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August 5, 2021

How to Know if Your Dog is Dehydrated and How to Help Them

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Water is integral to life and a key component of your dog’s overall health. Water helps lubricate joints, regulate body temperature, aid in digestion and cushion internal organs. It also helps your pet maintain proper blood flow, which carries vital oxygen to the brain, soft tissue and organs.

It is normal for your dog to lose moisture throughout the day. They lose it by panting, normal breathing, evaporation through their paws and urinating on every tree they pass. Moisture that is typically replaced by the water they drink daily.

Dehydration can occur if the body loses more water than it takes in. However, unlike your child who can ask for a drink when they’re thirsty, your furry buddy can’t do the same.

Dehydration can be a dangerous condition for pets, so read through the following information to help keep your pup topped up and feeling great throughout the day.

Causes of Dehydration

The most common cause of dehydration in dogs is a lack of access to drinking water. All dogs should have access to clean, fresh water throughout the day. Note that if your dog has vomited or is suffering from diarrhea, they will be losing more moisture than usual, which will need to be replaced more often than normal.

Giving your dog lots of exercise is great, but be aware that vigorous exercise, or hot temperatures, and especially a combination of the two, will increase your dog’s need to glug a lot of the cool stuff. Puppies, seniors, nursing mothers and even toy breeds need more water than other breeds as well.

Sometimes your dog’s need for water is the same but their desire decreases. This can get into dangerous territory as drinking less than necessary can quickly lead to dehydration. What’s more, decreased drinking may indicate an underlying health condition such as kidney disease, diabetes or some forms of cancer. Talk to your vet to diagnose the problem and get your pet the treatment they need.

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Symptoms of Dehydration

You and your dog communicate all the time, but they still might not be able to tell you they are thirsty or not feeling well. So, how can you assess if your dog is dehydrated? Knowing common signs and symptoms of dehydration will allow you to act quickly and prevent a more serious health complication.

One of the easiest methods for gauging moisture levels is to test for skin elasticity. Gently grab the skin between your dog’s shoulder blades, lift it up and let it go. If your dog is properly hydrated, that skin will flop back down into place. If your dog is starting to dehydrate, the skin will sort of stay standing up and move back into place less quickly.1,2

Other Signs of Dehydration

  • Sunken eyes
  • Dry nose
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dry gums
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Collapse

Any one or combination of these traits means your dog may be at risk of becoming, or is already, dehydrated.

Effects of Dehydration

A number of things may happen to your dog if they become dehydrated.

Dehydration causes loss of electrolytes such as potassium, chloride and sodium. These minerals help with muscle function, balancing your dog’s pH and the flow of nutrients into cells.

Moisture loss will also make it more difficult for the blood to bring oxygen into the body. In severe cases, dehydration can lead to the failure of kidneys or other organs.

Treatment

Naturally, the easiest and quickest way to rehydrate your dog is to give them small amounts of water at a time. It’s important to not give your dog too much water too fast as this could cause your dog to vomit, making them more dehydrated. Your natural reaction might be to give your dog ice or very cold water, however, this can cause the blood vessels near the surface of the body to constrict and may slow down the cooling process.

If your dog is not vomiting, you can also give them liquid that is high in electrolytes such as Pedialyte. But check with your vet for proper dosage. You will also want to have your dog checked out by a vet immediately as dehydration can turn serious or be a symptom of an underlying condition.

Prevention

Prevention is really the best protection against a case of dehydration.

A good rule of thumb is that a dog needs one ounce of water every day for every pound of body weight. For example, your 70lb lab requires roughly 70 ounces of water each day—roughly about the same volume as one-half-gallon of milk.3

If your dog isn’t big on drinking regularly, you may want to flavor their water with bone broth. You may also want to consider introducing wet food into their daily diet as it contains more moisture than dry alone.

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Our Recommendation

Wet Food Recipes For Dogs

Perfect as a treat, a topper, or a complete and balanced meal, our NOW FRESH Wet Food recipes make a delicious addition to your dog’s mealtime, with fresh meats & fish and tasty bone broth for a meaty flavor that dogs just love.

Temperature and activity level will also require you to adjust the amount of water your dog has access to. When it’s hotter outside, or they are running around like crazy, they will need more water to prevent dehydration (just like humans!).

By paying attention to the amount of water your dog has available and watching for signs of dehydration, you can ensure that your dog stays healthy, happy and active.

  1. Dehydration in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments| Memphis Vet | Animal Emergency Center. (2020, August 12). Animal Emergency Centre - Memphis Vet. https://www.aecmemphis.com/site/vet-blog-memphis/2020/08/12/dehydration-in-dogs-causes-symptoms-treatment

  2. Vets Now. (2021, July 30). Dehydration in dogs, what are the signs and symptoms? https://www.vets-now.com/pet-care-advice/dehydration-in-dogs/

  3. L. (2019, November 18). How Much Water Should Your Labrador Drink Each Day? Labrador Training HQ. https://www.labradortraininghq.com/labrador-health-and-care/how-much-water-to-drink-each-day/


Author

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NOW FRESH Team

A Team of Dedicated Pet Parents + Nutrition Experts

We all want our cats and dogs to lead happy, healthy lives. We’re here to help you, with easy-to-understand information about your pet's daily care and feeding.