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Signs of Dehydration in Dogs

Signs of Dehydration in Dogs

Dehydration in dogs happens when your canine companion’s body loses more water and electrolytes than it takes in. This can cause issues with your pet’s body temperature, joints, digestion and internal organs. Today, our Charlotte vets share information on this serious health emergency. 

Dehydration in Dogs

For people and dogs alike, water has a critical role to play when it comes to virtually all bodily functions. Dehydration happens if your dog loses more water and electrolytes than they take in, and organs and other areas of the body will start to suffer. This common but serious health emergency can lead to loss of consciousness and kidney failure. It may even be fatal.

How Dogs Get Their Hydration

Naturally, your dog’s body loses water throughout the day by breathing, defecating, urinating and panting. It will also evaporate through their paws. Your pup makes up for losing fluids and electrolytes by eating and drinking.

If your pooch’s body gets to the point where they’ve taken in less fluid than the amount the body is losing, the volume of fluids and blood flow decreases. In turn, the oxygen being delivered to your dog’s organs and tissues is reduced.

Both dogs and humans need electrolytes to keep their bodies healthy. These naturally occurring minerals include chloride, potassium and sodium, which help to move nutrients to cells, regulate nerve function, facilitate muscle function and balance the body’s pH.

Reasons your dog may become dehydrated include illness, fever, heatstroke, diarrhea, insufficient fluid intake and persistent vomiting.

Signs of Dehydration in Dogs

A loss of elasticity in a dog’s skin is often the most obvious sign of dehydration. If you pull lightly on your dog’s skin and it doesn’t readily return to its original position, your dog is likely suffering from dehydration.

Xerostomia (when your pup’s gums lose moisture and become dry and sticky, and the saliva becomes thick and pasty) is another early symptom of dehydration in dogs.

Other signs of dehydration include:

  • Dry nose
  • Loss of appetite
  • Panting

Symptoms of severe dehydration include:

  • Sunken eyes
  • Shock
  • Collapse

What to Do if Your Dog is Dehydrated

If your dog is displaying symptoms of shock, heatstroke, or severe dehydration, call your veterinarian immediately or contact your nearest emergency animal hospital. Your vet may advise you to begin offering your dog small amounts of water to begin the rehydration process while you are on your way to their office. Treatment for dogs suffering from this level of dehydration is re-hydration using intravenous fluids.

If your pooch is mildly dehydrated provide your pet with small amounts of water to drink every few minutes or offer your dog pieces of ice to lick. To help restore your dog's electrolyte balance you could also provide your pup with Ringer's lactate (an electrolyte replacement fluid).

Do not offer too much water all at once since this could cause your dog to vomit, causing even further dehydration. Even if your dog is suffering from a mild case of dehydration we recommend that you contact your vet for additional recommendations.

Preventing Your Dog from Becoming Dehydrated

If your dog is suffering from continuous or severe bouts of vomiting and diarrhea, contact your vet to book an examination to determine the underlying cause. Severe vomiting and diarrhea can be a symptom of a number of serious conditions and requires immediate attention. To help keep your dog hydrated while they are experiencing these symptoms offer your pet an electrolytic solution until they feel better. If the symptoms continue IV fluids may be the only way to prevent the serious side effects of dehydration.

To prevent your healthy dog from developing dehydration, always provide your pet with an easily accessible and ample supply of clean drinking water. If your dog spends time outdoors in the hot weather or enjoys vigorous exercise, they will need extra amounts of water in order to stay hydrated.

Dogs typically require at least one ounce of water per day for each pound of body weight. If you're unsure whether your dog is drinking enough, ask your vet for advice on how to ensure your dog consumes enough fluids.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your dog is displaying signs of dehydration, contact us right away for further instructions. Our Charlotte emergency veterinary team has specialized training in emergency medical care and triage. 

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