Dehydration in Dogs

Dogs become dehydrated if they lose or don't take in enough fluid.

Dehydration in dogs happens when there is less fluid in the body than it needs to function properly. Dehydration also causes a lack of essential electrolytes in the dog's system. Fluid and electrolytes are essential for circulation, digestion, and waste removal and are the basis of all of the body's tasks. When there is not enough fluid in your dog's body, these functions aren't able to be performed properly, and he can get sick.

What Causes Dehydration in Dogs?

Dehydration can be caused by an increased loss or a decreased intake of fluids.

Why Is It Important to Know If Your Dog Is Dehydrated?

Dehydration causes your dog to feel lethargic. He may not want to move around or go to his water bowl to drink. In this way, dehydration from any cause can start a vicious cycle that leads to further dehydration. If it is left untreated long enough, dehydration will cause organ failure and death. If your dog is dehydrated because of an underlying illness, it is important to have it diagnosed and treated before it gets worse.

How to Tell If Your Dog Is Dehydrated

Treatment of Dehydration in Dogs

The first goal in the treatment of dehydration in dogs is fluid replacement. If the dog is not vomiting and has no underlying condition that is complicating the dehydration issue, fluid replacement can be accomplished orally. Giving small amounts of fluid often until the dehydration is resolved is the best way to accomplish this.

If your dog won't accept oral fluids or can't keep them down because of vomiting, they will have to be replaced parenterally. This means that the fluids will need to be given in a way other than through the GI tract. The two most common ways of accomplishing this are:

The second goal in the treatment of dehydration in dogs is reversing or treating the underlying cause. If the cause was overheating or increased exercise, the treatment may be simply ensuring that your pet always has access to enough fresh, clean water. If a bout of vomiting caused the issue, your veterinarian may treat your dog with medications.

If an underlying, chronic condition such as kidney disease caused the problem, your dog will be at risk for consistent dehydration unless the disease is managed. There are specific treatments for each of these conditions, so it is important to have it properly diagnosed.

Preventing Dehydration in Dogs

Dogs need access to fresh, clean water at all times.

Dehydration can be serious in dogs. It may indicate a life-threatening underlying condition. Simple cases may lead to much greater illness quickly. Knowing the signs of dehydration and seeing your veterinarian immediately can prevent bigger problems.

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