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Is Your Dog Hydrated: What Dog Owners Need to Know about Hydration


This is not enough water for your dog

Water is essential for good health, yet many dogs are chronically dehydrated.  Here, everything a dog owner needs to know about dehydration and dogs will be discussed. 

Why is Hydration for Dogs Important?

Adequate hydration is necessary for all mammals because it aids in nutrient transport and absorption, proper digestion and metabolism, and body temperature regulation.  Dogs that are dehydrated can suffer serious health problems such as diarrhea, vomiting, heat stroke, heart failure, kidney disease, seizures, and death. 

How do Dogs Become Dehydrated?

Unlike humans, dogs are unable to carry a water bottle with them for easy hydration throughout the day.  Instead, they must wait for times when cool, clean water is available (Amazon carries some nice dog water bottles that can be found here).  Additional factors that affect hydration include climate, body size and shape, coat condition, age, pre-existing health conditions, activity level, and food source.  Additionally, some dogs are finicky about water taste.  Water from varying sources may have flavors of metals, chemicals, or treatments that discourage dogs from drinking.

How to Check your Dog’s Hydration Levels

There are many ways to check your dog’s hydration.  Three popular methods include:

Urine Color

When your dog takes a potty break, check the color of his or her urine.  Dark yellow to brown urine is a serious sign of dehydration.  Urine should be pale or light yellow instead. 

Skin Fold Test

Another, perhaps easier, way to check your dog’s hydration is to perform a skin fold test.  Gently pull your dog’s skin between his or her shoulder blades so that it forms a peak.  When you let go of your dog’s skin it should have enough elasticity to return to normal within 1 – 2 seconds.  If your dog’s skin does not go back into place immediately, your dog is dehydrated.  The longer it takes for your dog’s skin to return to normal the greater the level of dehydration.

Gum Test

Another way to gauge your dog’s hydration is to check his or her gums.  Hydrated gums should be light pink and wet.  If your dog is dehydrated, gums will be dry or tacky-feeling.  Additionally, gums may be exceptionally pale. 

Capillary refill time can also be used as an indication of hydration.  If your dog will allow, press your finger on your dog’s gums.  The color should temporarily turn white but return to pink within 1 – 2 seconds.  A longer capillary fill time indicates your dog is dehydrated. 

What to Do if Your Dog is Dehydrated

If your dog is dehydrated, the first step is to encourage your pet to drink.  Never force a dog to consume water, and never encourage your pet to drink massive amounts of water at once.  If your dog is uninterested in drinking water, you can offer low-sodium chicken broth or Pedialyte to your pet.  Additionally, assuming your dog is not suffering from heat stroke, you can offer ice cubes to your pet for rehydration.  Other options include water-based fruits, such as watermelon or cantaloupe.

If your dog is severely dehydrated, a visit to the veterinarian is necessary.  The veterinarian will provide subcutaneous or IV fluids to restore your dog’s hydration levels. 

How to Encourage Good Hydration in Dogs

Above: Gulpy Dog Water Bottle at Amazon

The first step in encouraging good hydration is to provide fresh, cold water throughout the day.  In addition, water bowls should be cleaned frequently to prevent the buildup of bacteria.  When bacteria form your dog will instinctively avoid his or her water bowl.

Next, monitor your dog’s water intake.  A general rule of thumb is that dogs should consume approximately 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight per day.  If your dog is under-consuming water, consider whether an underlying medical condition may be to blame and consult your veterinarian. 

When exercising in the heat, always carry a water bottle for your dog, such as a Gulpy.  Encourage your dog to take small, frequent water breaks when the weather is warm.

Dogs are more likely to become dehydrated during car travel.  Pack ice cubes so that you can easily maintain your dog’s hydration during the drive.  If your dog is picky about the taste of the water at your destination, flavor the water with chicken broth or a small amount of Kool-Aid. 

Finally, bear in mind that your dog’s food may contribute to dehydration.  Dry kibble, while good for teeth, can be dehydrating for dogs.  If you find that your pet is chronically dehydrated, consider switching to wet or raw food. 

Ultimately, dogs require good hydration to maintain optimal health.  Factors that lead to dehydration include age, health condition, activity level, weather, and food source.  Pet owners can encourage hydration by flavoring water bowls, providing frequent water breaks during activity, and changing from dry to wet food. 

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Anna Weber

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