How to Treat Your Dog for DehydrationAuthor: Jimmie Mcdowell
Dehydration in dogs can be a serious matter. Whether caused by illness, exposure to heat, or a simple lack of fluid intake, dehydration must be addressed immediately and, left untreated, can cause multiple health problems including organ failure and death. It is very easy for a dog to become dehydrated; easier than many pet owners realize. Fortunately it is also easy to prevent dehydration in dogs and it is very important to do so.
Dehydration is an excess loss of bodily fluids. It most often involves the loss of water and minerals such as sodium, chloride, and potassium; collectively called electrolytes. Dehydration in dogs can be caused by illness (especially if the dog has a fever), exposure to extreme heat, and a number of other factors. A dog's natural act of panting causes a loss of fluids and can result in dehydration if they are not replaced. Remember that dogs lack sweat glands to keep them cool. They pant in an effort to regulate their body temperature. A panting dog is a hot dog.
Preventing Dog Dehydration:
The best way to prevent dehydration is to make sure your dog has plenty of fresh water available. The dog should always have at least one full bowl of water available at all times and, if the dog has the run of the house, bowls in various locations may be appropriate. If you live in a dry climate dogs should be kept indoors as much as possible, especially in the hot summer months. When they are outdoors it is imperative that dogs have an available supply of fresh water. Moist foods also help maintain appropriate levels of bodily fluids in dogs. Dry foods are important for a dog's dental health, but moist foods are a good idea as well.
Treating a Dehydrated Dog:
If you suspect that your dog is dehydrated, get it some water immediately and then get it to the vet. Signs of dehydration can include a lack of elasticity to the skin, dry and sunken eyes, and a dry mouth and nose. Dehydrated dogs will also experience a delay in capillary refill time. To test for this, pull the dog's lip away from its gum (gently) and press a finger against the gum until the area whitens. Release your finger and the color should return to the area almost immediately. A delay could be an indication of dehydration.
Lots of water is the best way to replace fluids, but a severely dehydrated dog should not be allowed to take in large amounts at once. This will result in vomiting and a further loss of fluids. Instead let the dog drink small amounts over a period of time. Electrolytes can be replaced with a hydrating solution. Pedialyte, a water and electrolyte product sold for infants is suitable for dogs as well. Of course any dog that seems dehydrated or refuses to drink should be seen by a vet to determine appropriate treatment and whether the dehydration is a symptom of some other ailment.
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Signs of Dehydration From Your Dog
By Ron Ayalon
Dogs can usually tell us if they're thirsty or not through some heavy panting, but in some cases you may not know whether Winslow is dehydrated or not, and this is especially the case if he's sick. Dehydration is a very serious thing, because in severe cases it can lead to death. Having enough water in his body is essential for Winslow; his organs can't function without it, just like yours can't. So it's important to know how to recognize and check for dehydration if you suspect that he may not have enough water in his body.
The straightforward type of dehydration comes from simply not drinking enough water, especially in the summer months when it's very hot, or when exercising too long without drinking some water. To keep Winslow in the safe zone, always make sure that he has plenty of water whenever he needs it. If you're going to be outside in the patio or out camping, make sure he has a bowl that he can easily get to outside. He can't always easily tell you he's thirsty, so you just have to make sure plenty of water is always accessible to him.
How to Check for Dehydration
But a much more serious type of dehydration can occur if Winslow is sick, and you won't be able to easily identify this kind with panting. In these cases, his dehydration may come from excessive vomiting, diarrhea or fever. Additionally, when he's sick he's less likely to want to eat or drink on his own-so he'll probably be taking in less water than usual as well as expelling more. This creates a very dangerous situation in which Winslow's body starts trying to function with less water and can't handle the load. Without additional water, his organs will start to fail.
Some people think that panting or a dry nose are the signs of dehydration, but Winslow won't always pant when his body needs water, and a dry nose can actually be normal in many circumstances. Although a dry nose can be a sign of dehydration, there are much better and more effective ways to test for it, and it's a good idea to try these tests out before calling your veterinarian.
The first test is called the "skin tent" test and is very easy to do. All you need to do is gently pull the skin up on the back of Winslow's neck, the way his mom might have done when she needed to carry him around as a puppy. There should be lots of loose skin here to make it easy to pull up on without even disturbing him at all. If the skin falls right back into place quickly when you let it go, it's a sign that Winslow is safe and properly hydrated. If instead, it sticks up in a sort of tent, that's a sign of dehydration.
A second test you can do is to check his gums (checking his mucus membranes, technically). It sounds strange, but all it takes is sliding your finger along his upper gum. Lift up his lip one the side of his mouth with one hand, and use the other to run your index finger slowly along his gum. If it slides along easily with no problem, then Winslow is safe. If you have a hard time running your finger down smoothly and it gets stuck, then it's a sign of dehydration.
If in addition to these two things, Winslow's nose is dry and his eyes also appear dry, he's likely dehydrated. You should get him to the veterinarian as soon as possible to get him re-hydrated before damage is done to his organs.
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