Summer is quickly approaching, which means it is time for dogs to be running outside enjoying the nice weather, and finally getting in some good playtime with the family. Although your dog might enjoy being outside this spring and summer, it is important to remember that dogs need to stay hydrated just like people, and water is vital to hydration. As a dog owner, I feel a responsibility to my dogs to know the signs of dehydration so that I can protect them as much as possible. Here are some of the signs and symptoms of dehydration in dogs, and a few ways on how you can prevent it in the first place.
The skin loses elasticity
One of the most common and also first signs that your dog is dehydrated is seeing the skin become very loose. Essentially, you can pull on the skin of your dog and it just stays stretched out without snapping back into place. Elasticity is what allows you to pull on the coat of your dog and within a few seconds it goes back into normal position, but without water hydrating the body, the elasticity just disappears.
Xerostomia can also be a very telling sign that your dog is dehydrated, and it is pretty easy to spot by just looking at your dog. Xerostomia is when the gums become very dry and sticky, which is noticeable considering you can often just see the liquid on the inside of the mouth. You might notice that your dog has a drier tongue than normal during a kiss or you might notice the tongue looks very dry when panting. The saliva will also change during dehydration, and it will appear very thick, almost like pudding.
If your dog is going through the advanced stages of dehydration, you will notice that the eyes appear significantly sunken in. If you have ever seen the eyes of an alcoholic, then you know that real sunken eye look, and your dog will likely possess a similar type of look. If you notice the sunken eyes, then you know that your dog is in need of immediate medical attention, because shock can occur shortly after this symptom appears.
Obviously, if your dog is dehydrated, then there will be signs of lethargy. Lethargy might be hard to spot in older dogs or dogs that simply are less active, but you know your dog better than anyone else when it comes to normal energy levels. It’s common sense that if your dog is dehydrated, then he or she will be less likely to run around and play fetch, and more likely to sit around or sleep. If you pull out the bag of dog treats and your dog is not interested, then you definitely know something is wrong at that point. Since my dogs are older and often do just lay around the house, using lethargy to diagnose dehydration would be difficult, but passing on treats would be a huge red flag.
There are a lot of different ways you can prevent dehydration in dogs, and here are a few that I personally follow no matter if it’s winter or summer.
The most obvious way to prevent dehydration is to ensure that your dog has fresh and clean water to drink, and you need to be cleaning out the water dish at least once a day. If you do not clean the water dish daily, especially during hot months, bacteria can form inside the bowl. The bacteria can cause your dog to experience diarrhea or stomach upset, which can also lead to dehydration. In the morning when I am getting my cup of coffee, I just reach down and grab the bowl and wash it with soap and water, then fill the bowl with clean water. During the summertime, I will also wash out the bowl in the evening before I go to bed, that way I know my dog has clean water to drink while I am asleep.
Always have extra water when outside
If you are like me and enjoy having your dog outside with you, you want to make sure that you have water on hand at all times. If I know I am going outside with my dog, I grab a bowl and fill it up with water and sit it in a shaded area, that way she can take a drink when she is thirsty without going back into the house. If you are out running with your dog you should carry a water bottle and a small bowl with you, and take breaks every so often so that your dog can grab a drink.
Don’t chain up your dog
Although it might be tempting to just chain your dog up outside when it is nice out, that is really the wrong thing to do, and can increase the odds of dehydration. Sometimes dogs run around when chained, which can knock over the water bowl, and lead to your dog being outside for hours without water. Some dogs also wrap themselves up around trees and that shortens the chain, which could prevent your dog from reaching the water bowl. Chaining up your dog might seem like an okay thing to do when it’s nice outside, but it really can lead to serious medical problems like dehydration.
Just practice common sense
Above all else, the best way to prevent dehydration in your dog is to just practice common sense. We all need water to survive, and if you are like me, then you drink a lot of liquids. Dogs are no different than people when it comes to needing a drink of water, so always make sure to provide water, even if it means having several water sources around your house or outside. If you are going to be gone for a while, make sure there is more than one water dish around, and ensure all water dishes are full. You should never leave your dog with little to no water, because water is the most basic and universal need of all life.