Dog dehydration isn't just serious, it can literally be life and death during the hot summer months. As a doggy owner, it's important that you can not only recognise the signs of dog dehydration but understand the best ways to prevent it too.
Here at MyPamperedPup.com, we've talked before about caring for your dog during summer and in this post, we'll explore everything you need to know about addressing dehydration in your dog.
What Causes Dog Dehydration...?
Dog dehydration can be caused by loads of different reasons and, in most cases, the causes, of a dehydrated pooch are diarrhoea, vomiting and an extreme fever - just like in us humans. These symptoms cause your dog to lose body fluids, which, in turn, causes the dehydration!
Your dog can also suffer from dehydration if they have diabetes, kidney diseases, bleeding problems, an upset stomach or any conditions that make them reluctant to eat or drink. Another, more common cause of dehydration, is exposure to excess sun and heat which hugely impacts your dog's fluid levels and can make your dog really sick.
Remember, despite the fact that summer is the key time to watch our for dog dehydration, this isn't the only time of year that time playing outside can leave your dog prone to dehydration. The best way to think of it is that the more time that your dog spends outside playing, the more likely they are to getting dehydrated! What's more, winter can be just as bad as your dog will tend to drink a lot less water due to the cold weather.
The Signs of Dog Dehydration
Part of being a doggy parent is knowing when something's not quite right with your pooch! Read more and pay close attention and learn the signs of dog dehydration because remember, your dog can't tell you when something's wrong!
Learn these signs of dog dehydration:
Amongst the earliest signs of dog dehydration are dry mucous members in your dog's mouth. You'll notice that your dog's tongue and gums will get more sticky than wet and, what's more, if your dog's saliva starts to become stringy, it means that their body hasn't enough fluid to be able to effectively create more saliva, or keep its body properly hydrated.
Checking your dog's mouth might not be an easy task if they're not used to this kind of contact. Ensure that you make them feel reassured and comfortable. Keep them relaxed as feeling anxious can also make your dog's mouth and gums dry, not giving a true picture of if they're dehydrated or not!
Of course, if you do notice signs of dehydration when checking their mouth, give them plenty to drink right away and try to get them inside, or into the shade and give playtime a rest for a little while so that they can recover.
When healthy and hydrated, your dog's skin is springy and elastic - a loss of this skin elasticity is a sign that you should watch out for when looking for the signs of dog dehydration. The best way to check this is to gently grab your dog by their scruff, this is the loose skin which is over your dog's shoulders. Next, elevate and grasp the skin so that it's raised about three inches high before releasing to see what happens - in a hydrated dog the skin will spring back right after you lift it.
The rate at which the skin springs back is a good indicator of how hydrated they are. If your dog's skin retracts back slow, it can usually be a sign that they are around 8% dehydrated; if they're up to 10% dehydrated then the skin will remain rigid once it's been grabbed and lifted.
For those not familiar with capillary refill time, this is time taken for the colour to return to an external capillary bed after light pressure is applied to cause 'blanching' of the skin. You can try it on yourself by lightly pressing your nail until it turns white and measuring the time it takes to return to its usual colour.
In dogs, you can test their capillary refill time using their gums. A slow capillary refill time usually indicates dehydration. If you suspect that your dog is dehydrated, press your finger against their gums, if it takes no more than 2 seconds to return its usual colour then there is no need to worry. However, a capillary refill time of longer than 4 seconds can be a key indicator of dog dehydration and you should take immediate action.
Remember that it's important not to waste time in these situations and you should seek immediate advice from your vet and get your dog urgent care and treatment for dehydration if you've performed your own test and think that your dog's dehydrated.
Treating Dog Dehydration
Treatment for dog dehydration needs to be quick and effective for your pooch to stay safe. As pup owners, recognising the signs of dehydration and knowing what to do in the event that treatment is needed is a part of responsible dog parenting. Here's our advice for treating dog dehydration:
Learn the best treatment for dog dehydration...
Mild Dog Dehydration
When your dog has mild dehydration, often, getting them to simply drink plenty of cold water is the best treatment to help them recuperate. If your dog's mildly dehydrated then it can talk around an hour or so to get them back to a healthy state, as long as they're not also suffering from vomiting or diarrhoea.
Another consideration is that it's not only water that's needed when treating doggy dehydration, you may also want to consider rehydration salts to replace lost minerals. Remember to base your treatment on the size of your dog and ask your vet's advice for the best course of action depending on how large, or small, your dog is.
Moderate Dog Dehydration
Treating mild dog dehydration sounds scary, but it's not. The important thing to remember is that your dog will need prompt treatment to replace their lost fluids when they're suffering from moderate to severe dehydration. Our advice would be to seek the attention of your nearest vet and get immediate fluid therapy; this treatment is literally rehydrating them with fluids and electrolytes to get them back to fighting fit.
Fluid treatment for dogs is administered either intravenously, or with subcutaneous fluid - both of which are best performed by your veterinary surgeon.
Severe Dog Dehydration
Severe dog dehydration is very serious and requires urgent, specialist care. Intravenous fluids are required to replace lost body water and electrolytes - treatment doesn't just depend on the severity of dehydration but also your dog's age, size and overall general health.
Alongside lost water, your vet will closely monitor your dog's blood pressure, as well as their heart rate to determine the effectiveness of the treatment. Your pups weight and urine will also be routinely checked.
Preventing Dog Dehydration
As we've already discussed, part of being a responsible pet parent is keeping a close eye on your dog's health and being aware of their wellbeing. You should always monitor the level of water your dog is drinking and, if you're taking a dry food diet approach, always ensure that they're drinking plenty of water with their meal.
Here's our roundup of the best advice for preventing dehydration in your dog:
- Always provide clean, fresh water for your dog, make sure that it's easily accessible and your pup is encouraged to keep drinking.
- Change your pup's water at least a few times per day - keeping the water fresh encourages them to drink. Remember, try not to waste this water - we use our old water bowl water for the plants in our garden!
- In the hot summer months, throw in a handful of ice cubes into their water bowl to also cool them down - as well as keeping them hydrated.
- If you're heading outside, remember to take more water than you think you're going to need and try not to leave it out in the sun as it'll get too hot and won't be nice to drink.
- Try not to chain your dog up outside as this restricts its movements, limiting its ability to seek shade and cool down - in the worst cases your dog can even risk choking by getting themselves worked up when chained in one place.
- Monitor your dog's water intake, if they're not drinking enough we'd advise adding some light, unsalted meat broth to their bowl to give it a more enticing flavour. Don't be too generous and watch out for the salted kind as drinking extra salt when they're already dehydrated and too hot can make things worse. If you find your dog not drinking enough on a regular basis, consider taking them to the vet to get an assessment of their general health.
- Finally, remember that if your dog is suffering from diarrhoea, vomiting or any other illness that's making them losing bodily fluids then you should seek the advice of your vet to address the cause of the condition. In these instances, the only true treatment for the dehydration is addressing the cause of the reason for the lost fluid.
Dog dehydration is really common and you shouldn't worry about being a bad doggy parent if your dog is suffering from dehydration. That said, it's because dog dehydration is common that you should keep a careful eye on your dog to ensure you're keeping on top of the symptoms.
Always ensure that your dog has access to clean, fresh and cool water to prevent doggy dehydration from even being an issue. If you start recognising the signs of dehydration, early intervention is required to ensure that things don't progress.
Remember, don't wait for the symptoms of dog dehydration to progress and lead to complications before you start to take action. Take your dog to the vet if you even suspect the signs of dehydration so that they can advise on the best course of action.
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