Dehydration is a common but serious problem that dog owners must handle. Dehydration occurs when the body is low on fluid. It occurs most frequently in dogs during vomiting, diarrhea and when a dog is refusing to eat and drink.
All of the body’s cells require fluid to survive. When a dog is dehydrated, the body’s cells are robbed of fluid. This leads to cell death and ultimately, the dog’s organs will start to shut down. Death can also occur due to low blood pressure, since the dog’s body will use up fluid contained in blood, thickening the blood and lowering the dog’s blood volume.
Dehydration can kill a dog. In fact, dehydration is the leading cause of death in dogs with salmonella and other serious gastrointestinal diseases. Let’s look at the causes and cure for dehydration in dogs.
What Causes Dehydration in Dogs?
There are three basic causes of dehydration in dogs:
- The dog doesn’t drink to due illness or due to unavailability of water
In the case of a dog who is vomiting, the dog will expel fluids before his body can absorb those fluids, leading to dehydration.
A dog who is suffering from diarrhea will also become dehydrated. In a dog with diarrhea, the intestinal tract will move waste through the body at a rapid pace. Since the waste spends less time in the dog’s intestinal tract, the dog’s body has less time to absorb fluids, leading to loose stools known as diarrhea.
A dog with diarrhea and vomiting is even more prone to dehydration since much of the fluids that the dog drinks are vomited and any fluids that do make it into the dog’s body pass quickly through the intestinal tract, leaving little time for the dog’s body to absorb the fluids.
How Can I Tell if My Dog is Dehydrated?
Detecting dehydration in a dog is fairly simple. A dehydrated dog’s skin will lose elasticity. In a normal, hydrated dog, the skin at the scruff of the dog’s neck can be pinched and pulled up into a “tent.” When the skin is released, the skin should flatten out immediately.
A dog who is dehydrated will not have this degree of skin elasticity. Pinch the skin at the scruff of the dog’s neck up into a “tent” and it will take as long as two or three seconds for the skin to flatten out and return to normal. The longer it takes the dog’s skin to flatten, the more severe the dehydration.
In addition, a dog’s gums should always feel slick and wet to the touch. A dehydrated dog’s gums will feel sticky and dry.
How Can I Prevent and/or Treat Dehydration in a Dog?
If a dog has been vomiting, experiencing diarrhea or if the dog refuses to eat and drink, it is fair to assume that the dog is experiencing some degree of dehydration, so measures should be taken to prevent the dog’s condition from worsening.
Therefore, the owner of a sick dog should take efforts to prevent and treat dehydration in some of the following ways:
- Offer unflavored Pedialyte, mixed with water in a 50-50 mix.
- If the dog refuses to drink, use a large liquid syringe or turkey baster to give the dog unflavored Pedialyte. Give about 1/4 cup of Pedialyte every 20-30 minutes for eight hours (for a total of 4 to 6 cups at the end of 8 hours.)
- Offer low-sodium beef broth or chicken broth to the dog (onion-free only)
- Make water more tempting to the dog by adding a cube of beef, turkey or chicken bullion.
- If the dog will eat, feed only wet food or add hot water to the dog’s dry food (two parts water to one part dry food) and allow the dog’s food to absorb the water before serving.
- Offer Pedialyte or broth ice cubes to the dog, especially if vomiting is present, as this will enable the dog to take in the fluids slowly, preventing additional vomiting.
Subcutaneous Fluid Injection
If a dog refuses to eat, if the dog is vomiting or if the dog is experiencing diarrhea for more than 24 hours, a visit to the veterinarian will be necessary for subcutaneous fluid injection.
Ringer’s Solution will be injected under the dog’s skin, and the body can then absorb the fluid. Subcutaneous fluid injections are a very effective way to treat dehydration in dogs since the injections allow the dog’s body to absorb water without the use of the digestive system, which is often the cause of the dehydration (as in the case of vomiting, diarrhea or inappetence).