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Dehydration in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Dehydration in dogs is a condition that can have serious consequences for their health. All living organisms need water. Humans and animals alike need water to survive, and when they become dehydrated, it can lead to various health issues. 

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Dehydration in Dogs: How Does It Happen?

Dehydration in dogs occurs when there is an insufficient amount of water in their body. Water plays a vital role in the functioning of a dog’s organs, tissues, and cells. Without an adequate supply of water, any living organism cannot survive.

Some of water’s essential functions include:

  • Transport of nutrients: Water is a medium for transporting essential nutrients throughout the body. 
  • Removal of waste products: Water is necessary for the excretion of waste products and toxins from the body. 
  • Thermoregulation: Water helps regulate body temperature by facilitating the cooling process through the body. 
  • Digestion: Water helps break down food, supports the production of digestive enzymes, and maintains the proper consistency of digestive contents for smooth movement through the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Cushioning and lubrication: Water provides cushioning and lubrication to joints, protecting them from damage and allowing for smooth movement.
  • Maintaining blood pressure: Adequate hydration is crucial for maintaining proper blood pressure levels.

Dehydration in Dogs: Symptoms

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Recognising the signs of dehydration in dogs is crucial for prompt intervention. Some common symptoms of dehydration in dogs include:

Dry Mouth and Gums

One of the most noticeable signs of dehydration in dogs is dry and sticky gums. A dog’s gums should be moist and have a healthy pink colour. When you touch the gums, they should feel slightly wet. In dehydrated dogs, the gums become dry and tacky to the touch. This means your dog is not getting enough fluids to maintain normal hydration levels.

Lethargy

Dehydrated dogs often exhibit signs of weakness and lethargy. If your dog suddenly seems less active than usual, it could be a sign of dehydration.

Loss of Appetite

A decrease in appetite is another common symptom of dehydration in dogs. They might lose interest in their food or refuse to eat altogether. 

Dark Yellow Urine

The colour of your dog’s urine can provide valuable information about their hydration status. In dehydrated dogs, the urine becomes concentrated and appears dark yellow. This is because the body is conserving water by excreting less through urine. 


Always consult your veterinarian for personalised advice on your dog’s hydration needs, especially if your pet has specific health conditions that may affect their water requirements.


Reduced Skin Elasticity

A simple “skin tent” test can be used to check for dehydration. Gently lift the skin on your dog’s neck or between the shoulder blades and release it. In a well-hydrated dog, the skin should quickly return to its normal position. However, in a dehydrated dog, the skin may take longer to retract, and it might not snap back as quickly. 

Vomiting and Diarrhoea

Persistent vomiting and diarrhoea can lead to rapid fluid loss, exacerbating dehydration. It’s important to monitor these symptoms closely, especially if they are accompanied by other signs of dehydration. If your dog is experiencing vomiting and diarrhoea, seek veterinary care to address the underlying cause and provide the necessary fluid replacement therapy.

By paying attention to these signs, you can quickly address the issue and ensure your dog receives the necessary care and hydration. If you suspect that your dog is dehydrated, consult your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Dehydration in Dogs: Treatments

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If your dog is dehydrated, see your veterinarian immediately. Your veterinarian may recommend the following treatments:

Rehydration

When your dog is severely dehydrated, the most immediate and effective treatment is intravenous (IV) fluid therapy. This involves administering fluids directly into your dog’s vein, allowing for rapid absorption into the bloodstream. IV fluids are essential to quickly replenish lost fluids and electrolytes. Your veterinarian will determine the appropriate type and amount of fluids based on your dog’s condition and needs. 

Oral Rehydration

In less severe cases of dehydration, your veterinarian may recommend oral rehydration solutions. These solutions, such as electrolyte-replenishing fluids or specially formulated dog-specific rehydration solutions, are available in pet stores or may be prescribed by your vet. They can be administered at home and can help restore hydration levels when your dog is not in need of immediate medical intervention. 

Addressing the Underlying Cause

Dehydration is often a symptom of an underlying issue, such as an illness, infection, or a chronic condition. Your veterinarian will thoroughly assess your dog to identify and treat the root cause of the dehydration. This may involve additional tests, medications, and a tailored treatment plan to address the primary health concern. Treating the underlying cause is crucial to prevent recurrent episodes of dehydration.

Offering Water

After your dog has received appropriate medical treatment, it’s important to continue offering fresh, clean water regularly. Ensure that your dog always has easy access to water. You may need to encourage them to drink if they are hesitant due to previous discomfort associated with dehydration. Be vigilant in monitoring their water intake, especially during hot weather or after periods of activity.

