winter.”

A good way to prevent water intoxication is making sure dogs have breaks in between stretches of playing in water.

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