Everyone knows dehydration can lead to serious and potentially deadly health complications in humans, but did you know that it can be just as bad for the family dog? Unfortunately, most dogs can’t tell their humans they need water or go turn on the tap and get some for themselves. That’s why it’s important that dog owners know the signs of dehydration in their pets and what they can do to prevent it.
Signs of dehydration in a dog
The signs of dehydration in a dog are somewhat similar to those in a human, but not as obvious to the untrained eye. Think about this. The last time you really, really worked out hard and didn’t drink enough water, how did you feel? I know how I felt. My mouth was dry, I was drenched in sweat, my legs felt wobbly, I was fatigued, I had a hard time catching my breath, and when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I looked overwhelmed and a little bit scared.
Now, let’s take a look at the signs of dehydration in dogs, as defined by the Humane Society of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania:
- Lethargy or fatigue
If your dog is visibly tired and less animated than usual, this may be a sign of dehydration.
- Excessive panting
Dogs pant for the same reason we sweat. Excessive panting may be a sign that your dog is overheated and in need of water.
- Sunken eyes
Sunken, dry eyes can actually be a sign of dehydration in both dogs and humans.
- Dry mouth
A dry mouth is also a good sign of dehydration in both humans and dogs. You can feel your dog’s gums to see if they are wet and slippery or sticky and dry.
- A change in attitude
If your normally cheerful, playful dog is behaving in an apprehensive or panicky manner, check for other signs of dehydration.
- Loss of skin elasticity
If your dog is showing other signs of dehydration, you may want to check its skin elasticity. As dehydration progresses, skin loses some of its ability to snap back when it is gently pinched. You can try this on the back of your hand when you are well hydrated and when you are not.
- Wobbly, weak stance
Just like humans, when dogs become dehydrated they may get dizzy, wobbly, and weak. If your dog is exhibiting these signs, it may already be in trouble.
Prevent dehydration all year round
I’ve had a dog or two most of my life, and I’ve always been careful to carry water with me when walking a dog in the heat. But dehydration can occur any time of year, regardless of the temperatures outside. Sure, summer heat can lead to quicker signs of dehydration, but it’s important to make sure your dog has plenty of water available all year round.
If your dog does become dehydrated, don’t panic. Help your dog to cool down, and give it water in small, but regular offerings so it doesn’t gulp too much at once and get sick. Ice cubes are a good way to slowly add water to your dog’s system, much like popsicles work to rehydrate a sick child.
If your dog seems really sick, weak or disoriented, seek veterinary assistance. Dehydration, left untreated, can kill, but your veterinarian has the training and skills needed to bring your dog back to health if seen in time.
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