Do you know the signs of dehydration in dogs?
The experience of a dehydrated dog can be really scary for you and your dog.
It’s common, especially during hot summer months. You need to know that dog dehydration can be a life-threatening condition.
Dehydration is the results of not drinking enough water or losing fluid too quickly.
Basically if what’s going in is too little, or what’s going out is too much, your dog is gonna get dehydrated.
Dehydration can strike quickly, especially with certain breeds.
Even when you prepare with fresh water, it’s important to be aware of the signs of signs of dehydration in dogs.
Being aware of these signs will help you care for your dog better, and could potentially save their lives.
Let’s check out what you need to know.
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Signs Of Dehydration In Dogs
Even if your dog is regularly drinking, they may not be hydrated enough.
They may also be put off food and drink especially if they are unwell.
These are the 9 signs of dog dehydration you need to look out for.
1. Dry Gums and nose
One of the first symptoms of dehydration in dogs is a dry mouth. Their gums will become dry and tacky, and their salvia will be thick.
2. Sunken Eyes
Your dog’s eyes will have a sunken appearance to them. When you look into their eyes, they will appear to pull back into the eye socket.
3. No energy
Lethargy is a common dehydration symptom in dogs. You’ll start to notice your dog looking visibly tired. Your dog is trying to preserve as much fluid as possible and will slow down their usual pace.
4. Excessive panting
If you notice your dog starting to pant more, it’s likely they are becoming dehydrated. It’s a sign that the dehydration is causing heatstroke. Be aware of this sign especially if your dog hasn’t been running around.
5. Loss of Skin elasticity
A clear sign of dehydration in dogs is skin ‘tenting.’ That’s when your lift a loose piece of skin upwards and time how long it takes to return to normal. The longer it takes, the more dehydrated your dog is.
6. Loss of stability
A dehydrated dog soon becomes disoriented, and you’ll notice them becoming unsteady on their feet.
Your dog may even collapse which is extremely concerning. At this stage, your dog’s needs urgent medical care.
7. Urine Output
Your dog’s urine will start to look dark and smell stronger. Their kidneys are working hard with little fluid, trying not too loose too much vital hydration.
8. Stomach issues
It’s common for dehydrated dogs to lose their appetite, which makes further reduces their fluid intake. You may also notice vomiting and diarrhea.
9. Hot to touch
A dehydrated dog will feel very hot to touch on their back. Their body is working overtime to deal with the lack of fluids, and this quickly leads to overheating.
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Common causes of dog dehydration
Now that you know the signs to look out for, you need to know how to avoid them. Let’s check out the most common culprits for causing dehydration in dogs.
When your dog gets too hot, they need to cool down. They will do this mainly by panting, but also through ‘sweating’ from their nose and paws.’
As your dog tries to cool down they will lose vital fluid that needs to be replaced.
It’s important to remember your dog will overheat a lot quicker than you, due to their fur.
Be aware of situations where you are hot, and keep an eye on your dog. This includes hot weather outdoors, excessive exercise and hot environments such as cars.
Diarrhea and vomiting
If your dog is ill with diarrhea and vomiting, they will lose fluid very quickly.
The volume they lose needs to be replaced to prevent dehydration. Without fluids, your dog’s symptoms will worsen causing further dehydration.
A sick dog needs to be monitored closely to ensure they are regularly drinking.
Lack of appetite or water intake
Unlike us, your dog doesn’t realize it needs to stop for regular water breaks.
You’re the dog parent and need to encourage them to drink regularly by offering food or water.
If your dog is off their food or too busy having fun it can be difficult to entice them to keep their fluids up.
Dogs which are prone to kidney problems are at higher risk of dehydration.
- German shepherds
- Cocker spaniels
- Cairn terriers
- Bull terriers
The kidneys are vital for fluid control in the body. If your dog regularly becomes dehydrated that could lead to serious health issues.
Your vet may be able to tell you if any specific health conditions your dog has, makes them prone to dehydrating quicker.
Other types of dog which are at risk of dehydration include:
- Pregnant dogs
- Elderly dogs
- Nursing dogs
- Small breeds
These dogs have an extra strain on their kidneys due to their physiology. Again if your dog falls into one of these categories, keep an eyes eye on them to prevent dehydration.
Related: 12 Best Dog Cooling Products
How To Tell If A Dog Is Dehydrated
If you’re worried that your dog is showing signs of dehydration, there are ways to test them. Use they techniques at home to quickly asses your dog and get them help as soon as possible.
These simple checks might just save your dog’s life.
The first step is to assess your dog’s mouth. This will give you a very quick idea if your dog is dehydrated.
Do this in three steps:
1. Assess the color
A dehydrated dog will have gums that are a very dark red, purple or blue. That’s due to the increased blood flow caused during dehydration.
2. Press The Gum
This is called a capillary refill assessment. Take a finger and press down on the gum (not too hard). Time how long it takes for the gum to turn from pale to normal.
If it takes longer than 1.5 seconds your dog is unwell and needs urgent treatment.
