Summer isn’t the only season dogs get dehydrated! Dehydration, in fact, can happen any time and if you don’t know what to look for, it can feel like it comes out of nowhere.
Whether your dog loves long walks, hates to stop playing to drink water, or spends a lot of time outdoors, let’s talk about how to tell if she’s at risk of dehydration.
Dehydration: The Facts
Dehydration is simply a lack of adequate water within the body. Water is incredibly important to your dog’s bodily functions including her circulation, her digestion, and all her organ processes. When properly hydrated, she’s 80% water or more!
One of two things causes dehydration: An insufficient intake of water or an excessive loss of water. A lot of factors can make these circumstances more likely, but hot weather, increased exercise, illness, and advanced age are a few of the most common.
Signs of Dehydration in Dogs
Dehydration looks different depending on the dog and the severity. Think about the ways people react to dehydration…some get headaches while others get chapped lips. Knowing your dog and more importantly, knowing when something is wrong, is half the battle.
Here are a few of the most common symptoms of dehydration for dogs:
- Sunken, distant eyes
- Lethargy or general malaise
- Dry mouth
- Apathy towards food or play
- Loss of skin elasticity
If you suspect your dog might be dehydrated, there are a few ways you can check. The easiest is to inspect her gums to see whether they’re wet and glossy or dull and tacky; they should be the former. If you press her gums with your fingertip, the white spot left behind should almost immediately turn pink again, too. You can also lift her skin between her shoulder blades to form a “tent” shape. When you let go the skin should snap back to normal; if it doesn’t, she’s lacking fluids. Also be sure to observe your dog for a few hours to see if you notice any changes in her demeanor, behavior, or the frequency or color of her urine.
If you’ve confirmed dehydration and your dog is still lucid and able to drink, encourage her to drink water a little at a time over the course of an hour or two until her symptoms abate. If the symptoms don’t go away or the dehydration is so serious your dog can’t or won’t drink on her own, take her an emergency veterinarian immediately. She will likely be started on IV fluids or subcutaneous fluids to return her body to its normal function.
How to Keep Your Dog from Becoming Dehydrated
The most obvious way, of course, is to offer her plenty of fresh water! Be sure the water is clean and not too hot or too cold. Also make an effort to lead your dog to the water bowl every ten minutes or so during sessions of play or outdoor time. It’s not uncommon for dogs to be having so much fun they forget to drink! When it’s time for water, remove distractions and give your dog plenty of time to drink, especially if she’s panting.
Be sure to change your dog’s water every day. Most dogs need around an ounce of water per pound of body weight a day, so keep her bowl full and located somewhere easy to get to. If your dog’s not drinking as much as normal, check her mouth for sores or foreign objects and also contact your vet. Decreased thirst can be a sign of a host of common treatable conditions but you’ll need a full vet evaluation to be sure.