Dehydration in Dogs

Dehydration in Dogs.
We have talked before about the importance of drinking water for a dog. Water is critical for many body functions – from circulation to respiration to converting food to energy.

What is dehydration in dogs?
Dehydration is defined as “the loss of water and salts essential for normal body function.”
Even a drop in body fluid as small as 4 or 5% can cause visible signs of dehydration.

What causes dehydration in dogs?
Dogs  lose fluid through panting, breathing.  Diarrhea, vomiting, or  fever can also cause fluid loss.

How do you recognize dehydration in dogs?
1.  The easiest test for dehydration is to test the elasticity of the skin.  When you pinch a little skin on your dog’s back and then let it go, the skin should pop right back into place immediately.  Try this on the back of your hand to get an idea.  As the body loses fluid, the skin moves back into place more slowly.  Of course, each dog is an individual.  Age and weight are two factors that can affect the elasticity.  As we always suggest  in our Pet CPR and 1st Aid classes, you should practice this on your dog so you know what normal looks like.  Because of Tucker’s hair, I check this on the inside of a back leg, where I can actually see his skin.

2. As the level of dehydration worsens, the dog’s eyes can appear sunken and dry. The gums and nose feel dry.  When the dog’s fluid supply is severely depleted, the dog may do into shock.  Symptoms such as slow capillary refill time may be noticed.  (Again, you should know what your dog’s normal capillary refill time is.)

How do you prevent dehydration in dogs?
Prevention is of course the best approach.   Always have enough water available for your dog to drink. If your dog spends time in more than one area of your house, have a bowl filled with water  in each the different area. There is a bowl by Tucker’s food dish on the first floor of our house.   The Sensible Dog office, where he spends much time (at my side),  is on the second floor of our house.  There is a Sensible Dog water bowl in the office. Now that it is summer and we are outside more, there is another water bowl on the porch.  When you travel with your dog, remember to give him a chance to drink at each break.

How do you do to help a dog suffering from dehydration?
1. Start rehydrating your dog slowly, allowing him a few sips at a time.  Giving him too much too soon, can cause him to vomit, which can lead to even more loss of fluid.
2.  You can give a dog a child’s electrolyte mixed in water.  You might want to talk with your veterinarian about the type and dosage for your dog.
3.  You can also let your dog lick ice to hydrate himself slowly.

Final Thoughts.
If your dog refuses to drink for any extended period of time, contact your veterinarian.

If you notice any other change in your dog’s drinking pattern, contact your veterinarian.

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