Prompt, and appropriate treatment for dehydration in dogs is vital to their recovery. To maintain proper hydration, provide your dog with access to clean water at all times.

Dehydration in Dogs: Causes

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Understanding the causes of dehydration in dogs can help you prevent it more effectively:

  • Inadequate water intake: Sometimes, dogs may not drink enough water due to factors like a dirty water bowl, lack of accessibility, or picky eating habits.
  • Illness or infection: Dogs with illnesses like kidney disease, diabetes, or infections can become dehydrated more easily.
  • Hot weather: Heat and excessive exercise can lead to rapid fluid loss.
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea: Persistent vomiting and diarrhoea can quickly deplete a dog’s body of fluids.
  • Medications: Some medications can increase the risk of dehydration as a side effect.
  • Excessive salivation: Certain dental problems or anxiety can cause excessive drooling and lead to dehydration.  If your dog suffers from anxiety and stress, try PetWell all-natural CALM Anxiety Aid supplement and CALM + LAMB functional treats. 

Preventing Dehydration in Dogs

Here are some steps you can take to keep your dog well-hydrated:

  • Keep the water bowl fresh: Change the water in your dog’s bowl regularly to ensure it’s clean and fresh.
  • Monitor water intake: Pay attention to your dog’s water consumption, especially in hot weather or after vigorous exercise.
  • Offer wet food: Mixing wet food into your dog’s diet can help increase their water intake. Dogs are not meant to eat dry food only.
  • Limit exercise in hot weather: Avoid excessive exercise during the hottest parts of the day and provide shade and water breaks.
  • Natural electrolytes: To help rehydrate dogs, you can consider offering natural liquids with electrolytes like coconut water. Bone broth is a great option that provides essential electrolytes for your dog. 

Guide on How Much Water Dogs Need

Dog drinking water form a bowl because of Dehydration in Dogs by PetWell

The following is a general guide on how much water dogs need based on size and activity:

Dog Size

  • Small breeds (e.g., Chihuahua, Dachshund): Small dogs typically need about 120-240 ml of water per 2.5 kg (kilograms) of body weight per day.
  • Medium breeds (e.g., Labrador Retriever, Beagle): Medium-sized dogs may require around 240-360 ml of water per 5 kg of body weight per day.
  • Large breeds (e.g., Golden Retriever, German Shepherd): Larger dogs might need 360-600 ml of water per 5 kg of body weight per day.

Activity Level

  • Inactive or sedentary dogs: Dogs with a low activity level, such as senior dogs or those with limited mobility, will generally need 120-240 ml of water per 2.5 kg of body weight.
  • Moderately active dogs: For dogs that engage in regular play and exercise, aim for 240-360 ml of water per 5 kg of body weight per day.
  • Highly active dogs: Very active dogs, like working dogs or those participating in intense physical activities, will require 360-600 ml of water per 5 kg of body weight per day.

Environmental Conditions

  • Hot weather: Dogs lose more water through panting and sweating in hot weather. In these conditions, it’s essential to provide additional water. Consider offering an extra 30-60 ml per 5 kg of body weight.
  • Dry climate: In arid or dry climates, dogs may require more water to compensate for increased evaporation. Consider an extra 30-60 ml per 5 kg of body weight.
  • Humid climate: While humidity can make it easier for dogs to cool down through panting, they still need to maintain their hydration. Regular water intake remains crucial.

Diet

The type of diet your dog consumes can also affect their water needs. Dry kibble diets may require more water intake compared to wet or raw diets. Ensure your dog has access to water throughout the day to accommodate their dietary requirements.


All living organisms need water, humans and animals alike need water to survive, and when they become dehydrated, it can lead to various health issues. 


NOTE: These are general guidelines, and individual dogs may have unique requirements. It’s important to monitor your dog’s specific needs and adjust their water intake accordingly. Signs of dehydration, such as dry gums and lethargy, should not be ignored.

Read more about Top Tips to Keep Your Dog Healthy

In Summary

Dehydration in dogs is a serious condition that requires attention and care. Understanding the symptoms, causes, and treatments for canine dehydration is crucial for the well-being of your dog. By recognising the signs of dehydration and taking preventative measures, you can help ensure that your dog stays happy, healthy, and well-hydrated. 

Disclaimer

The entire contents of this email and website are not to be taken as medical advice. PetWell encourages you to make your own pet healthcare decisions based on your research and in partnership with a qualified pet healthcare professional.

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About the author

Ayda Hornak

Trained in canine psychology and studying natural animal nutrition, Ayda has a passion for natural health and wanted to provide the same for her dog Archie who was born with genetic anxiety. As a result, PetWell® was born. All-natural supplements and treats that help in preventing and managing pet health issues.


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