Symtoms of Canine Dehydration

Canine dehydration results from an excessive loss of body fluids due to exposure to extreme heat, illness or not drinking enough water. Dog dehydration involves not only the loss of water but minerals or electrolytes (chloride, sodium and potassium). A dog naturally looses fluids by panting, breathing and evaporation and will experience dehydration if these fluids are not replace. In order to keep cool, dogs pant to regulate their body temperature because they lack sweat glands. Overweight, older dogs and puppies are susceptible to dehydration. Chronic dehydration is a sign of a more serious disease and needs immediate attention by a veterinarian.

Symptoms Of Dehydration

In most cases, testing the elasticity of the skin by pulling it away from the body, releasing it and observing the time it takes to return (turgor test), can indicate the extent of dehydration. However, overweight and older dogs have a different elasticity rate than younger ones and so this is not an ideal method. By gently pressing on the gums and watching them go from white and back to pink is a better indicator of proper hydration.

Other symptoms include:

  • Sunken and dry eyes
  • Heavy panting
  • Vomiting
  • Depression
  • Lethargic behavior
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dry gums, mouth and nose
  • Loss of appetite
  • Excessive drooling

Canine Diet

A dog receives moisture from both drinking water and eating. It is important to ensure that he has enough fresh water and a balanced diet in order to prevent health problems and dehydration, which can lead to death. Extra water should be made available during exercise and in extreme heat. Shade should also be provided to reduce the amount of fluid loss.

In the event a dog becomes dehydrated, small amounts of water should be given to avoid vomiting and further fluid loss. No dry dog food should be given at this time. Electrolytes and perhaps broth to encourage drinking should be added to his water. Checking for any throat obstructions is also important. If the dog does not drink or continues to present symptoms of dehydration, a visit to the veterinarian will be necessary to determine if there is an underlying health problem or to administer IV fluids.

Keep A Proper Environment

Prevention of dehydration is best. Dogs should have plenty of fresh water available to them at all times. Outdoor dogs should also have shade readily available to prevent overheating and dehydration. Do not overexert dogs when exercising them and make water available to them. Overweight and older dogs should not be overtaxed as well. Exercise your dog during cooler times of the day and pick a path that has at least some shade. Remember a dog does not have sweat glands and can only maintain proper body temperature through panting. They also have a coat of fur, which increase body temperature. Never leave a dog in a car! Even with an open window, temperatures inside increase rapidly and can be as high as 10 to 20 degrees higher than outside of the car.

Since a dog normally needs at least one ounce of water per pound per day, it is important to increase this amount when the environment changes, activity increases or when illness occurs. Almost three quarters of a dog's weight is from water, so as little as a 15% loss can cause death.