At Memphis Veterinary Specialists & Emergency, our vets often treat dehydration in dogs, a common emergency. When your dog's body loses more water and electrolytes than they are consuming, they will suffer from dehydration. Consequently, they will develop serious issues with their internal organs, body temperature, joints, and digestion.
Dogs, much like people, require water to ensure their bodies are working properly. Water is so important, in fact, that essentially all bodily functions require it to remain healthy and operative. If your dog loses more water and electrolytes than they are taking in, they will begin to dehydrate and their health will deteriorate.
It's important to understand that dehydration in your dog can lead to kidney failure, unconsciousness, and even death in extreme cases.
The Process of Dehydration
Your dog's natural activities—such as panting, breathing, urinating, and defecating, as well as simple evaporation through their paws—can all cause your dog to lose fluids throughout the day. When your dog eats and drinks, the lost water and electrolytes are replaced.
However, if your pup's fluid intake becomes less than what they are losing, dehydration will begin. This causes a reduction in bodily fluids which in turn reduces their blood flow and the subsequent delivery of oxygen to their organs and tissues.
Electrolytes are minerals that naturally occur in both humans and dogs and they are essential for proper health. Electrolytes, comprised of sodium, chloride, and potassium, facilitate the movement of nutrients into cells, aid in muscle function, and help regulate nerve activities.
Dehydration is most commonly spotted by the loss of elasticity in your pup's skin. To test this, simply pull lightly on their skin. If it doesn't return to its original position quickly, your dog is potentially experiencing dehydration.
Another sign of dehydration is xerostomia. This is the loss of moisture in your dog's gums, causing them to become dry and sticky with thick, pasty saliva. Loss of appetite, panting, and a dry nose are other signs of dehydration. Your dog's eyes may even become sunken or they might collapse if they enter shock, in extreme cases.
The Main Causes of Dehydration
There are a number of reasons why your dog may become dehydrated, including heatstroke, persistent vomiting or diarrhea, insufficient fluid intake, illness, or fever.
Immediate Treatment is Vital
Call your veterinarian immediately if your dog is displaying signs of shock, heatstroke, or severe dehydration. You may be advised to offer your pet a small amount of water on your way to your vet's office to help begin the rehydration process.
Dogs suffering from extreme dehydration will typically be treated with intravenous fluids to rehydrate them.
It is critical that your dog receives immediate emergency care if they are severely dehydrated! Contact the nearest animal emergency center for medical advice and to inform them that you are on your way.
In more mild cases, you can provide your dog with small amounts of water every few minutes or pieces of ice. It's important to not allow your dog to drink too much water at once as it could cause them to vomit, which will further dehydrate them. Offering your dog Ringer's lactate (an electrolyte replacement fluid) is also a good way to help replenish their lost fluids and minerals. Even in cases of mild dehydration, it's a good idea to contact your vet for additional recommendations.
How to Prevent Dehydration in your Dog
You should contact your vet if your dog is suffering from severe or continuous vomiting and/or diarrhea so they are able to examine your pet to determine the underlying cause. Many serious health conditions may present with symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea, all of which require immediate medical attention. If your dog is experiencing these symptoms, try to offer them an electrolyte solution to replace lost minerals and maintain their fluid levels until they recover. IV fluids may become necessary if the symptoms persist to prevent dehydration.
Always provide your pet with an ample supply of clean drinking water to prevent dehydration. If your dog spends time outdoors, especially in hot weather, or has had a lot of exercise, they will need extra water to replace what has been lost.
As a rule, dogs generally need an ounce of water per pound of bodyweight every single day. If you have questions about how much water your dog is drinking, ask your vet for advice on how you can be sure they are consuming enough fluids.