How to tell a dog is dehydrated?
Like human bodies, water is a major constituent of animal bodies too. The average value for water content in animals ranges between 63% – 80%. Now, dehydration in dogs occurs due to the loss of more water and electrolytes from the body than being consumed by the pet. It is a common medical emergency encountered frequently by vets.
It is completely normal for a dog to gain and lose water in its body throughout the day. Normal water loss happens when the dog pants, breaths, urinates, defecates, and evaporates through the paws. Like humans, dogs can compensate for their water loss by eating and drinking
Panting, breathing, urinating, defecating, and evaporation through the paws all contribute to normal water loss, which your dog compensates for by eating and drinking.
Dehydration in dogs is due to a severe loss of water and electrolytes from the body and can ultimately lead to the shutting down of several organ systems in the body. It is a serious medical emergency that can lead to loss of consciousness or kidney failure or may even cost your dog their life in extreme cases.
Identifying the signs your dog is dehydrated can help save your pet’s life in an emergency. If you notice any dog signs of dehydration, then rush him to his vet immediately.
How does dehydration in dogs occur?
Dehydration in dogs occurs when the loss of fluids and electrolytes cannot be compensated by the amount of liquid they consume. In such a case, the blood volume of your dog’s body decreases, and the amount of oxygen getting delivered to vital organs and tissues also reduces.
The loss of electrolytes such as chloride, sodium, potassium, etc., can also hamper the pH balance of your dog’s body and give rise to systemic signs and symptoms. It can also affect your dog’s muscle activity, tone, and even nerve function in extreme cases of dehydration.
What causes dehydration in dogs?
If your dog isn’t eating or drinking well, it can be at an increased risk for dehydration. The causes behind dog dehydration can be both non-medical and medical. Non-medical causes include reasons such as refusing to drink water or eat food. At the same time, medical reasons include – underlying infection, pain, nausea, lethargy, diarrhea, vomiting, increased urination due to diabetes or kidney failure, etc.
Heatstroke in dogs is one of the common causes of dehydration. When a dog’s body temperature rises above 105.8℉arenheit (41℃elsius), certainly the dog gets heat stress or heatstroke in a short time. Whenever the dog is left unattended inside a closed parking car/vehicle, there are high chances of heatstroke in dogs. This can lead to dehydration in them. In other cases, strenuous exercise, non-stop seizure activity, and heat-related illnesses can be the causes.
That said, the loss of water due to the above-mentioned conditions can usually be compensated by drinking a large volume of water. However, in case you notice any changes in your dog’s feeding or urinating habits, seek a veterinary consultation immediately.
Pro tip: Never leave your dog or any pet in a closed vehicle, while on the roads or left behind in parking. The temperature inside the vehicle rises soon than the outside temperature. It is always best to leave your dog at home. You can monitor the ambient temperature changes using Waggle Pet Monitor.
Summer is near. Keep your Dog safe. Know these 5 signs of Heatstroke in Your Dog
Symptoms of dehydration
Pets can’t tell their parents about how they’re feeling, unfortunately. This is why it is even more important for all the pet parents out there to watch for the warning signs of dehydration in dogs. The easiest sign to detect dehydration in dogs is to check the loss of skin elasticity and whether your dog’s gums are white and sticky. Other common signs of dehydration in dogs are
- Loss of appetite: Dogs may become lethargic and lose interest in food when dehydrated.
- Sunken eyes: The eyes may appear sunken or dull, losing their normal shine.
- Dry nose and gums: A healthy dog's nose and gums should be moist. Dryness in these areas can be a sign of dehydration.
- Increased heart rate: Dehydration can cause a faster heart beat in dogs as it tries to compensate for the lack of fluid in its system.
- Elasticity loss in skin: One of the most common signs of dehydration is the loss of elasticity in the skin. A simple way to check this is by gently pulling up the skin on the back of your dog's neck. In a well-hydrated dog, the skin should quickly return to its normal position. If the skin stays 'tented,' your dog might be dehydrated.
