What Are the Symptoms of Dehydration in Dogs?

Dog drinking water

Your four-legged best friend will suffer from dehydration once their fluid intake becomes less than the amount they’re losing. Like humans, dogs also rely on water to keep their bodies functioning well. As a matter of fact, water is crucial to virtually every vital function in the body. It regulates body temperature, aids in digestion, lubricates the joints, and cushions the internal organs.

When people think of pet nutrition, the first thing that often comes to mind is food. But water is also a critical ingredient, allowing the cells in your pet’s body to properly absorb nutrients. While dehydration in dogs is rather common, it’s a potentially life-threatening problem that all pet owners have to be aware of. Here are the symptoms of dehydration in dogs:

  • Panting

  • Lethargy

  • Dry nose

  • Loss of appetite

  • Dry, sticky gums

  • Thick, pasty saliva

  • Loss of skin elasticity

  • Vomiting (with or without diarrhea)

Severe cases of dehydration may cause your dog’s eyes to look sunken. They may also collapse from shock.

How Dehydration in Dogs Occurs

Your beloved pet’s body will lose water throughout the day. This happens naturally through simple activities like breathing, panting, urinating, and defecating. Your dog compensates for this loss of electrolytes through eating and drinking. Electrolytes are naturally occurring minerals like sodium, chloride, and potassium that the body needs to stay healthy. Electrolytes play a role in moving nutrients into the body’s cells, providing balance in its pH levels, regulating nerve function, and facilitating muscle function.

Once your dog reaches the point where its body loses more fluid than it’s taking in, its body’s blood circulation and fluid volume become lessened. This, in turn, reduces the delivery of oxygen to your dog’s organs and other tissues. The primary causes of canine dehydration include insufficient fluid intake, fever, illness, persistent vomiting or diarrhea, and heatstroke.

How to Test Your Dog for Dehydration

The earliest detectable sign is dry mucus membranes. Instead of being wet, their gums and tongue are either dry or sticky. Their saliva may also become sticky, pasty, and even stringy. But the more obvious manifestation of dehydration in dogs is a loss of skin elasticity.

Your dog’s skin should fit like a comfortable coat. It should provide some room to move easily, especially on their shoulders. Try grasping your pet’s skin over their neck and shoulders, then gently lift it. Their skin should spring back into place upon release when hydrated. If your dog is seven to eight percent dehydrated, you will see that its skin will retract slowly. As your dog’s skin loses moisture, it tends to move back into place more slowly. It’s serious if dehydration in your dog is about 10 percent or more. Upon retracting their skin, it will remain in a ridge and not spring back into place. Any reduction in your dog’s skin elasticity is called skin tent.

Do you suspect that your dog may be suffering from dehydration? At Chaparral Veterinary Medical Center, we can help guide you in providing treatment for mild cases of canine dehydration. If you’re noticing signs of severe dehydration, call our office immediately in Cave Creek, Arizona at (480) 595-8600.