Dehydration in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

A common emergency, our vets frequently treat dehydration in dogs here at Stage Road Animal Hospital in Memphis. Dehydration is the condition that occurs when your pet has lost more fluids and electrolytes than they have taken in, resulting in severe issues with their internal organs, body temperature, joints, and digestion.

What is dehydration in dogs?

Dogs, like all other mammals including humans, depend on water to ensure their bodies function properly. Water is so essential, in fact, that it is vital for nearly every bodily function. Should your dog reach the point where they are taking in less water and electrolytes than they are losing, dehydration will begin, causing your dog's body to start breaking down.

Dehydration can result in kidney failure, loss of consciousness, and death in extreme cases.

How does dehydration happen?

It's natural for your dog's body to lose fluids throughout the day through panting, breathing, urinating, defecating, and evaporation through their paws. These fluids and electrolytes are typically replaced when your dog drinks and eats.

However, if they take in less water than they are losing, it will impact their blood flow, causing reduced oxygen to your dog's organs and tissues. 

As naturally-occurring minerals in the body, electrolytes are essential for good health, both in dogs and humans. They provide sodium, chloride, and potassium and help to create a balance in the body's pH levels. They also aid in moving nutrients into the cells, help with muscle function, and regulate nerve function as well.

What are the signs of dehydration in dogs?

One of the simplest ways to test if your dog is suffering from dehydration is to check on the loss of elasticity of their skin. If you pull gently on your dog's skin and it doesn't return to its normal position quickly, your dog is likely dehydrated.

Another sign of dehydration in dogs is xerostomia, or the loss of moisture in your pet's gums. This causes them to become dry and sticky with a thick, pasty saliva.

Other signs to look for include a loss of appetite, dry nose, and excessive panting. In some more severe cases, your pet's eyes may become sunken or your dog may even collapse due to shock.

What causes dehydration?

There are several reasons your pet may become dehydrated, such as heatstroke, illness, persistent vomiting or diarrhea, fever, or insufficient fluid intake.

How to Treat Your Dehydrated Dog

If your dog is showing any symptoms of dehydration, call your veterinarian immediately. Your vet may recommend offering small quantities of water to your dog to begin rehydrating while you're on the way to their office. More serious cases of dehydration may require treating with intravenous fluids.

Severe dehydration requires immediate emergency care! Contact the closest animal emergency center to let them know you are coming. They may have additional advice for you as well.

If your pet is suffering from mild dehydration, begin by offering small quantities of water or some pieces of ice. Too much water too quickly can cause your dog to vomit which will worsen their dehydration. You can also offer your dog an electrolyte replacement, such as Ringer's lactate, to help replenish their lost minerals. It is a good idea to contact your vet for their recommendations, even if your pet is only mildly dehydrated.

Preventing Dehydration

If your dog is experiencing severe bouts of vomiting or diarrhea, you should contact your vet to determine the underlying cause. As repeated vomiting and diarrhea can be signs of multiple serious conditions, it's important that your pet is examined immediately. While experiencing these symptoms, you'll need to help your dog stay hydrated until they recover. Try to offer an electrolyte solution or water. If the condition persists, IV fluids may be the only way to prevent the serious side effects of dehydration.

The best way to prevent your pet from developing dehydration is to always ensure they have access to an ample supply of clean drinking water. The amount of water they will need increases if they spend time outdoors in hot weather or if they are highly active.

Typically, dogs require at least one ounce of water per pound of bodyweight, every day. Ask your vet for advice if you're unsure if your dog is drinking enough water.

If your dog is displaying signs of severe dehydration, contact your primary care veterinarian immediately. If it is outside of your vet's regular hours, you can contact Stage Road Animal Hospital in Memphis. Our vets offer emergency care to pets, evenings, weekends and on major holidays. 

Dehydration in dogs, Memphis Vet

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