One of the more common emergencies that our Crystal Lake vets manage in dogs is dehydration. Dehydration occurs when your dog's body loses more water and electrolytes than they are taking in which has the potential to cause serious issues with their internal organs, body temperature, joints, and digestion.
Dehydration in Dogs
Water is necessary for the function of all life on earth. In fact, water is a critical part of nearly every function in the body. If your dog begins to lose more water and electrolytes than they are taking in, dehydration occurs and your dog's body will begin to break down.
Dehydration in dogs is a critical condition in the body and when it happens it can lead to kidney failure, loss of consciousness, and in extreme cases, death.
How does dehydration happen?
As with all animals, your dog will slowly lose the water within their body throughout the day simply through panting, breathing, urinating, defecating, and evaporation through their paws. This loss of fluids and electrolytes is then compensated for when your dog eats and drinks.
If this process continues to occur when their fluid intake is less than the amount they are losing, their body's blood flow and the volume of fluids is reduced, which reduces the delivery of oxygen to your pet's organs and tissues.
Electrolytes are naturally occurring minerals that humans and dogs need to keep their bodies healthy. Electrolytes include sodium, chloride, and potassium which help to balance the body’s pH, move nutrients into cells, facilitate muscle function, and regulate nerve function.
Common symptoms of dehydration in dogs
If your dog is experiencing dehydration then one of the easiest to recognize symptoms will be a loss of elasticity in your dog's skin. If you pull lightly on your dog's skin and it doesn't readily go back to its original position, your dog is likely suffering from dehydration.
Xerostomia is another sign of dehydration in dogs. Xerostomia occurs when your pet's gums lose moistness and become very dry and sticky, and your dog's saliva becomes thick and pasty. Other symptoms of dehydration include, loss of appetite, panting and dry nose. In severe cases, your dog's eyes may become sunken or your pet may collapse from shock.
The Main Causes Behind Dehydration in Dogs
There are various reasons why your dog may become dehydrated which include heatstroke, illness, fever, persistent vomiting or diarrhea, and insufficient fluid intake.
What should I do if my dog is dehydrated?
If dehydration in your dog has reached the level of shock, heatstroke, or severe dehydration, it is important to call your veterinarian immediately. Your vet will be able to provide advice and recommendations such as offering your dog small amounts of water to begin the rehydration process while you are on your way to their office. Treatment for dogs suffering from this level of dehydration is re-hydration using intravenous fluids.
If you are noticing the signs of dehydration in your dog it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Contact your closest animal emergency hospital for advice and to let them know you are on your way.
If you notice only very subtle symptoms of dehydration then it may be beneficial to provide your dog with small amounts of water to drink every few minutes or offer your dog pieces of ice to lick. You could also provide your dog with Ringer's lactate (an electrolyte replacement fluid) to help replenish their lost minerals. It is important not to offer too much water all at once since this could cause your dog to vomit, causing even further dehydration. Even if your dog is suffering from a mild cause of dehydration it's a good idea to contact your vet for additional recommendations.
How to prevent dehydration in my dog
If your dog is suffering from continuous or severe bouts of vomiting and diarrhea contact your vet to book an examination in order to determine the underlying cause. Severe vomiting and diarrhea can be a symptom of a number of serious conditions and requires immediate attention. To help keep your dog hydrated while they are experiencing these symptoms offer your pet an electrolytic solution until they feel better. If the symptoms continue IV fluids may be the only way to prevent the serious side effects of dehydration.
To prevent your healthy dog from developing dehydration, always provide your pet with an easily accessible and ample supply of clean drinking water. If your dog spends time outdoors in the hot weather or enjoys vigorous exercise, they will need extra amounts of water in order to stay hydrated.
Dogs typically require at least one ounce of water per day for each pound of body weight. If you're unsure whether your dog is drinking enough, ask your vet for advice on how to ensure your dog consumes enough fluids.