Dehydration is a common health emergency in dogs. Dehydration occurs when your dog's body loses more water and electrolytes than it takes in, subsequently causing issues with your pet's internal organs, body temperature, joints, and digestion. Here, our Santa Cruz emergency vets explain more about dehydration in dogs.
Why is dehydration in dogs serious?
Water plays a vital role in the functioning of virtually all body functions for people and dogs alike. When your dog is losing more water and electrolytes than they are taking in, dehydration occurs and your pet's body will begin to suffer. Dehydration is so serious that it can lead to kidney failure, loss of consciousness, and in extreme cases, dehydration in dogs can be fatal.
How do dogs become dehydrated?
Your dog's body will naturally lose water throughout the day simply through panting, breathing, urinating, defecating, and evaporation through their paws. This loss of fluids and electrolytes is then made up for when your pooch eats and drinks.
If your pet's body reaches the point where fluid intake is less than the amount their body is losing, their blood flow and the volume of fluids is reduced, which in turn reduces the delivery of oxygen to your dog's tissues and organs.
Electrolytes are naturally occurring minerals that humans and dogs need to keep their bodies healthy. Electrolytes include sodium, chloride, and potassium which help to balance the body’s pH, move nutrients into cells, facilitate muscle function, and regulating nerve function.
Your dog could become dehydrated for a number of reasons including heatstroke, illness, fever, persistent vomiting or diarrhea, and insufficient fluid intake.
What are the signs of dehydration in dogs?
The most obvious sign of dehydration in dogs is the loss of elasticity in the animal's skin. If you pull lightly on your dog's skin and it doesn't readily go back to its original position, your dog is likely suffering from dehydration!
Xerostomia is another early sign of dehydration in dogs. Xerostomia is when your pet's gums lose moistness and become dry and sticky, and your dog's saliva becomes thick and pasty.
Other symptoms of dehydration include:
- Loss of appetite
- Dry nose
Symptoms of severe dehydration include:
- Sunken eyes
What should I do if my dog becomes dehydrated?
If your dog is displaying symptoms of shock, heatstroke, or severe dehydration, call your veterinarian immediately or contact your nearest emergency animal hospital! Your vet may advise you to begin offering your dog small amounts of water to begin the rehydration process while you are on your way to their office. Treatment for dogs suffering from this level of dehydration is re-hydration using intravenous fluids.
If your pooch is mildly dehydrated provide your pet with small amounts of water to drink every few minutes or offer your dog pieces of ice to lick. To help restore your dog's electrolyte balance you could also provide your pup with Ringer's lactate (an electrolyte replacement fluid).
Do not offer too much water all at once since this could cause your dog to vomit, causing even further dehydration. Even if your dog is suffering from a mild cause of dehydration we recommend that you contact your vet for additional recommendations.
How can I prevent my dog from becoming dehydrated?
If your dog is suffering from continuous or severe bouts of vomiting and diarrhea contact your vet to book an examination in order to determine the underlying cause. Severe vomiting and diarrhea can be a symptom of a number of serious conditions and requires immediate attention. To help keep your dog hydrated while they are experiencing these symptoms offer your pet an electrolytic solution until they feel better. If the symptoms continue, IV fluids may be the only way to prevent the serious side effects of dehydration.
To prevent your healthy dog from developing dehydration, always provide your pet with an easily accessible and ample supply of clean drinking water. If your dog spends time outdoors in the hot weather or enjoys vigorous exercise, they will need extra amounts of water in order to stay hydrated.
Dogs typically require at least one ounce of water per day for each pound of body weight. If you're unsure whether your dog is drinking enough, ask your vet for advice on how to ensure your dog consumes enough fluids.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.