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Dehydration and Water Needs in Dogs

ASPCA logoDehydration is a lack of water in the body, and can cause serious complications for pets and people alike. Water is essential to all living beings, including dogs, who depend on proper daily fluid intake to maintain appropriate health. It makes up 80 percent of your dog’s body, and dissolves natural and unnatural substances as well as serves as the root of all his biological processes, including circulation, digestion and waste removal.

What Causes Dehydration in Dogs?

Dehydration occurs when fluid levels drop to less than normal. This is due to either reduced water intake or increased fluid loss. Fluid loss can be due to overheating in hot weather or a bout of vomiting or diarrhea, especially in puppies.

What Are the General Symptoms of Dehydration in Dogs?

  • Sunken eyes
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dry mouth
  • Depression

 

What Should I Do If I Think My Dog Is Dehydrated?

Dehydration may indicate a serious underlying problem. If you suspect that your dog is dehydrated, take him to a veterinarian immediately. You may be able to detect dehydration at home by gently lifting the skin on the back of your dog’s neck or between the shoulder blades-unless your dog is seriously overweight or very thin, it should immediately return to a normal position. If he is lacking in fluids, the lifted skin may not quickly return to normal. Often, however, the signs of dehydration are not obvious, and only a veterinarian can provide proper diagnosis and treatment.

Are Certain Dogs Prone to Dehydration?

Dogs most at risk for dehydration are those who suffer from various illnesses such as kidney disorders, cancer and infectious disease. Elderly dogs and pregnant or nursing dogs may be prone to dehydration, as well as diabetic dogs whose condition is not regularly monitored.

How Is Dehydration Treated?

A veterinarian will administer intravenous or subcutaneous fluids, and run additional tests, if necessary, to determine the underlying cause of the condition.

How Can I Prevent Dehydration?

  • Provide clean water at all times, and change it frequently to ensure freshness. Also, don’t forget to wash your pet’s water bowl every day to prevent bacteria from forming.
  • Monitor your dog’s water intake. Generally, a dog needs at least one ounce of water for each pound of body weight per day. If your dog is not drinking an adequate amount of water, seek veterinary advice. Monitoring water intake is especially important if he’s recovering from diarrhea, vomiting or other illnesses.
  • Purchase a water bowl with a weighted bottom to prevent your dog from knocking it over.
  • Bring extra water when you’re traveling or exercising with your dog.
  • If you notice your pet is drinking less than usual, check his mouth for sores or other foreign objects, such as burrs or sticks.
  • Avoid chaining a dog outside, since he may get tangled up, preventing him from accessing his water bowl.
  • Keep your toilet lid closed to interrupt your dog’s efforts to turn the bowl, which can be a source of bacteria, into a water fountain.

 

 

WebMD Veterinary Reference from ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist

The ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist specializes in the resolution and management of pet behavior problems only. Please do not submit questions about medical problems here. Only licensed veterinarians can diagnose medical conditions. If you think that your pet is sick, injured or experiencing any kind of physical distress, please contact his veterinarian immediately. A delay in seeking proper veterinary care may worsen your pet's condition and put his life at risk. If you are concerned about the cost of veterinary care, please read our resources on finding financial help.
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