Sarah Wortley wants to share her dog's near-death seawater experience so other people don't get into the same terrifying situation.
Living in Gloucester, NSW (about 100km from the coast) , Sarah takes her Labrador, Bonnie swimming in the fresh water of the Gloucester River.
It's an activity that Bonnie loves. So, when Sarah planned a holiday at Callala Beach on the NSW South Coast, she thought it was a great time to take Bonnie to the ocean for the first time.
"When she first arrived at the beach she was so excited. The sand was like icing sugar and the water perfect with small waves. We threw the ball out to sea and Bonnie went for it," Sarah said. "She got very good at jumping the waves out and riding them to shore ball in mouth."
As with many dogs, playing fetch is an activity that can last for hours and Bonnie was no exception. During one trip to the beach, Bonnie vomited before getting back in the car. Sarah gave Bonnie some fresh water before packing up for the day. After getting back to their accommodation, Bonnie's condition started to deteriorate. She collapsed on floor and couldn't raise her head.
"She looked as if she was dying." Sarah recalled
This was a huge wake up call as I and many others had never heard of this.Sarah Wortley
"Little did we know at this point that that was exactly what she was doing."
After a quick look online, Sarah came across some alarming information on the internet indicating that dogs can die from ingesting sea water. She immediately took Bonnie to the nearest veterinarian.
"The vet informed us she was 60 per cent gone. Bonnie just laid on the floor not moving. I was stunned and felt awful that every time I threw the ball out to sea I was killing my beautiful Lab."
Bloods and x-rays were taken and Bonnie was flushed out. After a couple of hours, Sarah finally got the call that Bonnie was showing signs of recovery.
"What a relief," Sarah said.
Early the next morning, she was up and eating again.
According to Gloucester veterinarian, Ashleigh Saville dogs can get upset stomachs from ingesting sea water.
"The salt will bring water from their blood/tissues into the gut, like dehydrating their other tissues and causing very runny motions and/or vomiting. Most of the time its pretty mild though," Dr Saville said.
"It's pretty uncommon - although not unheard of - for them to get very sick and die from it. Generally if the gastro progresses and you get secondary electrolyte disturbances or they physically consume so much salt that they start losing water from their body into their gut to try dilute it down," Dr Saville explained
For Sarah, it was a completely unexpected side effec effect of letting her dog play for hours at the beach.
"This was a huge wake up call as I and many others had never heard of this. I wanted to tell everyone of what happened to me and to be aware of what can happen," Sarah said. "Please watch out for your dogs at the beach. Take plenty of fresh water and limit time in the surf."
Bonnie has fully recovered and is back playing in the river.