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Dehydration In Dogs – Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments

Dehydration In Dogs

The equation is simple. When the intake of water by the dogs is less than they lose or use, then they become dehydrated. Hence, some dogs are at more risk than others. For instance, the diabetic dog that produces lots of urine or diarrhea dog that can't keep fluids down.

On the other hand, a normal dog on a scorching day cools down by panting and evaporating saliva-moistened surfaces of the tongue. There will be an increased loss of water that has to be replenished by drinking more water.

Dehydration isn't a hard-lined ‘all or nothing’ disease as it can range from mild to severe. It is vital to distinguish the tell-tale symptoms early, or else you cannot rectify the condition.

When there is an insufficient water level in the dog’s body, the compensation is done by the body by pulling water out of the body cells. This cause a loss of electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, chloride, etc. The metabolism of the body is affected, including muscle and nerve function. Continuous Dehydration can cause sickness, and if left untreated, it can eventually lead to death.

Typically, there are several reasons why a dog dislikes water, it could be anything from being bored with their food selection or stomach upset to something more threatening.

Symptoms Of Dehydration

  • Dry mouth, nose, and gums
  • Skin tenting
  • Panting excessively
  • Sticky mucous membranes
  • Early satiety- Eating less food than normal
  • Tired and sluggish appearance
  • Lack of interest or refusing to eat food and/or treats
  • Hungry, trying to eat but unable to eat
  • Weight loss
  • Hypotension
  • Weakness/lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Dark urine/Decrease in urine output/ Increase in urine odor
  • Shock occurring from fluid loss or Hypovolemic shock

Treatment Options For Dehydration

Your vet may recommend diagnostic tests depending on your dog’s health, current symptoms, and medical history.

Depending on the underlying cause, vets may recommend one or a combination of these treatments:

  • Intravenous fluids (for dehydrated dogs)
  • Therapeutic foods
  • Antibiotics
  • Gastrointestinal medication
  • Dental treatments
  • Deworming or parasite medications
  • Short-term appetite stimulant (mirtazapine (brand names Mirataz, Remeron), cyproheptadine (brand name Periactin)
  • Blood transfusion
  • Immunosuppressive drugs
  • Potassium phosphate supplements

Home Remedies For Dehydration

There are a few things you can try at home to help spice up your pet’s appetite and encourage water intake.

  1. Appetize the dog food: stimulate dog's appetite by attractive foods.
  2. Choose high-quality, specialized food.
  3. Add something more favorable to their food to stimulate eating, although it will depend on the dog’s individual preferences.
  4. Keep the dog well-hydrated with readily available water resources.

Prevention Of Dehydration

We always tell pet owners an analogy, that if a house is prone to plumbing issues, the more water gets into the system, the more chance of finding where is the fault and less chance of things getting stuck.

If your dog is not a big fan of water,

  • Encourage water intake by placing water bowls, and a water fountain nearby
  • Add flavor to water (bone broth or chicken broth)
  • Add wet food to his food ration.

On a dry food diet, the recommended fluid intake for dogs

Bodyweight (1 pound) - 30ML of water

This means a 30 kg dog should be drinking 2 L of water/ day

Affected Breeds Of Dehydration

There is no breed disposition.

Toy Dog Breeds, Puppies, Senior Dogs

Additional Facts For Dehydration

1. Causes:

  • Lack of or decreased food intake
  • Lack of or decreased water intake
  • Diarrhea/ vomiting
  • Excessive panting or breathing
  • Fever
  • Overheating
  • Systemic illness, diabetes, tumors, kidney disease, etc
  • Trauma such as injury, burns

2. Types of dehydration in dogs:

  • Hypertonic: (water excretion or depletion is more than water intake)
  • Hypotonic: (This is mainly a loss of electrolytes)
  • Isotonic: (water and electrolytes are lost together)

3. Mortality:

Malnutrition together with dehydration is a medical emergency. Young, older, and nursing dogs are more prone to dehydration.

4. Diagnosis:

  • Complete blood count
  • Serum chemistry profile
  • Liver function test
  • Gastroscopy
  • Ultrasound

5. Prognosis:

There would be some sort of visible improvement in your dog within a few days of treatment; however, healing from ulceration can take up to a few weeks.

The prognosis may be more guarded if there have been kidney or liver complications. When there are tumors or abnormal cell growth, the outcome will depend upon the obliteration of the masses and overall the health status of your pet.

When To See A Vet

The prognosis for dogs with dehydration depends upon the specific diagnosis, as well as the dog's health condition at the time of diagnosis.

If the underlying cause of dehydration is diagnosed early and the dog is in relatively good health, effective treatment for the underlying illness will result in a good prognosis.

Food Suggestions For Dehydration

‘SMASH’ steps to find out the cause of dehydration

  1. survey your dog's behavior.
  2. Measure the changes in the dog’s body (teeth, gums, rashes in skin, fur, lumps, or injuries).
  3. Stay attentive with any food or water issues (bored of the same food, spoiled food/water, etc).
  4. Secure the environment (house environment, medications, pesticides or other pets, weather changes, etc).
  5. healing actions- Re-examine, routine, and restore Re-examine the happenings, make the changes as routine (here it is changed in food or feeding schedule), and strengthen to restore order.

Natural Appetite Stimulants:

Exercise: Take the dog at least for a walk before meals .check out for certain physical ailments that prevent routine exercise.

Herbs: Appetite stimulant ginger, chamomile, peppermint, and celery seed

Rotisserie chicken: Smells good and it is the secret stimulant that you never dreamed would work.

White meat: Give the dogs that require a low-fat diet.

Pharmaceutical Stimulants:

Mirtazapine, Ghrelin Receptor Agonist


Provide a well-balanced diet and ensure your dog always stay hydrated.

Loss or lack of appetite may signal some serious conditions that are luring inside that must be addressed quickly. Consider seriously the changes in your dog's eating or drinking behavior and get your vet involved early.

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