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What is Drowning (Near Drowning)?

Immediate death by drowning can occur when a dog inhales a large amount of water. Many dogs rescued from water inhale only a small amount, insufficient to cause immediate death, but enough to create serious breathing problems. In some cases, the dog may appear to be fine at first but will develop respiratory difficulty later as the inhaled water begins to interfere with gas exchange in the lungs. These symptoms, called near drowning or submersion syndrome, can take as long as 24 hours after the original incident to manifest. 1-3 ml of water per kilogram of your dog’s weight will cause near drowning, while 4 ml per kilogram or more will result in immediate death by drowning. As submersion syndrome progresses, inhaled water dilutes the surface lining of the lungs and enters the alveoli where it inhibits the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. This leads to respiratory acidosis, a drop in the normal blood oxygen level. As this condition continues, it creates further complications including high blood pressure, ruptured capillaries, hypothermia and lack of oxygen to the brain. The inhalation of salt water can cause problems in smaller quantities since the saline content of the water will cause the alveoli to take on more fluid. Symptoms of near drowning need immediate treatment and very severe cases can still end up being fatal.

Dogs that inhale too much water will die immediately from drowning. When smaller amounts of water are inhaled this doesn’t immediately result in death; however respiratory difficulties often develop as much as 24 hours later. Veterinarians define this condition as near drowning or submersion syndrome. It is a very serious problem and severe cases may still be fatal.

Drowning (Near Drowning) Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $1,000 - $15,000

Average Cost

$9,000

Symptoms of Drowning (Near Drowning) in Dogs

If your dog has fallen into water or you think he may have inhaled water, you should seek veterinary treatment even if there are no symptoms. These are some of the signs you will see as submersion syndrome progresses. They should be treated as an emergency.

  • Labored or open-mouthed breathing
  • Irregular breathing
  • Posture changes
  • Weak pulse
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Hypothermia 
  • Cyanosis (changes in the color of mucous membranes)

A vet may diagnose:

  • Pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs)
  • Acidosis (blood PH well below 7)
  • Low oxygen saturation

Types

There are several types of conditions related to near drowning.

  • Drowning – death from asphyxia or lack of oxygen due to water immersion
  • Submersion syndrome or near drowning – complications related to water inhalation that require medical care
  • Secondary drowning – death from submersion or near drowning more than 24 hours after the incident
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Causes of Drowning (Near Drowning) in Dogs

  • Falling into a swimming pool – swimming pools present a significant hazard to dogs. Most dogs will be unable to climb out of a swimming pool due to the high edge, unless they swim toward the steps; teaching your dog to find the steps in a swimming pool can help to save his life
  • Drinking from a hose – this is difficult for a dog and may cause him to accidently inhale water
  • Mouth cleaned out with a hose – this may seem like a good idea if your dog has ingested some type of poison or toxic substance, but it can lead to other issues
  • Inhaling water during swimming – if you think your dog may have inhaled water, it’s as well to seek treatment
  • Swimming in salt water – be especially cautious with salt water since a smaller amount can cause problems
  • Throwing balls in water causing water inhalation when fetched
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Diagnosis of Drowning (Near Drowning) in Dogs

If your dog is showing severe symptoms of respiratory difficulty, the veterinarian will start treatment immediately without further diagnosis. Blood will likely be taken to measure PH and salt levels which will help to determine the severity of the condition. A pupil dilation test could be used to check for fluid build-up in the brain. For mild symptoms without a known cause, the veterinarian may take radiographs or ultrasound to look for fluid in the lungs. These tests could also be performed after the immediate symptoms are stabilized if you are not sure what happened. Lung disease and some other conditions could cause similar symptoms. Describing the symptoms exactly as well as any incidents where your dog may have inhaled water will be helpful.

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Treatment of Drowning (Near Drowning) in Dogs

Immediately after removing your dog from the water, you should attempt to clear the airways. Perform CPR and mouth to nose resuscitation if he is not breathing. Wrap your dog in a blanket to keep him warm, but don’t constrict his movement or cover the mouth or nose. Get to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

The veterinarian will administer oxygen immediately, either through a mask or via a ventilator if your dog is not breathing on his own. Oxygen treatment will need to be continued until your dog’s blood has reached a normal level.

Sedation or tranquilizers will often be given to prevent stress and anxiety which can further weaken your dog. Fluid treatment and electrolytes are administered intravenously as necessary. Antibiotics are usually not given in cases of near drowning, unless there is reason to believe there is a pneumonia that is bacteria related. Mannitol (a diuretic) may be prescribed for cases where fluid in the brain has led to increased intracranial pressure. The veterinarian will monitor your pet’s body temperature and treat hypothermia as needed.

Your dog will need to remain in a veterinary hospital until it is ascertained that all body systems have fully recovered. Severe submersion syndrome can lead to failure in a number or organs, including the brain, liver, and kidneys, as well as the lungs. Regular heart rate and blood pressure monitoring will be necessary. The veterinarian may order other treatments as additional problems present themselves.

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Recovery of Drowning (Near Drowning) in Dogs

Recovery will depend on the severity of the symptoms and the diagnosis of the veterinarian upon examination. Dogs with mild symptoms who are treated quickly can make a full recovery. Prevention is the most effective form of management. Cover or gate all swimming pools and teach your dog ways to get out on his own. Install a dog ramp in your pool if necessary. Don’t leave running hoses unattended and monitor your dog whenever he is swimming or paddling, especially in salt water.

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Drowning (Near Drowning) Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $1,000 - $15,000

Average Cost

$9,000

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Drowning (Near Drowning) Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Beagle

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Three Years

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Unknown severity

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12 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Trouble Breathing When It Happened.

He fell into the pool and was submerged for not even a second and got out and started making a noise then after a little he was fine he is now acting normal

Aug. 17, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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12 Recommendations

So sorry to hear about your dog. He may have inhaled some water causing him to have trouble breathing. If he is acting fine, you may be able to watch him and see if he shows any more signs. If he is acting normal now he may be just fine. If he ever starts having issues, it would be best to see your vet right away.

Aug. 17, 2020

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Bentley

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Golden Retriever

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8 Months

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Fair severity

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7 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Gagging Sound

My 8 month old golden retriever was playing in about 4 inches of water in our bath tub (no soap), as he has many times before. He played for about 5 minutes. When we got out, about 5 minutes later he made a sound I’ve never heard before. It was kind of like a gagging sound. He did it 3 times. It has been 3 hours now. He ate dinner as usual and has peed. So far he seems totally normal otherwise than those three small gagging sounds he initially made. Should we be worried about dry drowning or water in the lungs?

Sept. 1, 2018

Bentley's Owner

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Drowning (Near Drowning) Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $1,000 - $15,000

Average Cost

$9,000

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