Dehydration in dogs is serious and is left untreated, can lead to organ failure and death. Dehydration occurs when fluid levels drop to less than normal. This is due to either reduced water intake or increased fluid loss. Fluid loss can occur due to overheating in hot weather or a bout with vomiting and diarrhea, especially in puppies and senior dogs.
Dehydration may also indicate a more serious underlying problem. The primary symptoms of dehydration include:
- Lack of skin elasticity
- Dry, sticky gums
- Sunken eyes
- Too much or too little urination
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Loss of appetite
- Change in behavior
Often, however, the signs of dehydration are not obvious and only a veterinarian can provide proper diagnosis and treatment. Sometimes it is as simple as your dog being a "little bit off" and just not himself.
Blood tests such as a complete blood count and biochemistry profile are important to find the underlying cause of the dehydration. Determining the concentration of the urine can also be helpful in diagnosing dehydration and if the kidneys are affected.
Your veterinarian will determine the levels of your dog's dehydration and the volume of fluids needed to re-hydrate him. Fluids will then be administered either subcutaneously (under the skin) or intravenously.
To help prevent dehydration, here are a few tips:
- Monitor your dog's water intake. Generally, a dog needs at least one ounce of water for each pound of body weight per day.
- Dogs lose a lot of water while panting. Leave two or three bowls of fresh water available to your dog so he gets enough to drink
- Purchase a water bowl with a weighted bottom to prevent your dog from knocking it over
- Bring extra water if you are traveling ort exercising with your dog
- If your dog has not had a good drink in a long time, start re-hydrating slowly, allowing your dog a few sips every few minutes. Overdrinking after a dry spell can quickly lead to vomiting and he may end up losing more fluids than before
- Don't let your dog drink excessive amount of water after a strenuous exercise session - go slowly - wait a few minutes and then give him small amounts every few minutes
- Dogs that have not had water in a long time may have difficulty holding it down so let him lick ice
Maintaining a constant fluid level is as important in dogs as it is in humans. If your dog refuses to drink for any extended period of time, or exhibits any of these other symptoms, consult your vet immediately.