A responsible and caring dog owner will never let their dog go thirsty. Yet life is full of the unexpected, and though we humans would like to be able to control everything that occurs around us, the truth is that there is much that happens that we cannot control. So what do you do if you suspect your dog has been without water for a length of time? For instance, suppose your dog ran off and was missing for a while and then showed up panting hard.
How will you know if your dog is dehydrated? These are the classical signs of dehydration for a dog from mild to severe:
- A warm dry nose
- Noticeably tired
- Walking slow with little energy
- Heavy panting/appearing hot
- Attitude changes such as being nervous
- Eyes appearing sunken and dry
- Dry mouth, tongue and gums lacking saliva
- Refusing to eat
- Dry, dull, and rough scaly looking nose
- Poor skin turgor
- Delayed capillary refill
- Rectal temperature above 105 degrees F
- Weak in the hind end
- Unsteady and wobbly, difficulty standing
As dog owners we do not want our dogs to ever have symptoms very far down on this list. The dog needs our assistance before going into severe dehydration. In case you do not know, poor skin turgor means that the skin has lost its elasticity. This is something medical personal check in humans, but you can check it in dogs as well by just pinching their skin between your thumb and forefinger on the dog’s back then letting go. If the dog is hydrated it should return to its normal position instantly. If lacking in moisture the skin loses its elasticity and will return slowly. If the dog is extremely dehydrated the pinched skin will stay in a pinched position. As far as testing for capillary refill, this is done with the dog’s gums. Press on the gum with your finger until it turns white, remove your finger and watch the gum return to pink. If this occurs rapidly then the capillary refill time is good. If this occurs slowly then the dog is most likely dehydrated.
How do you to treat your dehydrated pet? Now that you have determined that your dog is dehydrated, the lacking hydration needs to be replenished. If your dog is not severely dehydrated then in mild cases fluid replacement can be done orally by giving him frequent but small amounts of water. You can give him electrolytes mixed in water which will help replenish faster. Pedialyte is safe for dogs. If he can’t hold down the liquids then let him lick ice. In most dehydration cases the dog is too ill to drink enough water to correct the imbalance of fluids. Intravenous fluids (IV’s) are the best way to treat a severely dehydrated dog. This requires taking your pet to a veterinarian who can replace fluids slow enough for the dog’s body to replenish its fluid starved tissues.
The veterinarian will want to do tests to determine the cause of the dehydration and to check the chemistry of the blood. A complete blood count and biochemistry profile to check for packed cell volume and total blood protein will need to be done. An elevated total protein and an elevated packed cell volume confirm that a dog is dehydrated. Also checking for concentration of the urine and involvement or damage to the kidneys will be done.
How can you prevent dehydration in your dog? Always have fresh cool water available for your dog. Providing a good clean water source is the most important thing for a dog’s owner to do. A dog can go a while between meals, but just like in humans, a dog’s body requires water often.
- After strenuous exercise, limit the amount of water your dog drinks.
- After exertion, give him/her frequent small amounts of water.
- If your dog pants a lot on a hot day leave extra bowls of water around for him.
- After being without water for a length of time, over drinking may cause him to vomit, so monitor the amount he drinks.
- Depending on your dog’s personality, on really hot days don’t be afraid to let your dog play in the water, run through the sprinkler, or jump in a kiddy pool.
- If you have an outside dog, make sure he has a good source of shade on hot days.
- Never leave your dog in a car!
Here are some further sources on the subject:
Nothing in this article takes the place of proper Medical care by a licensed Veterinarian.