Dog Dehydration: Signs, Symptoms, Preventions, and Treatments

Summertime means outdoor fun! However, the warmer months can quickly take a toll on humans and animals. Depending on many factors like temperatures, humidity, your attire, and health, it could be mere minutes before you’re sweating puddles. As humans, we know the importance of dressing appropriately for the outdoors, seeking shade when necessary, and staying hydrated. On the other hand, our pets rely on us to ensure they stay cool and hydrated when outside. Because July is Pet Hydration Month, now is the perfect time to discuss dog dehydration symptoms, preventions, and treatments.

How Much Water Should My Dog Drink?

The only way to make sure you don’t have a dehydrated dog is to provide him with enough water every day. How much water should a dog drink a day? It depends. On average, a dog should take in about one ounce of water per one pound of body weight. So, if your dog weighs 20 pounds, he should consume around 20 ounces or 1 1/4 cup of water. Remember, this number can vary based on other factors like the dog’s health, age, and level of activity. For example, an older dog chilling on a couch won’t require the amount of water a younger dog on a long hike during the summer would need.

Most dogs self-regulate their water intake. They drink when they are thirsty. If your dog seems to be drinking a lot of water because it’s thirsty all the time, schedule a veterinary appointment. There could be an underlying cause for excessive thirst, says Fetch by WebMD.

How Do I Know If My Dog is Dehydrated? What Are the Signs and Symptoms?

Dog dehydration can occur quickly and needs to be addressed right away. So what causes dehydration in dogs? The common reasons include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Exercise
  • Lack of fluid intake
  • Heatstroke
  • Illness/disease like diabetes, kidney disease, some types of cancer

You can provide prompt treatment and uncover potential medical issues before they become life-threatening when you know the signs of dog dehydration. Here are symptoms you should pay attention to:

  • Panting
  • Dry nose
  • Vomiting (with or without diarrhea)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Thick saliva
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Dry, sticky gums
  • Sunken, dry-looking eyes

The easiest way to test for dehydration is to test the skin’s elasticity. Gently pull up a bit of skin near a shoulder blade and let it go. If the skin immediately falls back into place, your dog is well hydrated. On the other hand, if it takes time to fall back down, your pet is dehydrated. Skin elasticity varies across breeds. The skin of wrinkly breeds like the bulldog and Neapolitan mastiff is not as elastic. For this reason, you should test the elasticity of your pet’s skin when you know he is hydrated, so you have an idea of what is “normal” for your pet.

Another quick test is the capillary fill test. Pull back your dog’s lips and press on the gums with your finger. Press gently but hard enough that the skin turns white when you remove your finger. Measure how long it takes for the color to come back to the gum. In a well-hydrated dog, the color will come back almost instantly; dehydrated dogs, it’ll take much longer.

Left untreated, dehydration in dogs can lead to organ damage and death. What to do if your dog is dehydrated? Introduce fluids.

How to Hydrate a Dog — What Do You Do?

This portable dog dish rolls up and easily tucks into a backpack or tote bag, so you can feed and water your dog when you are out and about.

Wondering what to give a dehydrated dog? You have a few options for dog dehydration treatments. Of course, water is best; however, you may be curious as to whether it’s safe to give your dog Pedialyte, Gatorade, or even chicken broth. While safe if given in small amounts, they all can make things worse rather than better for your pet. Pedialyte and Gatorade are formulated for humans. They can help replace electrolytes (essential minerals like sodium, potassium, and calcium) lost in exercise or illness. Unfortunately, the amount of sodium and sugar in these drinks can worsen your dog’s condition. What about chicken broth? Yes, you can offer your pet chicken broth, if it is low-sodium and you give it to him only in small amounts. Frozen, all-natural, non-sweeten, dog-safe fruit juice can also help rehydrate your dog.

BarxBuddy PSA: Never give a dog juice that contains grapes or xylitol as these are toxic to dogs.

Don’t let your dehydrated dog drink too much too fast because it can make him vomit. Instead, offer him a few ounces, wait about 5 minutes (to ensure he doesn’t vomit), then provide another few ounces. Repeat until you’re sure your dog won’t drink the remaining liquid too quickly or vomit.

If you believe your pet is severely dehydrated, suffering from heatstroke, or has persistent vomiting, take your dog to your veterinarian or emergency pet hospital immediately.

Bottom Line: 3 Tips to Prevent and Treat Dehydration in Dogs

  • ALWAYS make sure your pet has access to clean water.
  • Bring water and a portable water bowl with you when you and your dog head outdoors.
  • Limit how much time your pet spends in hot temps.

Get out there and enjoy the long days of summer while you can, just be sure you AND your furry friend drink up!

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