Dehydration in Dogs- Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Dehydration in dogs

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 pets 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.

Identifying the signs and symptoms of dog dehydration can help save your pet’s life in an emergency. If you notice any symptoms of dog dehydration, then rush him to his vet immediately.

How Does Dog Dehydration Occur?

Loss of water through your dog’s body is a natural phenomenon that occurs through urinating, panting, breathing, and perspiration. Your dog tempers this loss of fluid through fluid and food intake.

Now, dog dehydration 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.

Causes for Dog Dehydration

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.

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.

Signs of Dehydration in Dogs

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:

  •     Excessive panting
  •     Lethargy
  •     Loss of skin elasticity
  •     Loss of motor function
  •     Loss of appetite
  •     Dark urine
  •     Low urine output
  •     Sunken eyes
  •     Altered consciousness
  •     White and dry gums

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.

Read blog: 10 Best Ways to Make Your Pet Happy This Summer

Treatment for Dog Dehydration

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.

Also Read: 7 Benefits of Collagen for Dogs

Tips to Protect Your Dog from Dehydration in Summer

The risk of dog dehydration 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!

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