Have a headache? Drink water! Always hungry? Drink more water! Drinking water seems to be the common health tip for humans. We’ve already discussed overheating in the summer weather, but it cannot be stressed enough to give your dog access to water as often as you can. But why is it important?
Dehydration can have serious effects on your dog if left untreated. If your dog does not have enough water, dehydration will be apparent: dry mouth, nose, and eyes. Their eyes will also be sunken in and their skin will lose elasticity. They can also be lethargic and weaker than normal. Dehydration can eventually lead to organ failure and death. This can happen if a dog loses just 10% to 15% of the water in their bodies. Water is more important to dogs than vitamins, nutrients, and food, because without it, they can’t process any of those important things!
You can test for dehydration in your dogs by looking for the visual signs previously mentioned, as well as testing a few areas of your dog’s body—their skin and mouth.
Test your dog’s skin elasticity by gently pinching an area of your dog’s skin, raising it, and then letting it go. Watch how the skin reacts. If your dog is well-hydrated, it will snap back very quickly in place. A dehydrated dog’s skin will be slower, sometimes just sagging or “tenting.” It is helpful to do this test when your dog is well-hydrated, so you know what a healthy reaction looks like.
Thickness of Saliva and Color of Gums
These two are easy to check together since they’re both in your dog’s mouth. A dehydrated dog will often have thick saliva. Their gums will also feel sticky and dry. Press your finger to their gums and apply a little pressure. When you pull away, that spot should quickly turn from white to their natural color. Dehydrated dogs usually have a slower capillary refill time—so their gums will take longer to return to their natural color.
Though you should keep your dog hydrated by encouraging them to drink enough water—about one ounce for every pound they weigh—dehydration is also commonly brought on by other underlying health problems. Dogs that are dehydrated will sometimes lose their appetite and they will not always be thirsty. It is important that you watch out for potential dehydration, especially after vomiting/diarrhea episodes, during hot weather, exercise, or because of any health issues.
What to Do if Your Dog is Dehydrated
You want them rehydrated as fast as possible, but if a dehydrated dog drinks water too quickly, they may get sick and throw it up, which causes them to become more dehydrated. Rehydrate them by pacing their drinking rate, perhaps by giving them smaller amounts with small breaks in between. Electrolyte drinks can help as well—ask your vet for advice on proper use. If you suspect your dog’s dehydration is severe, take them immediately to the vet. A veterinarian can give your dog the water and electrolytes they need more directly, effectively, and quickly, potentially saving your pup’s life.