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Dogs & dehydration: The warning signs to look out for

Some days, it's hard to believe that summer has arrived again (typical Melbourne!), but the weather experts are predicting that we're in for a hot one this year.

As a dog owner, walker and sitter, I'm always very conscious of the effect of heat and sun on my pets and those I care for. And in my experience, dogs can overheat very quickly, leading to dehydration.

So, as the weather is starting to warm up, I felt it was a great time to share information about dehydration in dogs – what it is, the causes, the symptoms and what to do if you spot the signs of dehydration in your dog.

What is dehydration in your dog?

Dehydration in your dog occurs similarly to that of humans. The water levels in your body are depleted, so your body starts to draw excess water from your cells. As a result, you'll feel drained and sluggish.

What causes dehydration in dogs?

Like humans, dogs can become dehydrated in various ways:

  • A bout of vomiting or diarrhoea often caused by food intolerance, sensitive gut issues or underlying medical conditions

  • Not drinking enough water (or having access to cool, clean drinking water), especially during prolonged periods of heat

  • Extreme heat waves (although even one hot day is enough to cause dehydration)

  • Excessive sweating or overheating (that's why it's best not to do strenuous physical activity on hot days)

  • Medical conditions (or some medications) that cause your dog to urinate more than usual

  • Prolonged bleeding (e.g. if they injure themselves and bleeding isn't controlled quickly)

What are the symptoms of dehydration in your dog?

Luckily for us as owners, our dogs will usually display symptoms of dehydration that are easy enough for us to pick up on.

The symptoms of dehydration in your dog can include:

  • Excessive panting or fast yet short breathing

  • A dry nose and mouth, often with white gums

  • An altered consciousness level with slower than normal responses and activity levels

  • A decrease in their need to urinate, and when they do, it may be darker than usual and have an odour about it

  • Loss of balance when they stand with a shaky walk and possible loss of function in their rear legs

  • Sunken or dry-looking eyes with a dull film over their corneas

  • A loss of appetite or no desire to stand up and come to you for food or treats

  • A weak pulse to feel but a rapid heart rate

How to help your dog if they're suffering from dehydration

For mild dehydration (only showing 1 or 2 symptoms):

  • Move them to a quiet, cool place in your home, away from any activities that will further excite them

  • Encourage them to drink water and stay with them to watch they do

  • If they don't drink water, try some ice blocks to entice them

For extreme dehydration (showing 2 or more symptoms):

  • Move them to a quiet, cool place in your home (as above)

  • Hydrate them slowly so their body doesn't overcompensate – sip slowly, not gulping down the water

  • If you have a cooling mat, place your dog on this

  • Take them to the vet as a matter of priority

How to help prevent dehydration in your dog at home

During the warmer months, your dog must always have access to loads of clean, cool drinking water.

Here are some ways you can help prevent dehydration in your dog:

  • Use larger drinking bowls or have multiple ones left around your home/yard, especially if you're out during the day

  • Allow your dog to stay inside in a cool house or have plenty of shaded areas outside if they must be out during the heat of the day

  • Pop some ice cubes in their drinking water to keep the water cool and act as a fun way to attract your dog to drink more water (they love playing with ice blocks!)

  • Provide drinking fountains that offer a continuous supply of fresh water

  • If you're travelling in the car, take travel bottles and bowls so you can refuel your dog on the journey

  • Avoid excessive exercise on hot days, and if you want to go for a walk, make it short and go during the cooler parts of the day

  • Offer your dog wet food as an added measure of getting more fluid into their little body

Need a hand to keep your dog hydrated this summer?

As a fully qualified pet sitter and walker, I'm here if you'd like someone to pop over during the day and check on your dog (especially during heat waves).

If you can't be home and want to leave your dog inside, I can pop over, let them out for a bathroom break, refill their water (as dogs are prone to spilling water if they're playing with it!), and give them some TLC for a while.

I also offer dog walking during the cooler times of the day, and I always take some water with me to keep your dog hydrated.

Here's a list of all my services.

You can book a pet minding service online, including dog walking and pet sitting, using my online booking form.

Until next time, pat your fur babies for me!


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