Is Your Dog Dehydrated? Warning Signs of Dehydration in Dogs

Dehydration in Dog
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No matter if your canine friend is young or old, completely healthy or a little fragile, dehydration is a condition that can become fatal to any dog, and fast. But how can you tell whether your pooch is dehydrated? Is there more than one type of dehydration?

We’ll answer these questions and many more in today’s post. We’ll also look at several things that you can do to prevent your dog from becoming dehydrated and how you can re-hydrate your Fido at home.

What is Dehydration?

While many people might think that dehydration and thirst are basically the same, the fact of the matter is that they are different. Even though thirst can be one of the symptoms of dehydration in dogs, it’s not the most important one. In some cases, it might not even show up.

In both people and our canine companions, dehydration reduces the amount of blood and intracellular fluids that are found and transported throughout the body. Therefore, the volume of nutrients and oxygen being delivered to a dog’s organs and tissues is considerably decreased.

On top of that, severe dehydration in dogs causes electrolyte imbalances (calcium, sodium, magnesium, and potassium), which interfere with how a dog’s body normally functions.

No matter the possible causes of dehydration in dogs, once it is developed, it can be a life-threatening condition. 

Causes of Dehydration in dogs

According to some sources, vomiting and diarrhea can be two causes of dehydration, but they are, in fact, symptoms of other diseases or events. It goes without saying that they can lead to your dog being dehydrated, but they aren’t causes per se — they are a dog’s body response to something else.

Dogs can suffer from dehydration in the following situations:

  • Ingestion of toxins
  • Endocrine diseases (diabetes or Addison’s disease)
  • Kidney disease
  • Skin injuries or burns
  • Heatstroke

Can dehydration cause diarrhea in dogs? No. In fact, it’s the other way around. Pets lose fluid through their GI and urinary tract. For example, if you have taken your dog to a hike under the sun and you forgot to take a water bottle with you if you stay out for too long, your Fido might develop dehydration.

Dogs don’t sweat like other animals — they mostly use their breathing and drooling to regulate their body temperature. Their paws also have merocrine glands in them, but dogs rarely sweat through their paws. A dog can also become dehydrated if the water bowl contains freezing water (in the winter).

Dehydration signs in dogs

We’re all dehydrated at the end of the day if we haven’t had enough water, but if we do get home and drink enough liquids, we re-hydrate, and nothing bad happens. So, there are different stages of dehydration in dogs, and it’s a good idea to know how to make the difference between them.

Severe Dehydration

If your dog is severely dehydrated, he will experience weakened mobility, walk clumsily, and show signs of shock. He might even shiver and collapse.

Moderate Dehydration

Moderate dehydration symptoms in dogs range from loss of skin elasticity to sunken eyes and loss of appetite (for both food and water).

Mild Dehydration

You can tell whether your dog is mildly dehydrated as he’s likely to have a dry nose and gums, as well as a dry tongue. Some dogs might be a little lethargic and move slowly while others might pant excessively.

How to tell if your dog is Dehydrated

You can perform a dehydration test very easily on most dogs. Healthy dogs have moist gums and a wet nose and a bright and moist pair of eyes.

There is a simple dehydration test that you can use to tell whether it’s time to take Fido to the vet or not. A dog that is dehydrated will have low skin elasticity.

Gently lift and release some of the loose skin on your dog’s neck and see whether it bounces right back into place. If it takes a while or that just doesn’t happen, you have to take your canine friend to the vet clinic as soon as possible.

You can also test your dog’s capillary refill time. This can be measured by holding your finger against your dog’s gums for several seconds. Once you remove your finger, see how quickly the pale mark gets pink again. If it takes just about two seconds, your dog is not dehydrated. If it takes longer than that, he could be suffering from dehydration.