3. Feel the Gum
Run your finger slightly along your dog’s gum and assess how dry it feels. A dehydrated dog will have a very dry mouth. If there is little or very thick saliva, this is also a sign your dog is dehydrated.
This step is simple, just take a look at your dog’s eyes.
If your dog is dehydrated, their eyes will appear sunken and dry.
Another step you can do is to assess your dog’s skin. You are looking for ‘tenting’ or how elastic the skin is.
This step can be difficult with certain breeds (those with thick/long coats or excessive skin folds). Older dogs are also difficult to assess this way. It may be best to leave this assessment to a vet.
Asses your dog’s skin elasticity
- Place your thumb and forefinger over your dog’s shoulder blades.
- Pinch their skin gently and left upwards
- Let the skin go immediately
In a healthy dog, the skin will return to normal immediately. A mildly dehydrated dog will take a few seconds for the skin to return to normal. A severely dehydrated dogs skin will stay lifted upward even when you let go (like a tent).
If your dog shows signs of tenting they need veterinary attention immediately.
How To Prevent Dehydration In Dogs
Now you know how bad dehydration is for dogs. You’ll want to know how to stop it happening to your dog.
These are Pet Rookie’s 8 top tips for preventing dehydration in dogs.
The first step to preventing your dog from becoming dehydrated is to make sure they have access to fresh water at all times.
If you have provided water, des your dog have easy access to it? For example, if they are on a garden leash, does it stretch to the water bowl?
Always bring a portable water dish if you are out and about or traveling with your dog.
Hot days are when your dog is most at risk of dehydration. Ensure there is a space available to provide your dog shade.
This is important if your dog is outdoors in direct sunlight.
The shade provides a cool space for your dog to regulate their body heat and prevent excessive water loss.
Periods of rest
Is your dog very active?
Then you need to make sure they take plenty of time to stop and rest.
Dogs just love to move and don’t understand that they need time to rest and rehydrate.
Be a responsible pet parent and encourage your dog to take short periods of rest and fresh water to drink.
Play in the water
The best way to stop your dog from losing lots of heat is to prevent them from overheating.
When you’re out and about let your dog play in the water (if its safe for them).
Being submerged in water will help to cool your dog down an prevent dehydration.
Got a stubborn dog that won’t always drink water?
Then try offering ice instead. Dogs love the challenge of biting, licking and playing with ice.
They only see it as having fun; they don’t realize they are hydrating themselves.
As a good pet owner, you already know never to leave your dog in a car on a hot day.
Even with windows open, the heat can quickly build and be deadly for your dog.
It may even be illegal in your state and car a hefty fine or jail time.
Don’t do it even for a couple of minutes; it’s not worth the risk to your dog’s life.
Avoid hot weather
It’s best to keep your dog indoors on at peak sun times on hot days.
Taking your dog for a walk, or exercising them can cause heat exhaustion. Remember your dog’s paws may become blistered by hot pavements.
Keep your dog walking times to cooler times of day such as early morning and late evening.
Monitor their intake
Always be aware of what your dog is eating and drinking.
If you think they’re off their food or water watch them closely for signs of dehydration.
As mentioned above, ice treats are a great way to get your dog to up their fluid intake. If your dog usually eats kibble, wet dog food can get some essential water into their body.
How To Treat A Dehydrated Dog
Knowing how to treat your dehydrated dog can be lifesaving. Let’s look at what you need to know.
If your dog is showing various signs of dehydration, you need to get them to a vet as quickly as possible.
A dehydrated dog can deteriorate quickly. Although they appear to be coping now, a few more minutes can lead to shock causing fits or collapse.
Your dog needs a thorough check over to make sure they don’t have any lasting damage from the effects of dehydration.
If your dog is showing mild signs of dehydration, you need to rehydrate them immediately.
Freshwater is good, but ideally, you should try to get some electrolytes in it too.
Unflavoured Pedialyte is a great way to rehydrate your dog quickly. Its main use is for children, but it works well for dogs too.
Other great ways to quickly rehydrate your dogs are:
- Ice chips
- Wet dog food
If your dog is overheating, you need to cool them down to slow the dehydration process.
The best way to cool a hot dog is to submerge them in cool (not cold) water. A bath, shower or wrapping in soaked towels is a great way to wet your dog.
Make sure to slowly wet every area f their body until their temperature returns to normal.
How much water does my dog need?
The amount of water your dog’s needs each day will depend on:
- Their size
- Environment conditions
A good rule of thumb is to provide enough fresh water for them to take in 50 to 60ml of water per kilogram of body weight.
For example, if you have a 50lb (22kg) Lab, you want to give them at least 1320ml water.
When the weather is hot, make sure this is the minimum your dog drinks every day, especially if they eat dried food.
Recognising the signs of dehydration in dogs is essential for you to to be a good dog owner.
This guide will help you understand what to look out for.
You’ll now know how to prevent your dog becoming dehydrated, and what to do if they do.
Now you can keep your dogs safe and well.