Dehydration occurs when a dog loses more fluid in his body then he can replace it. It usually involves a loss of both water and electrolytes, such as sodium, chloride and potassium.
About ninety percent of a dog’s body weight is that of water. It dissolves natural and unnatural substances and helps in numerous bodily functions, such as digestion, waste removal, circulation, etc.
A mere loss of 10 percent of body fluid can cause a dog to suffer from and exhibit signs of dehydration.
Causes of Dehydration in Dogs
Dehydration is due to health problems that either cause a reduction in water intake or an increase in fluid loss.
In dogs, the most common causes of dehydration are severe diarrhea and vomiting.
Other possible causes of dog dehydration include:
- A rapid loss of fluid due to heat stroke
- Kidney failure
- Diabetes mellitus
- Bacterial infections
As you can see, dogs who suffer from certain chronic diseases such as kidney problems, diabetes, and infectious disease are more at risk for the development of dehydration.
Also, puppies, senior dogs, and pregnant or nursing dogs may also be prone to dehydration.
Symptoms of Dehydration in Dogs
How can we tell if a dog is dehydrated? There are definitive signs that show dehydration in dogs, for example:
Loss of Skin Elasticity
A prominent sign of dehydration in dogs is a loss of skin elasticity. If you suspect dehydration in your dog, simply check by pulling up the loose skin over his shoulders and let go.
In a normal dog, the skin should immediately spring back into place. In a dehydrated dog, the skin stays up in a ridge.
Slow Capillary Refill Time
Another sign of dog dehydration is it takes longer for blood to refill capillaries.
You can do a quick test by gently pressing a finger against your dog’s gums until blood is blocked from the area so it becomes white. Release your finger. The white area should become pinkish again almost immediately if a dog is healthy.
In a dehydrated dog, there will be a time delay for the blood to refill, so it takes longer for the area to turn pink again.
Dull Sticky Gums
A healthy dog has gums that are wet and slippery. On the other hand, a dehydrated dog has a dry mouth with dull and sticky gums. The saliva is thick and tenacious.
In addition to the above signs, a dehydrated dog is usually lethargic, depressed, and has no appetite.
In serious cases, the dog will have sunken eyes and will show signs of shock.
Dehydration is an Emergency!
Dehydration in dogs is an emergency and should be treated immediately by a veterinarian, who will replenish fluid loss by administering intravenous or subcutaneous fluids.
Prevention and Home Treatment
If your dog is suffering from mild dehydration, and if he is not vomiting, you may want to give him an electrolyte solution such as Pedialyte or even Gatorade.
Alternatively, you can easily make a electrolyte solution by adding about 6 teaspoons of sugar and half a teaspoon of salt to 1 liter (4.2 cups) of filtered water.
Depending on the degree of dehydration, you can give up to 2 – 4 ml per pound of body weight per hour. Fill a needleless syringe with the solution and put it directly in the dog’s mouth.
To prevent dehydration, here are some suggestions:
- Make sure that your dog has access to fresh clean water at all times.
- Monitor your dog’s water intake. A dog usually needs at least one ounce of water (and no more than 2 ounces) per pound of body weight per day. If your dog is not drinking sufficient water, try to encourage him to drink more by adding some flavor to the water (e.g. add a bit of low-salt chicken broth to the water). If he still refuses to drink enough water, seek veterinary advice.
- Bring extra water when you are going hiking or out exercising with your dog, especially on a hot day.