signs of dehydration in dogs

Signs of Dehydration in Dogs

Reviewed by Lauren Goode, DVM

Being able to notice the signs of dehydration in dogs can be the difference between life and death.

Water is essential for all creatures on this planet. It’s vital for survival and body functioning.

When your dog loses more water and electrolytes than they take in, dehydration happens and the dog’s body will break down.

Dehydration in dogs is a serious emergency issue.

It can lead to digestion and joints issues, loss of consciousness, kidney disease, and in severe cases – death.

Read more to know about the signs of dehydration in dogs, how to treat and prevent it from happening.

What Is Dehydration in Dogs?

signs of dehydration in dogs

Dehydration in dogs happens when they lose more water and electrolytes than they take in.

Water is essential for the dog’s body, it helps the cells in the body to absorb nutrients.

Moreover, water contains electrolytes, which are minerals that dogs need to keep their bodies healthy.

They include sodium, chloride, and potassium.

These help to move nutrients into cells, balance the body’s pH, promote muscle function, and control nerve function.

It’s normal for the dog to gain and lose water throughout the day.

While panting, breathing, urinating, and evaporation through the paws, normal water loss will occur, where it’s compensated by eating and drinking.

However, if the dog loses more water than they take in, dehydration occurs.

This results in reduction of blood flow and the volume of fluids.

This results in reducing the delivery of oxygen to the organs and tissues.

Causes of Dehydration

signs of dehydration in dogs

If your dog doesn’t drink or eat enough, he may be prone to dehydration.

There are different reasons why your dog won’t drink or eat enough.

These include having a heat stroke or fever, lethargy, excessive loss of fluids through vomiting and diarrhea.

Moreover, urinating frequently and in large amounts, as a result of underlying health issues like kidney failure, diabetes or other internal problems, all contribute to the causes of dehydration.

It’s important to see your vet, if your dog shows any changes in their urination behavior, or drinking habits.

Signs of Dehydration in Dogs

signs of dehydration in dogs

Our canine friends can’t really tell us when they are thirsty.

That’s why it’s important to know when your dog suffers from dehydration.

Signs of dehydration in dogs include loss of skin elasticity, and you can check that by gently pulling on your dog’s skin. If it doesn’t go back to its original position quickly, your dog is likely dehydrated.

Dry and sticky gums is also a sign of dehydration. You can check your dog’s gums by doing a test called capillary refill time.

Press your finger gently on the dog’s gums, and remove your it quickly. For well dehydrated dogs, the gums will turn white for a second and then turn to it’s normal pink color.

In dehydrated dogs, the gums will take longer to turn back to it’s normal color. In addition, the saliva would be thick.

Other symptoms of dehydration include loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, panting, dry nose, and in extreme cases, sunken eyes or collapsing.

How to Treat Dehydration in Dogs

signs of dehydration in dogs

If you notice signs of dehydration on your dog, you should make sure he drinks sufficient amounts of water, especially in the hot seasons.

In addition, the dog may also need more electrolytes replaced, by giving him an electrolyte-enhanced fluid like Pedialyte.

You should always consult your vet before giving him such fluids.

If the dog has severe dehydration and shows signs like constant vomiting, or you suspect a heatstroke, you should take him to an emergency vet immediately.

You can start with the rehydration process on your way to the vet, by offering your dog small amounts of water.

The vet will give the dog intravenous fluids to quickly replace the fluids that were lost, by placing the dog on a drip.

If the case was mild, they usually add fluids under the skin, which is absorbed over a few hours.

Oral rehydration solutions can also be used if the dog is able to take in more fluids.

Depending on the dog’s condition, the vet may prescribe antibiotics, anti-sickness medications and pain relievers.

Your vet may also want to diagnose the underlying cause behind dehydration, by doing any necessary blood tests or X-rays.

Finally, a blood sample is an easy way to determine the severity of the dog’s dehydration, identify the cause behind it, and the needed treatment.

How to Prevent Dehydration in Dogs

signs of dehydration in dogs

The best thing to do to prevent your dog from having dehydration is to provide him with a constant and regular clean water intake, especially when you take him outside.

Always make sure that his water bowls are full, and you can also give him ice cubes to chew on, or add a flavor to the water.

Dogs require at least one ounce of water per day for each pound of body weight.

Your vet can help you measure how much water your dog needs depending on his age, weight, and condition.

When to See a Veterinarian

signs of dehydration in dogs

If you notice signs of dehydration on your dog like panting, loss of appetite, vomiting, or diarrhea, it’s better to call your vet.

The vet will prescribe electrolyte enhanced fluids, to compensate for the loss of electrolytes, and to prevent having severe dehydration.

He would also want to diagnose the underlying reason behind dehydration.

Finally, if your dog is having constant vomiting, sunken eyes, or you suspect a heat stroke, you should immediately call your vet to start the rehydration process and treatment.

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