Dehydration in Dogs: Symptoms, Prevention & Safety Tips | Pupford
June 8th, 2023
Filed under Health + Wellness
The summer heat is in full force and doggy parents around the world should be focusing on how to keep their dogs happy and healthy as temperatures rise. Dehydration in dogs is a common emergency and it’s important for puppy parents to know the warning signs and the precautions to take to avoid it.
It may seem obvious, but often when dog nutrition is discussed, water is overlooked and under-emphasized. It’s important to remember that water allows our bodies to function whether it is absorbing nutrients, regulating our body temperature, or providing lubrication and padding for our organs. It is no different for other mammals, including doggies.
*Note: If you're concerned that your dog may be dehydrated, stop reading this and contact your vet immediately.
Here's a quick overview of what we will cover:
- What is dehydration?
- Symptoms of dehydration in dogs and puppies
- Tips for preventing dog dehydration
Let's dive into it below. 👇
WHAT IS DEHYDRATION?
Dehydration occurs when your dog or puppy gets to a point where they don’t have enough water and electrolytes in their system. If you live in a place where hot weather is common, or if your dog loves to exercise and exert tons of energy, it’s especially crucial to look out for the common signs of dehydration so you can give your puppy the proper care they need and deserve.
If dehydration persists and is untreated, it can lead to kidney failure and even death in some cases.
So, how can you take action to make sure your dog doesn’t have to suffer from dehydration?
Look out for common signs and symptoms of dehydration that you can spot yourself. We’ve highlighted some of these below so you can be prepared and proactive when it comes to keeping your dog hydrated.
SYMPTOMS & SIGNS OF DEHYDRATION IN DOGS TO LOOK OUT FOR
There are a few easy-to-spot indicators and signs that can mean your dog is potentially experiencing dehydration:
- Heavy panting
- Dry nose
- Loss of appetite
- Dry gums
These are just a few indicators of potential dehydration. We recommend never jumping to conclusions and staying calm if you are noticing any of them. Although these are possible signs of dehydration, it’s also possible they can be attributed to other, quite harmless causes.
For example, your pup could be panting heavily because they just got done running or playing fetch. It’s possible they are lethargic for the same reason – they are just exhausted. In other words, they could be hot and tired, but not at a dangerous level.
Participating in high-energy games and activities is perfectly ok and healthy, but it’s important to take the temperature and time of day into consideration when heading outside. For example, pavement temperatures on a 70+ degree day can reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (see the chart below for more specifics).
Please note that it is absolutely crucial to monitor and encourage your dog to take sufficient water breaks and drink enough water throughout the day (learn how much water your dog should drink each day here).
If you’re concerned that your dog could be experiencing dehydration, please contact your veterinarian right away. And always use extra caution for puppies. You don’t want to take the risk as their bodies are still developing since they are younger.
DOG DEHYDRATION PREVENTION & MONITORING
If you're concerned your dog may be dehydrated, you should contact your vet immediately.
As you are out in the heat with your puppy, be sure to keep an eye on some of the following:
- Check their skin elasticity
- Check their gums
- Watch out for heatstroke
- Don't give water too fast
- Be proactive (this is key)
Let's look at each of these below. ⤵️
CHECK THEIR SKIN ELASTICITY
Testing your pup's skin elasticity is an easy way to check how their water intake is going.
Try gently pulling your puppy’s loose skin on the back of their neck and watching how it falls back down. If it is a quick elastic return to normal then that is a good sign your dog is properly hydrated. If it slowly slides back down, this is a warning sign of dehydration.
CHECK YOUR DOG'S GUMS
When your dog’s gums become dry with thick, sticky saliva it can be a sign of dehydration.
Your dog’s gums should be pink and moist. If they are more of a dark red and seem dried out, call your vet and let them know the symptoms that you are seeing.
WATCH OUT FOR HEAT STROKE
When a dog’s body temperature reaches 104 °F they are experiencing heat stroke. There are many reasons why a dog can reach this temperature including being left in a car for too long. This is something that you should never do, especially in the summertime.
Even if you leave the windows down they will still be at risk of overheating within 15 minutes. Bring them with you where you are able to or leave them at home – it is not worth the risk of leaving them in the car even for short errands.
DON’T GIVE THEM TOO MUCH WATER TOO FAST
Call your vet immediately if your dog is vomiting excessively and make sure you have water accessible to them. If possible, encourage small amounts at a time because sometimes drinking too much water can lead to more vomiting.
This will make them even more dehydrated and it will be hard to replenish them when they are consistently vomiting out more than they take in.
BE PROACTIVE (THIS IS KEY)
It’s important to be proactive about having water accessible to your dogs. Keep multiple dog bowls around the house and in the yard. Most dogs are layered in coats of fur and dog hair which makes hot summertime days an extra risk of dehydration.
Use precaution by keeping your dog cool - don’t go on walks in the midday heat, try to keep the activities you do with them low-energy, and bring water for them everywhere you go. Collapsible dog bowls are perfect for this!
You can also teach your dog to swim, a great activity for hot days!
RECAP OF DOG DEHYDRATION
It’s important for puppy parents to be the ones that are diligent about precautions. Dogs can get caught up in having fun without even realizing that they are putting themselves at risk.
Some dogs don’t even think about water and only drink it when they see it. These dogs are not actively seeking it even though they may be visibly tired and thirsty.
Did you know? Some dogs naturally avoid stagnant water because in the wild stagnant water can be infested with bacteria, and running water like streams and rivers is more appealing.
As a recap, here are some common signs of dehydration in dogs:
- Heavy and excessive panting, especially when not exerting a lot of effort/energy
- Dry nose
- Loss of appetite
- Dry, sticky gums
- No skin elasticity
If you suspect your dog may be dehydrated, work on slowly cooling them down and getting them to drink a little water. Immediately contact your vet for what you should do next!
While we hope you never have to worry about this, be sure to make note of these symptoms so you can keep your puppy safe in the summer.
What're your favorite safe summer activities to do with your dog? Tell us in the comments!