Dehydration 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 and cats 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.
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.
General Symptoms of Dehydration in Dogs and Cats
Loss of appetite
Dehydration may indicate a serious underlying problem. If you suspect that your pet 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 shin, 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
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.
A veterinarian will administer intravenous or subcutaneous fluids, and run additional tests, if
necessary, to determine the underlying cause of the condition.
- 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
- 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.
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