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Preventing Dehydration in Dogs

And How to Recognize the Signs

Drinking enough water seems as natural as breathing adequate air, but dogs can experience dehydration for many reasons. Warm weather, poor ventilation, underlying illness, and medications can alter water requirements. You may wonder how much water your dog should drink each day, and how to recognize dehydration. Some simple steps can encourage your dog to wet their whistle.

The average dog needs about one ounce of water per pound of body weight each day. For example, a thirty-pound beagle would need thirty ounces of water. But before you measure the water you pour into your dog’s bowl, consider other factors. Wet dog food contains 65% to 85% water, so dogs on a canned diet will typically need to drink less water.

Unlike people, dogs do not rely on sweating to cool themselves. Panting allows for evaporative cooling, meaning that a panting dog is losing water while cooling itself. Warm weather, exercise, and thick coats can all increase body temperature and panting. Short-faced dogs with brachycephalic airway syndrome are prone to overheating and will require adequate water to keep cool.

Drinking More But Still Dehydrated?

Dogs with underlying conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, and Cushing’s disease will drink more water. Unfortunately this sometimes leads to puddles in the house if outdoor access is not increased. If their access to water is limited, they will become dehydrated.

Certain medications lead to increased thirst and urination, such as steroids and diuretics. Additional water should be provided, as advised by your veterinarian, to avoid dehydration.

Other Conditions Can Cause Dehydration

Dogs experiencing vomiting or diarrhea may become dehydrated if they cannot hold down water, or have severe watery diarrhea. Puppies and small breeds are especially susceptible. Infections and fever can also lead to dehydration.

Reasons Dogs Don’t Drink Enough

Some dogs may have hidden reasons to avoid the water bowl. Dental or oral pain may deter water intake. Dental infections, fractured teeth, oral ulcers, foreign objects, and tumors can cause pain upon drinking and eating. If a dog had a negative experience while drinking, they may associate their water bowl with that event. Other pets in the house may intimidate them when they drink or eat. Even certain types of bowls can be a deterrence. Clanking dog tags against a stainless steel bowl can startle dogs away.

Pets with mobility issues such as arthritis may have difficulty accessing their bowls. These dogs should have one bowl on every floor, close to where they relax. It should also be on a floor with good traction. Water bowls must be washed regularly and kept filled with fresh, clean water.

How Can You Tell If Your Dog Is Dehydrated?

Excessive panting and drooling can be a sign of overheating in warm or poorly ventilated environments. Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition and emergency veterinary care is necessary. Dogs with dehydrating medical conditions, whose access has been restricted, or who just don’t drink enough may have dry gums and mouths. If you gently pull up the skin between the shoulder blades and release it, it should snap back quickly. A slow return can mean dehydration.

How To Prevent Dehydration

In warm weather, exercise in early morning and later afternoon or evening. Cut the walks short if needed. Remember to bring plenty of water on hikes and car trips. Never leave your dog in the car on a warm day, even with the windows open! If your dog must be outdoors, make sure they have shade, extra water in non-tippy bowls, and ideally a way to cool off like a shallow kiddie pool. Heavy coats can be trimmed to a summer cut. Brachycephalic breeds such as pugs and bulldogs, and dogs with underlying medical conditions, should not be left alone outdoors in warm weather.

Dogs can be encouraged to drink by adding ice cubes made of low-sodium broth to their water dish. Frozen “pupsicles” made from broth, or kibble mixed with water, make terrific hydrating treats.

In summary, dogs need daily access to clean, fresh water in a safe and accessible location. Some conditions and medicines may increase water requirements. Prevention of heat stroke in all dogs, but especially in susceptible breeds, is crucial. Pupsicles are great way to encourage water intake in all dogs. A few easy precautions can help ensure your dog stays well-hydrated and ready to romp year-round.