Dehydration in Dogs: What you need to know

Humans and dogs need water to keep their body functioning. In every process our body makes, water plays a significant role. Without it, our bodies will begin to break. 

And when your Shiba Inu is losing more water than they intake, dehydration occurs, which can lead to serious medical conditions like kidney failure, loss of consciousness, and in the worst case scenario, death. 

What is dehydration?

Dehydration occurs when the body loses more water and electrolytes than it takes in.

Mammals, like humans and dogs, rely on water for their bodies to function properly. Water lubricates the joints, cushion internal organs, aid in digestion, and regulates the body temperature, which is crucial for the body to function. 

Our dog loses water through panting, breathing, urinating, defecating, and evaporation through the paws. All of these normally occur to dogs and make up for all these losses through eating and drinking water. 

However, when the dog’s body loses more water than it gains, it affects the blood flow and, in turn, reduces the delivery of oxygen to organs and tissue. 

Dehydration also results in loss of electrolytes, such as sodium, chloride, and potassium. These minerals have crucial roles in the body, including balancing the body’s pH, transporting nutrients into cells, facilitating muscle function, and regulating nerve function. 

In severe cases, dehydration in dogs can lead to organ failures. 

What causes dehydration? 

In non-medical scenarios, dehydration occurs when your dog doesn’t have access to water or hasn’t drunk enough. Unfortunately, some irresponsible dog owners forget to provide enough drinking water for their dogs, especially when they are out of the house. 

So even though you are at home or stepping out for a bit, fill those bowls up! 

However, some dogs don’t drink much unless encouraged, or they are too caught up in exercising, where they are panting too much and losing fluids. 

Some dogs just won’t drink much water unless they are encouraged to do so. Or they may be exercising outside to the point where they are panting and therefore losing fluids. In these situations, it is your responsibility to ensure they are taking enough water to regain the water their body has lost. 

In most cases, dehydration is caused by illnesses. Sudden attacks of vomiting, diarrhea, heatstroke, and other medical issues can cause your dog to be dehydrated.  

Signs of Dehydration in Dogs

Our dogs won’t be able to directly us if they are dehydrated, but their bodies will emit signs of dehydration that you should never ignore. 

Here are the symptoms of canine dehydration. 

  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Low energy levels and lethargy
  • Excessive panting
  • Sunken eyes
  • Dry nose
  • Dry, sticky gums and thick saliva

The skin elasticity test is one way to check for dehydration. Hold a dog’s skin near its shoulder blades, gently pinch it up, and let go. In well-hydrated dogs, the skin will instantly spring back to its original position, but for dehydrated dogs, this will take longer to fall back to its place.

You can also test for capillary refill time. Press your finger gently against your dog’s gum and remove your finger. With well-hydrated dogs, the area will appear white for a second and immediately return to its normal pink color, while dehydrated dogs will take longer to refill.  

How to Treat Canine Dehydration

If your dog displays the symptoms mentioned above, dehydration is a prime suspect. 

First, make sure your dog is drinking plenty of cool water. They also lose electrolytes, and these need to be replaced fast. So if your dog is not vomiting, try giving them electrolyte-enhanced fluid. 

If symptoms persist, go to the veterinarian immediately. Dehydration is often a symptom of a more serious issue, so go get your dog checked for any underlying condition. 

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