Dehydration in Dogs – Treatment and Diagnosis

If you’ve taken your dog to the clinic and the vet was able to tell that your pooch is dehydrated, they will most likely rehydrate your pet intravenously. But the problem here is that dehydration is merely a symptom (a severe one, yes, but still a symptom) of something else — whether a disease or a complex of factors that have led to it.

Besides the warning signs that we have mentioned already, the vet will perform several diagnostic tests (such as a complete blood count and a serum biochemistry profile) to lead to the possible cause of dehydration.

Depending on the results, additional tests might have to be performed to get to the root of the issue — and these can range from X-rays to urine or fecal cultures.

Treating dehydration in dogs isn’t very difficult, but you should know that puppies and senior dogs are exposed to more severe consequences compared to healthy adult dogs.

In fact, if a puppy or a senior dog isn’t brought in for a checkup right away if the pet parent suspects dehydration, collapse is a possible outcome. Organ failure happens faster in these age categories.

Pets that are moderate to severely dehydrated have to be hospitalized and administered IV fluids along with an electrolyte solution for as many as 24 to 48 hours. During this time, the blood pressure and heart rate of the patients are going to be monitored, and so will their urine output and overall health.

Dehydration in Dogs – Home Remedies

If you noticed that your dog is mildly dehydrated, you could offer him small sips of water every several minutes. It might be a good idea to have an electrolyte replacement powder in your home so that you can mix it with the water.

Since some dogs aren’t particularly keen on the idea of drinking a lot of plain water, you can make some chicken soup (without any salt, spices, or condiments), strain it, and give it to your dog. Bone broth works just as well, and it contains healthy collagen and a variety of other nutrients, too.

Keep in mind that a dog that’s dehydrated might also want to drink too much water too quickly, in which case he might either vomit, or this could lead to volvulus (also known as bloat). Volvulus in dogs can be a life-threatening problem, so avoid giving your dog large quantities of water. Keep him interested, however, by offering him some ice to lick, especially in the summer.

Can dogs have Gatorade for dehydration? Gatorade isn’t the best drink to give to a dehydrated dog, and that’s because it contains fairly high amounts of sugar and sodium. Yes, it does have electrolytes, but there’s no point in giving your dog a sugary drink. Energy or sports drinks can also contain caffeine and taurine, none of which are recommended for dogs.

Can dogs drink Pedialyte for dehydration? Yes. Pedialyte is a child’s electrolyte drink, so it’s much safer to give to our canine friends. It can replace the electrolytes that your dog might be losing through vomiting or diarrhea, but make sure that you give Fido small amounts. You can use a needleless syringe for the purpose and release tiny quantities of Pedialyte between your dog’s cheek and gums, but don’t overdo it as some dogs might gag or worse, breathe in the liquid and choke.

Preventing Dehydration in Dogs

The first advice that we can give you is to use several water bowls instead of one. Some dogs can play or run around the house when you’re at work and tip over the bowl and empty it. If there’s just one bowl in the whole house, the dog isn’t going to have any water available. That’s why two to three water bowls are better than one.

If you take your dog to the park, for a hike, or any activity that involves exercise, make sure you take enough water with you. Use a portable dog bowl to give him a little water every 30 minutes or so. In the summer, a dog can get dehydrated very fast.

Make sure that your dog’s water is always clean and fresh. If your dog is reluctant when it comes to drinking from a bowl, you might want to consider investing in a pet fountain since it keeps the water fresh.

If your dog isn’t generally a fan of drinking plain water, just give them soup or bone broth instead. More importantly, switch to canned food or wet dog food pouches instead of feeding your canine friend kibble.

Did you know about these Warning Signs of Dehydration in Dogs before? Share your opinion with our fellow readers by commenting below. You might also be interested in reading about CBD for Pet Dog.

Cristina Vulpe PhD
With a PhD in Veterinary Oncology, Dr. Cristina Vulpe loves researching and writing about the things that she’s passionate about. These range from animal nutrition and welfare to pet behavior, infectious diseases, and parasitology. In her spare time, she’s always in the company of her cat and a good book.