- Panting or rapid breathing: Dogs may pant or breathe rapidly when they're dehydrated, as they try to cool down and circulate oxygen more efficiently.
Can You Test Your Dog for Dehydration?
If you notice any of the signs and symptoms of dog dehydration mentioned above, you can also perform some simple tests to check for it. The most commonly used test is the ‘skin tent test’ to check the elasticity of your dog’s skin.
All you need to do is pinch the skin on top of your dog’s head or back and release it. If the skin goes back to normal as soon as you release it, your dog is well hydrated. If it goes back slowly, your dog is on the verge of dehydration. It’s best to start feeding them more fluids in such a case. However, if the skin doesn’t go back to normal, it means that it has lost all its moisture, and your dog is dehydrated.
Although this test can come in pretty handy at home, it is not 100% reliable. It does not give accurate results in older dogs and those with thick furry coats.
Another standard test is the ‘capillary refill time.’ To perform this test, gently press your index finger against your dog’s gums and remove it. If the pressed area turns from white to normal pink within seconds, your dog is well hydrated. However, if it takes longer for it to return to its normal color, it’s a sign of dehydration.
How to treat a dehydrated dog?
The emergency treatment for dog dehydration is to place your dog on a drip. This will help prevent further loss of electrolytes and water from your pet’s body. Another standard procedure that the vet can employ to rehydrate your dog’s body is depositing a small amount of fluid under its skin. The water will then be absorbed naturally by your dog’s body in a few hours. It is used to treat only mild cases of dog dehydration.
Your pet can be in a condition to keep fluids down. In that case, your vet might prescribe oral rehydration solutions, electrolytes for dogs, or electrolyte water for dogs to restore electrolyte balance. If there is an underlying infection, the vet might prescribe certain antibiotics to alleviate the infection.
How do Vets rehydrate dogs?
The best way to treat dehydration in dogs is to drip the pet.
It replaces any fluid loss and also prevents further dehydration. Another method of dog rehydration is administering fluid under the skin to form a ‘camel-shaped’ hump. The liquid is absorbed over a few hours. However, it’s less effective for treating dehydration in dogs.
Oral rehydration solutions are another method unless the pets want to drink them. Depending on the symptoms, antibiotics, anti-sickness medications, and pain relief are given.
How to prevent dehydration in dogs?
The risk of dehydration in dogs increases during the summer season. To protect your dog from dehydration, here are some simple tips and tricks that you can follow:
- Ensure that your dog drinks water equivalent to at least 50-60 ml/kg of its body weight every day.
- Check your dog’s bowl every few hours to notice any changes in its feeding or drinking habits.
- To prevent the accumulation of harmful bacteria, clean your dog’s feeding bowl diligently.
- Whenever you’re out with your dog, make sure that you carry a water bottle for your dog with you.
- Avoid doing strenuous exercises with your dog in the scorching summer heat.
Now you are up-to-date with the knowledge of dehydration in dogs and what you, as a dog parent, can do to prevent it. So we hope that you and your dog will be able to beat the summer heat this season!
How long can dogs go without water?
Water consumption is a must for every living being. It turns into a dangerous situation when the pet parent left the dog unattended for hours or days. A few dogs based on their breed, size, and condition can withstand. But even healthy dogs can struggle to live when it has no chance for water consumption. It’s a threat for dogs with kidney disease.
Dogs or any pets should have fresh water to consume every day. As a rule of thumb, dogs should drink around 50 to 60ml of water per kg of body weight.
That's a wrap!
Dehydration in dogs is a serious condition, but can be preventable with a little foresight and care. Regularly monitoring your dog's water intake, adjusting their activities in extreme weather, and being mindful of any changes in their health can go a long way in preventing dehydration. Your dog's health and well-being depend on you, so remember the importance of hydration and help your furry friend stay happy, healthy, and hydrated.