Dehydration is a common emergency seen by our vets here at Animal Emergency Center in Memphis. Dehydration happens when your dog's body loses more water and electrolytes than they are taking in, subsequently causing severe issues with their internal organs, body temperature, joints, and digestion.
Dehydration in Dogs
All mammals, humans and dogs alike, rely on water to keep their bodies functioning properly. In fact, water plays a vital role in the functioning of virtually every body function. When your dog is losing more water and electrolytes than they are taking in, dehydration occurs and your dog's body will begin to breakdown.
Dehydration in dogs is a very serious concern that can lead to kidney failure, loss of consciousness, and in extreme cases, death.
How Dehydration Happens
Your dog's body will naturally lose water throughout the day simply through panting, breathing, urinating, defecating, and evaporation through their paws. This loss of fluids and electrolytes is then compensated for when your dog eats and drinks.
If your pup's body reaches the point where their fluid intake is less than the amount they are losing, their body's blood flow and the volume of fluids is reduced, which reduces the delivery of oxygen to your pet's organs and tissues.
Electrolytes are naturally occurring minerals that humans and dogs need to keep their bodies healthy. Electrolytes include sodium, chloride, and potassium which help to balance the body’s pH, move nutrients into cells, facilitate muscle function, and regulate nerve function.
Symptoms of Dehydration in Dogs
The most common and easiest to spot symptom of dehydration is the loss of elasticity in your dog's skin. If you pull lightly on your dog's skin and it doesn't readily go back to its original position, your dog is likely suffering from dehydration!
Xerostomia is another sign of dehydration in dogs. Xerostomia is when your pet's gums lose moistness and become dry and sticky, and your dog's saliva becomes thick and pasty. Other symptoms of dehydration include loss of appetite, panting and dry nose. In severe cases your dog's eyes may become sunken or your pet may collapse from shock.
The Primary Causes of Dehydration
Your dog could become dehydrated for a number of reasons including heat stroke, illness, fever, persistent vomiting or diarrhea, and insufficient fluid intake.
Immediate Treatment if Your Dog Becomes Dehydrated
If your dog is displaying symptoms of shock, heat stroke, or severe dehydration, call your veterinarian immediately. 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 dog is severely dehydrated immediate emergency care is essential! Contact your closest animal emergency center for advice and to let them know you are on your way.
If your dog is mildly dehydrated provide your dog with small amounts of water to drink every few minutes or offer your dog pieces of ice to lick. You could also provide your dog with Ringer's lactate (an electrolyte replacement fluid) to help replenish their lost minerals. It is important not to 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 cause of dehydration it's a good idea to 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 in order 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.