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We all get dehydrated from time to time. From working up a sweat whilst exercising to basking in the sunshine on a warm summer's day, our bodies naturally gain and lose water throughout the day - and our pets are no different.

Next up in our pet first aid series is dehydration in dogs. In this guide, we take a look at what dehydration is, the causes and signs of dehydration in dogs, what to do if your dog is dehydrated and provide tips on how to prevent dehydration.

Dehydration in dogs

Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluid than it’s taking in. All mammals, from humans to dogs, rely on water to keep their bodies functioning properly.

Whilst most people know that nutrition is important for the overall health or our bodies and our minds, we often forget just how important water is. Water helps to lubricate joints, cushion our internal organs, aids in digestion, and helps to regulate body temperature. It also allows the cells in your dog’s body to absorb nutrients.

It is normal for a dog’s body to gain and lose water throughout the day. Panting, breathing, urinating, defecating, and evaporation through the paws all contribute to normal water loss, which your dog compensates for by eating and drinking.

Causes of canine dehydration

The most obvious cause of dehydration is a lack of water intake, which occurs when your pooch either isn’t drinking enough water to sufficiently keep them hydrated or doesn’t have access to water as and when they need a drink. Whether you’re at work during the day or are popping out in the evening, you should ensure that your dog has access to enough fresh water so that they don’t run out. It goes without saying that your dog needs water throughout the day but especially after exercise, long walks or when it’s warm outside and they may need an extra hand to regulate their temperature to avoid heat stroke.

If your dog is ill or has a fever, they may not feel like or be able to drink as much as they would normally. They can also lose fluid from acute attacks of diarrhoea and vomiting. Sometimes canine dehydration is a sign of an underlying cause. If your dog is displaying signs of dehydration for an elongated period of time, you should seek advice from your vet, as this could be a sign of diseases or conditions such as kidney disease, diabetes, or some types of cancer.

What are the signs of dehydration in dogs?

Golden Retriever panting and looking how

Our furry-friends can’t tell us when they are thirsty or when something is wrong. Being able to spot the signs of dehydration can help to prevent it from happening and will allow you to respond quickly before an emergency occurs. Some of the signs of dehydration in dogs include:

  • A dry nose
  • Dry or sticky gums
  • Diarrhoea
  • Heat stroke
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Reduced energy levels
  • Panting
  • Sunken eyes
  • Thick saliva
  • Vomiting

What to do if your pet is suffering from dehydration

Dehydration can be life-threatening, so it’s important to respond quickly if your pooch is displaying any signs of dehydration. If your dog is refusing to drink water or is displaying any signs of dehydration, you should:

  • Encourage your dog to drink small amounts of water every few minutes
  • Give your dog water with electrolyte replacement powder to speed up the rehydration
  • If your dog refuses to drink, try offering them ice cubes to lick
  • Be careful not to offer too much water too quickly, as this can cause vomiting
  • Take your dog to the nearest vet as a matter of urgency once their temperature has regulated

Remember, your dog cannot tell you when he or she is thirsty, so try to ensure that they always have access to fresh water and pay attention for signs of dehydration if your pooch becomes ill, is acting differently or on warmer days. To learn how to administer pet first aid or for more information on dehydration in dogs, check out our guide on heat stroke in pets.

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