Dehydration in Pets – Not Just a Hot Dog!
Dehydration in pets is common and can quickly become life threatening if not treated early. You’d be surprised how quickly dogs can become dehydrated in hot weather, particularly if they are kept outside or in a car as the temperature rises. However, pets don’t just suffer from dehydration when they get overheated. Dehydration can be a sign of underlying serious illness.
What Is Dehydration?
Technically dehydration means “loss of water”. This causes an abnormal reduction in the volume of circulating blood in the animal. Dehydration results in an imbalance of electrolytes (or charged “ions”, specifically calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium) within the blood. These electrolytes are crucial for the normal metabolic activities and functions of all cells in the body.
What Causes Dehydration?
Dehydration occurs when your pet doesn’t eat or drink enough. It can also occur if they lose too much fluid. This might be because they are urinating too much (they may have a kidney disease or diabetes for example), or they have vomiting or diarrhoea.
Possible causes may include:
- Heat stroke
- Illness causing vomiting and /or diarrhoea
- Urinating too much
Symptoms of Dehydration:
Here are some of the most common symptoms to look out for in your pet:
- Reduced appetite
- Lethargy and weakness (sleepy, no energy)
- Sunken eyes
- Dry gums (gums feel “tacky” rather than moist)
- Loss of skin elasticity (or skin tenting)
What should you do if you think your pet is dehydrated?
If you suspect that your dog might be dehydrated, then you should take them to your vet immediately. Clinical signs are not always obvious and only your vet can provide adequate fluid replacement effectively and quickly to correct the losses that have occurred. Your vet will need to do a full physical examination, which is likely to include blood tests. This will help them to identify and resolve the underlying cause of the dehydration.
The main goal when treating a dehydrated pet is to restore the normal fluid volume and correct any electrolyte abnormalities. This may involve giving fluids directly under the dog’s skin (subcutaneous fluids) or directly into the blood stream (intravenous fluids). Your vet will then recommend any additional medication required depending on the initial cause of the problem.
Tips to prevent dehydration in your pet
- Ensure your pet has access to plenty of fresh, clean water – try to have at least two large bowls available
- On hot days, check the bowl frequently (at least every few hours) to make sure it is full
- No one likes dirty water! Clean the water bowl daily to prevent bacterial build-up
- When travelling or walking your dog, take bottles of water with you
- Avoid exercising your dog in hot weather
- Never leave pets in a car (even if you leave the window open and water in the car – just don’t do it!)
- If you think your pet could be dehydrated, visit your vet immediately
To learn more about causes, signs and treatments for dehydrated pets, the following veterinary websites provide excellent information: