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How can I tell if my dog is dehydrated?

jack russell looking at glass bottle

Dehydration occurs when your pet is losing more fluid than it’s taking in and it can have some pretty dire consequences for your pet’s health, and in serious cases, can lead to organ failure or even death. Water helps nearly every single part of the body to perform its functions properly, from regulating body temperature, to lubricating joints; it’s an essential part of your pet’s intake that should not be underestimated. Even losing just 10-15% of the water in their body can make them very ill.

Like humans, dogs lose water all day, through urinating and sweating through their paws. Dehydration can occur when your pet does not have sufficient access to fresh, clean water. Whether you’re at home, or out of the house, make sure your pet has plenty of water in their bowl to keep them properly hydrated. If you’re out and about together, always carry a bottle of water and some form of receptacle to ensure your dog can rehydrate. Some dogs naturally don’t drink much, so you could try offering them ice cubes to crunch or flavouring their water slightly with a splash of bone broth to encourage them to drink more. Dehydration can also occur if your pet is unwell, through excessive vomiting or diarrhoea.

dog drinking water

Because your dog is unable to tell you when it’s thirsty, it’s important that you know how to spot the signs of dehydration. The earlier you catch it, the easier it is to fix. One of the main signs of dehydration in dogs is loss of skin elasticity. The skin of a dog that is well hydrated will spring back into place quickly when you gently hold and raise a bit near the shoulder blades. If your dog is dehydrated, this skin will fall back into place much more slowly. Another tell-tale sign of dehydration is dry, sticky gums. You can also press your finger lightly on their gums to see how quickly the colour returns. The gums of a well-hydrated dog will immediately return to pink once you remove your finger, but a the gums of a dehydrated dog may stay white for much longer. Other signs to look out for include a dry nose, panting, sudden lethargy, sunken eyes and thick saliva.

If your dog is showing one or more signs of dehydration, offer them some water to try and replenish their stocks. Dehydrated dogs may also lose their appetite and so will not be getting the extra water they need from their food. Dehydration can also lead to the loss of electrolytes, which can affect their organs. You can buy special fluids to replenish their electrolytes but it’s best to speak to your veterinarian first.

If you have any concerns about your dog’s health and water intake, please speak to your veterinarian immediately.