Dehydration is an emergency - it poses serious problems to a dog's health and so it has to be dealt with immediately. This page looks at the symptoms and possible causes, and what action we need to take in the event that our dogs suffer from dehydration.
Dehydration is a condition that occurs when the water in the dog's body is less than normal.
More than 90 percent of a dog's weight is made up of water. Only a 10-percent loss of body fluid can cause the dog to be extremely ill from dehydration.
A dog is dehydrated when she loses both water and the minerals in the water (electrolytes), such as sodium, chloride and potassium.
Dehydration occurs either because there is a lack of water intake to replenish fluid loss due to excessive panting and urinating, or because there is an increase in water loss due to illness or injury.
There are several ways which we can use to see if a dog is dehydrated:
A dog that is dehydrated will lose elasticity in his skin. One way to test for skin elasticity is to grasp the loose skin over the dog's shoulders, lift it up as far as it will stretch, and then release. If the skin does not snap back into place immediately, it is likely that the dog is dehydrated.
A dehydrated dog will also have slow capillary refill time. A simple test is to examine the dog's gums. Gently press a finger against the gums until the area becomes white and release. In a normal dog, the pinkish color should return to the area almost immediately. A delay in the refill time can be indicative of dehydration.
While checking for capillary refill time, check also the general conditions of the gums. A healthy dog has wet, slippery, reflective gums. A dehydrated dog's gums are dull and sticky.
Dogs with dehydration may also show the following signs:
As mentioned above, dehydration in dogs occurs when either there is reduced fluid intake or excessive fluid loss.
Reduced fluid intake can occur when a dog is not drinking or eating enough due to sickness.
Excessive fluid loss can be caused by a number of health problems, such as:
Dehydration is always an emergency. If you suspect that your dog is suffering from dehydration, get him to a vet immediately. If it takes some time before you can get to a vet, give your dog some plain water. However, if your dog is severely dehydrated, don't let him drink too much water, as drinking too much water may cause him to vomit resulting in further fluid loss.
Veterinary treatment for dog dehydration is to replenish the body's fluid supply by giving the dog large amounts of fluids, either subcutaneously (under the skin) or intravenously.
While dehydration is a serious matter and should receive immediate veterinary care, there are a few things that we can do before reaching the vet, or if the dehydration is rather mild. There are also things that we can easily do to prevent dehydration.
Perhaps the easiest thing to do to prevent dehyration is to encourage your dog to drink water! It is important to remember that dogs can be dehydrated not only in summer time, but also in the cold winter season as well. Before and during exercise, dogs should be allowed to drink water to replenish fluid loss.
One way to encourage your dog to increase water intake is to give him ice cubes, or add a little bit of flavor to the water (e.g. low-sodium chicken broth).
Even if your dog is mildly dehydrated, it is still important to replenish electrolyte loss. Many dog sites suggest using a rehydration fluid such as Pedialyte, but a look at the ingredients may stop you from giving it to your dogs (and human kids!) - it contains artificial flavors, sweeteners, and even colors!
So what can we do? Here is a simple home-made rehydration fluid for your dogs (from Natural Remedies for Dogs and Cats by C.J. Puotinen):
Combine the following:
Let your dehydrated dog drink freely, or if necessary, use a needle-less syringe or eyedropper to feed 1 tablespoon per 5 pounds of body weight every 2-3 hours.
Vomiting and diarrhea are common causes of dehydration, so if your dog has severe vomiting or diarrhea, it is worth stopping them quickly before the dog becomes severely dehydrated.
This natural product contains vitamins, probiotics and enzymes that can work quickly to restore the unbalanced gut flora, normalize digestion and cleanse out the digestive system.