When I was growing up, our long-haired chihuahua was constantly at his water bowl, drinking until his stomach was extended and hard, and even afterwards, begging to lick ice in our glasses. We worried about his constant thirst, but regular veterinary checkups proved he was fine, so long as he was passing the same amount of fluids as he was drinking – and he was, always able to urinate for minutes at a time. But if your dog is drinking and drinking and drinking, is he dehydrated or are there other health issues at stake?
How Dogs Get Dehydrated
Approximately 80 percent of a dog’s body is water, and water is essential for proper bodily functions. According to the ASPCA, dogs become dehydrated when their water intake does not compensate for fluid output, and may be caused by either less drinking or excessive fluid loss, such as through diarrhea, vomiting, panting, or overheating.
While any dog can be subject to dehydration, dogs with kidney problems or elderly dogs are especially susceptible to dehydration, as are pregnant or nursing dogs. Go Pets America also states that puppies are vulnerable to fluid loss because their immature kidneys do not function as efficiently and remove more fluid than necessary. Dogs that exercise excessively, those that are kept outdoors in hot environments, or those that spend much of their time in concrete environments are also more prone to fluid loss.
Symptoms of Dehydration
Dehydration is easily curable if it is quickly recognized. Depending on the situation, however, dogs may show only mild symptoms, which according to PetWave, can include:
- Sunken eyes or reduced tears
- Dry mouth, nose or gums
- Heavy or excessive panting
- Loss of skin elasticity or more wrinkled skin
- Lethargy and loss of appetite
As dehydration becomes more severe, so do the symptoms that indicate a dog may be in trouble:
- Elevated heart rate or rapid pulse
- Wobbly or unsteady posture
In the most extreme cases, dogs may suffer heat stroke or collapse. When the condition is that serious, emergency care is necessary and a veterinarian will administer fluids through injections or IVs to help the dog recover.
Fortunately, it is easy to keep dogs from dehydrating. Providing adequate water available is key to keeping dogs hydrated, and pet owners can…
- Provide abundant clean water in multiple locations, indoors and out, so dogs always have a ready water source to drink from.
- Use water bowls with rubber rims to prevent slipping, and those that are tip- and spill-resistant so water is not wasted.
- Opt for larger bowls with automatic release reservoirs or fountains that will keep the bowl filled and fresh throughout the day.
- Add ice to summer dishes so it will melt and keep the water cool even on hot days, and ensure winter water dishes do not freeze.
- Add a splash of low sodium beef or chicken broth to water dishes to give dogs a more tasty drink than just plain water.
- Freeze a treat inside an ice block with a small section sticking out to entice a dog to chew on the ice to reach the treat.
- Teach dogs to drink from bottles, fountains, and other water sources so they will be comfortable drinking in different circumstances.
- Provide shaded, cool areas on hot days and avoid excessive exercise at times when the dog would be more susceptible to dehydration.
- Carry extra water to offer to dogs when exercising, traveling, or generally away from home, bringing along a cup or dish the dog is familiar with to encourage drinking.
If a dog starts to show signs of dehydration, even with all the best precautions, the Humane Society of Harrisburg Area recommends offering frequent small drinks every few minutes to help the dog recover, rather than allowing the dog to drink excessively all at once. Too much drinking could lead to vomiting, removing even more fluids from the dog’s system and exacerbating the dehydration. Understanding and recognizing dehydration is essential for every dog owner, and a knowledgeable pet owner can be sure their dog has abundant water available at all times to minimize the risk of discomfort, heat stroke, and other health conditions that can become problems with dehydration.