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Dehydration Symptoms in Dogs

Dehydration Symptoms in Dogs

Not many people know that dehydration is a severe medical condition for dogs, and, if not given timely treatment, can lead to serious complications. Read on to know more about identifying this condition early and taking remedying steps...
Deepa Kartha
Just like human beings, dogs are susceptible to the problem of dehydration. It is the condition when an unnaturally large percentage of fluids is lost from the body of an organism. A dog's body consists of a significant percentage of water, and dehydration can be caused even with the loss of just 10-15% of bodily fluids. Along with water, the animal may also lose essential electrolytes, including potassium, sodium, etc., from the body, which may result in serious canine health problems. Therefore, it is important for every dog owner to know about the observable symptoms caused by dehydration, to take immediate action if the need arises. However, let us first discuss the causes of this condition.


The most common cause of loss of fluids in dogs is abnormally heavy panting. After dogs are exposed to heat, or after they indulge in physical exercises, they pant and drool to cool themselves, as they do not have sweat glands like human beings. During this process, they lose a lot of body fluid, and if they are not provided water immediately, dehydration can set in. Diarrhea or vomiting can also be the cause of dehydration. Other illnesses that can lead to dehydration include fever, kidney disease, diabetes, etc.

  • One of the most common symptoms is loss of skin elasticity. If you suspect that your pet dog is suffering from dehydration, a simple elasticity test will help in diagnosing it yourself. Pinch your dog's skin around the shoulders. Observe the skin carefully when you release it. If the speed at which the skin returns to the normal position is slow, your pet may have dehydration. However, this is not a very reliable test, as the skin's elasticity will also depend on how fat or thin the dog is.
  • Another sign of dehydration is lethargy. If your dog, normally very lively and energetic, suddenly becomes uninterested in playing, and sits at the same place for a long time, chances are that it has dehydration. Loss of appetite in dogs is another clear symptom, where your pet constantly refuses any kind of food, and sometimes even water. Check if the dog has a rapid heartbeat, as this is also another symptom of dehydration.
  • The eyes of a dehydrated dog may look sunken, and sometimes the mouth, gums, and the nose may also appear to be dry. Usually, the mouth and gums of a healthy dog are wet and slippery. However, dehydration takes away all the moisture, making it dull, dry, and sticky. There is another test that can reveal whether the dog has dehydration. This is called the slow capillary refill time. You have to press a part of the dog's gums with your finger gently, until the red color changes into white. If the color returns to red immediately after lifting the finger, the dog is healthy. However, if it remains white, or if it takes time to return to red, chances are that the dog has dehydration.

A dehydrated dog should be taken to the vet as soon as possible. However, before that, there are certain steps that you can take to rehydrate it. Keep your dog in a cool location and let it drink lots of water. However, if the dehydration is severe, do not make the mistake of allowing your dog to gulp the water quickly, because this may lead to vomiting, and further loss of bodily fluids. So, make your dog drink the water slowly, taking little sips at a time. You can also try giving your dog pedialyte, which is an electrolyte product that will help in regaining the lost electrolytes in the body. However, if your pet refuses to drink any water, rush it to the vet for further treatment.

As dehydration can cause serious problems like organ failure, and sometimes even death, it is your responsibility as the owner to take all the necessary steps to prevent the pet from getting affected. You have to see to it that your dog remains adequately hydrated throughout the day. Place several bowls of water at different places at your home to ensure that your dog drinks water regularly. Feeding your dog moist foods will also do the trick. Apart from this, it is better to keep you pet indoors during hot and dry climatic conditions. If you have to take it outdoors for long trips, remember to give it clean water at regular intervals. Dehydration can itself be a symptom of some other major disease. So, if you notice any of the aforementioned signs, the vet will help you in finding and treating the underlying reason.