Dehydration is a common but very serious veterinary emergency for dogs. Here, our Fort Pierce vets share details about dehydration in dogs including its causes, symptoms, and what you should do if your pup is dehydrated.
Water plays a vital role in the functioning of virtually all body functions for people and dogs alike. Dogs get dehydrated when they lose more water and electrolytes than they are taking in, and their body will start to suffer. Dehydration can be so problematic that it could cause kidney failure, loss of consciousness, and in extreme cases can even be fatal.
Causes of Dehydration in Dogs
Your dog's body naturally loses water during the day through simple actions such as breathing, panting, urinating, defecating, and evaporation through their paws. This loss of fluids and electrolytes is then made up for when your pup drinks and eats.
If your pet's body gets to the point where their fluid intake is less than what they 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 dogs and people require to keep their bodies healthy. Electrolytes include sodium, chloride, and potassium that helps to balance the body’s pH, move nutrients into cells, facilitate muscle function, and regulate nerve function.
There are a variety of reasons why your dog could be dehydrated including fever, illness, heatstroke, persistent diarrhea or vomiting, and insufficient fluid intake.
Signs & Symptoms 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, which is when your pet's gums lose moistness and become dry and smelly, and your pup's saliva gets thick and pasty.
Other symptoms of dehydration are:
- Dry nose
- Loss of appetite
Symptoms of severe dehydration include:
- Sunken eyes
Steps to Take if Your Dog is Dehydrated
If your pooch is exhibiting symptoms of shock, heatstroke, or severe dehydration, call your primary care veterinarian immediately or contact the emergency animal hospital that is closest to you! Your vet might tell you to start providing your dog with small amounts of water to start the rehydration process while you are on your way to the pet hospital. The treatment available for dogs suffering from this level of dehydration is re-hydration through intravenous fluids.
If your pup is mildly dehydrated give them 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).
Don't offer your dog too much water all at once because this could make them vomit, causing even further dehydration. Even if your dog is suffering from a mild cause of dehydration we recommend calling your vet for additional recommendations.
Keeping Your Dog from Getting Dehydrated
If your dog is suffering from continuous or severe bouts of vomiting and diarrhea contact your vet to arrange an assessment to diagnose the underlying cause. Severe vomiting and diarrhea can be a symptom of many serious conditions and requires immediate veterinary 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 require 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.