Doggy dehydration: How to tell if your dog is dehydrated

dog drinking water
Chris Stoddard
Chris Stoddard

Now that summer has arrived and we enjoy the warmer weather with our dogs, most of us are also simultaneously aware of the potential dangers that the hot weather can bring for dogs too – such as stinging bugs like wasps, and overheating and heatstroke.

However, there are also some other things to think about during the hotter weather too, such as ensuring that your dog drinks enough water to keep them cool and hydrated. Dogs need to drink more in the summer than in the winter to account for the fact that drinking water is one of the main ways that dogs are able to keep themselves cool.

Dehydration in dogs can be dangerous in its own right, and it also increases your dog’s risk of developing heatstroke – but how would you know if your dog was dehydrated, and what symptoms can indicate dehydration in the dog?

In this article we will answer these questions, and outline how you would be able to tell if your dog was dehydrated when there is still time to do something about it. Read on to learn more.

Why wouldn’t a dog just have a drink before they get dehydrated?

We all know the feeling of being thirsty and needing a drink, and when we feel that urge we make it a priority to get a drink to resolve the issue – and dogs get that same feeling. So, why wouldn’t a dog just drink before they reach the point that they become dehydrated?

Well, the first potential reason of course is that there isn’t water available to them, and this might accidentally occur even if you’re very vigilant about topping up their bowl. During the summer dogs need to drink more – often a lot more – and even though we as owners may know this in theory, it is easy to slip up and let the bowl go dry if we’re not vigilant. Dogs can also knock their bowls over too, and if you’re out all day and your dog has done this in the morning, they may be dehydrated by the time you get home and realise what has happened.

Additionally, that feeling of thirst that we get when we need a drink is actually a symptom of dehydration – so by the time we feel thirsty, we’re already dehydrated to an extent, and your dog will be too.

The reason why dogs need to drink more in summer is because this is an important part of cooling themselves down too, and so even if your dog is drinking more than normal, they might still become dehydrated as they’re using that much more water to stay cool, and panting (which is also vital for cooling) leads to the evaporation of water from the body, speeding up the process as well.

Don’t assume that just because your dog is drinking or has just had a drink that they’re not already dehydrated – although as long as they still have plenty of water available and are willing and able to get to it, the dehydration should resolve itself quickly during the early stages.

What are the signs that my dog is dehydrated?

So, what are the warning signs to look out for to let you know that your dog is dehydrated? Let’s take a look at the symptoms that may appear at various stages of dehydration in the dog.

They are seeking sources of water

This one may seem obvious, but can be accidentally overlooked. If your dog is doing things like trying to drink from puddles, licking a wet floor or otherwise apparently looking for water in odd places that they normally don’t, they need a drink and ergo, may be dehydrated.

However, many dog owners ignore or write this symptom off as nothing other that weird dog behaviour because they know the dog has water available – but double-check on that, to ensure the water hasn’t run out, become contaminated, or that the door to the room with the bowl in it hasn’t been closed by accident.

They’re panting heavily

If your dog is panting heavily and for a prolonged period of time (such as after exercise or when the weather is hot) they need to drink more to help with cooling, and to replace the fluids lost to evaporation. Panting heavily on its own doesn’t necessarily indicate dehydration as this is a natural part of cooling, but it does mean your dog needs to be offered a drink to prevent potential dehydration.

Their gums are dry or tacky

Your dog’s gums should be moist with saliva, and if they are dry or tacky to the touch (and look dull rather than shiny with spit) your dog is dehydrated, and needs to be given a drink.

They’re lethargic or less engaged than normal

Dehydration can develop quite quickly, and make your dog feel very unwell, much as heatstroke can – and these two conditions commonly appear together in hot weather. This will make your dog lethargic and less interested in what is going on around them, so if your dog is not engaged in play or activity all of a sudden, dehydration may be the problem.

Their eyes appear dry or sunken

Sunken and dry eyes don’t tend to develop until dehydration is very advanced, and posing a serious threat to your dog’s health. This is a serious symptom that should never be ignored, so offer your dog water and take them along to the vet (whether they drink or not).

They don’t want food

Most dogs would have to be on their literal deathbeds to turn down a treat or a tasty snack, and if your dog is turning their nose up at a treat, this is usually a fairly clear symptom that all is not well. Offer water instead and you will get a better reaction.

The skin is less elastic

Finally, you can perform a simple pinch test on your dog’s skin to identify the elasticity of their skin which in turn, indicates your dog’s hydration levels. Gently pinch a loose area of skin between your thumb and forefinger and then release it – the skin should spring back immediately. If it takes a couple of seconds or more, your dog is dehydrated.

Skin that springs back immediately doesn’t definitively rule out potential dehydration, but skin that does not spring right back definitely indicates that your dog is dehydrated.


(Article source: Pets 4 Homes)

NEVER leave your dog in a hot car!

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