Your family pet or working dog can become dehydrated very rapidly, especially in the heat of summer. Do not ignore these symptoms during the winter either, though it is less likely to occur.
We raise and train registered Coonhounds for pleasure. They run hard and for long periods of time, so one of the most common emergency problems we have encountered is dehydration. The dogs will present with shaking, weakness in their hind quarters, lack of appetite, or dry gums. These can be signs of certain disease causing dehydration or a result of excessive activity or an inability to take in fluid . The late stages show symptoms of sunken eyes, weakness or collapse
Specific symptoms to look for, according to the ASPCA website, are:
- Sunken eyes
- Loss of appetite
- Dry mouth
Other symptoms that we have learned to watch for are:
- Slow pace in a normally energetic dog
- Abnormal panting
- Weakness, especially in the back legs
- Drooling of thick saliva
Dehydration has to be treated immediately as it can cause an electrolyte shift which can result in impending death. The heat of summer can cause dehydration when the dogs don’t have fresh water in front of them or adequate shelter and ventilation. I learned the hard way when we lost my favorite older dog after the hunt of the year in mid- summer two years ago. We were hunting quite far out and couldn’t get him to the vet’s in time. He died in my arms in the front seat of our jeep. Our vet found that it was not directly due to dehydration, but the dehydration was a symptom of his kidney failure.
According to www.ASPCA.org, a dog with dehydration will show all the many of the symptoms above. They recommend treating it by offering fluids and electrolyte solutions.
When you are looking for emergency information about certain signs and symptoms, a great resource is www.petmd.com. They cover a number of different areas of dog health. According to their website, “Dogs that are ill and have been vomiting are especially vulnerable to dehydration and the problem increases if they are so sick that they don’t drink water on their own.”
Two checks that we do are testing for skin elasticity by lifting the skin on their neck. If it returns to normal, they are probably ok. If it stay pinched for longer that about three second , they are having issues. Another test is to lift their front mouth flap and depress their gun with a thumb and to watch for the capillary refill . It should turn pink rapidly.
The things we do specifically with our treeing walkers are keeping fresh water to them, making sure that they have good shade and the area where they live is in a breezy location during the summer time. We also watch them carefully during any event to be sure they are staying hydrated and not showing signs and symptoms.