Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue
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Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue

Ready, Set, Drink!

by User Not Found | Jul 24, 2014

I find water to be one of the most underrated molecules.  It has all kinds of cool and unique properties, like being able to move against the force of gravity and the only element to naturally occur in a gas, liquid and solid on Earth.  Considering our bodies (and our pets’) are made up of over 70% water, it’s no surprise that not getting enough can cause some pretty serious issues.  Blood is made up mostly of water and since blood is available throughout our bodies, it carries this much needed element everywhere it wants to be (like American Express).  Water controls temperature, regulates blood pressure and serves as a shock absorber for our precious organs and right down to a cellular level, water functions to help cells do just about everything they need to do including get rid of waste or “taking out the trash”.  Typically humans need about half their body weight in water per day, so if you are 150lbs, then you need about 75oz of water per day.  For dogs, they need about ½ to 1oz of water per pound per day.  So what’s with the science lesson?  This time of year it’s so hot and humid these days that the birds have to use potholders to get worms out of the ground.   Now is the time to take extra care to make sure your furry kids are staying well hydrated.

Lots of obvious reasons can cause dehydration, like vomiting and diarrhea, peeing (worse with a urinary tract infection), and just plain evaporation.  But here’s some other stuff that you probably didn’t think of


Lack of food intake

Heat stroke

Breathing: caution, do not hold your breath to prevent dehydration

In the heat, dogs cool off by panting, which increases their loss of fluid.  Since blood is mostly made of water, it becomes thicker when a dog is dehydrated making the heart work harder to pump it throughout the body.  This same fluid loss can cause an imbalance of electrolytes and all this together can cause symptoms like, thirst, dry mouth, muscle cramps, nausea and vomiting, confusion and weakness. 

How do you know your dog is suffering from dehydration?  You shouldn’t base your assessment on one method, but there are a few ways you can check your dog’s hydration level. 

  1.  Eyes and Nose—they should be wet/moist.  Dry doesn’t necessarily mean they are dehydrated though, it’s just one way to do an initial check and once over.
  2. Mucus Membranes—yep, it’s about to get slimy….at least you hope it is.  Lift your dog’s lip and check the gums.  Are they sticky or tacky or does your finger slide across them easily.  You probably already guessed this, but slimy is good.
  3. Skin Tent Test—Not to worry, you don’t have to be a camper to perform this test.  It’s much easier than actually putting up a tent.  If you’re nervous, you can try it on yourself first.  Pinch a bit of skin on the back of your hand, gently lift it and then release it.  If it readily snaps back in to place, then you are nicely hydrated.  If it sticks and doesn’t fall back in to place, then you are dehydrated.  As scales go, a slow fall back in to place probably means you better start drinking!  On your dog, you can perform this test by gently lifting the skin on the back of their neck and allowing it to fall back in to place.  Same rules apply, snapping back in to place means good hydration.  Remember though, that you should assess using all three of these tests!

Dehydration can creep up on you….by the time you are thirsty, you have already lost at least 1% of your total body water.  At just 6%, gums are dry, eyes appear sunken and there is a delay with the skin test.  At 10%, the skin will actually stay tented, the heart rate increases and your pulse becomes week and just 12-15% is considered life-threatening causing collapse, shock, and even organ failure.  News Flash, major organ #1 is your Brain, that’s right, dehydration can make you stupid.

So how do we help our dogs and ourselves keep hydrated this summer and all year round?  It can actually be just as difficult to stay hydrated in the winter. 

  1. Leave extra water bowls out, especially in the summer.  Dogs lose a lot of water by panting to keep cool.  Always have clean, fresh water available.
  2. Don’t let your dog drink lots of water after exercise.  Give them small amounts instead.  Drinking a lot of water too fast can cause vomiting and then you’ve lost more than you started with.
  3. If your dog isn’t drinking enough and is showing signs of dehydration, a trip to the vet is in order.  Fluids can be readily replaced by slowly streaming  them in under the skin or intravenously.
  4. If your dog isn’t vomiting, you may be able to replace some fluids and electrolytes (important body salts) with unflavored Pedialyte at a 50:50 mix with water.  Canned or wet dog food is also mostly water and can be used to help replace fluids.
  5. Walk early or late to avoid hot parts of the day.  Also consider breaking up outside time and taking breaks in the shade or air conditioning.
  6. Know the signs of dehydration and act quickly!  Remember that puppies and older dogs are also more susceptible.

If you are feeling crappy, chances are drinking more water will help.  Take it from someone who hates water, and I do, suck it up and just do it, you’ll feel better.  Either that or you’ll be making a trip to the urgent care.  Then its’ likely your doctor will charge about $6,000 for a glass of water and call it some fancy medical treatment.  Same rules apply to your dog.


Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue
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