Is My Dog Dehydrated?

Here are the signs to look out for.

dehydration in dogs

Just like humans, fresh water is important for dogs to live a healthy life.

Water serves as a lubricant for a dog’s joints, it protects their internal organs, and it helps to regulate body temperature, among many other roles. It supports basically every bodily function, which is why dehydration in dogs can be super concerning.

So if you notice that your dog isn’t drinking enough water, there might be a problem. While it’s normal for dogs to lose water naturally during the day, if your dog’s peeing more water than he’s taking in, dehydration can occur.

We spoke to Dr. Sara Ochoa, a veterinary consultant for DogLab, Dr. Gary Richter, veterinarian and founder of Ultimate Pet Nutrition, and Dr. Claudine Sievert, a veterinary consultant at Stayyy, to find out more about what causes dehydration in dogs, signs of dehydration and what treatment option may be best for your pup.

What causes dehydration in dogs?

“Your dog can become dehydrated if they are not taking in enough water or they are outputting too much water,” Dr. Ochoa told The Dodo.

While a lack of water or simply not drinking enough water is the primary reason for dehydration in dogs, Dr. Sievert told The Dodo, “Acute attacks of vomiting and diarrhea, heatstroke, or fever may also cause a dog to become dehydrated. Puppies, senior dogs, nursing mothers and toy breeds are the most at risk for dehydration.”

Worst-case scenarios like kidney disease, diabetes, liver failure and cancer can also be causes of dehydration. If your dog’s refusing water available to him, Dr. Ochoa suggested contacting your veterinarian for further consultation.

Signs of dehydration in dogs

“There are several signs to watch out for if your dog is suffering from dehydration,” Dr. Sievert said.
These include:

  • Dry Nose - A dry nose can be a sign of dehydration. It can also be a sign of other problems, such as a fever. If your dog has a dry nose, offer him water to combat any other symptoms associated with dehydration.
  • Excessive drooling - Dehydrated dogs will drool excessively. This is because they're trying to cool the body. Unlike humans, dogs can’t sweat, and the only way they have to cool themselves down is by drooling. If you notice that your dog’s drooling excessively, contact your veterinarian.
  • Lethargy - Dehydrated dogs may become lethargic. They probably won't feel like moving around much and may rest until they rehydrate again. If your dog's dehydration is mild, offer him some clean water so he can rehydrate on his own.
  • Sticky gums - This sign means he’s on the verge of being moderately dehydrated, and if he doesn't get better soon, you'll need to take him to the vet.

How to treat dehydration

If your dog’s dehydrated, or you’re trying to prevent dehydration, Dr. Richter told The Dodo, “A dog needs about an ounce of water every day for each pound of body weight. If your vet says it’s okay, consider adding wet dog food to your pup’s daily routine or adding water to their dry food to make sure they are intaking more water.”

As for the water bowl itself, Dr. Richter added, “It’s important to clean your pup’s water bowl daily to prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria.”

If your dog is only mildly dehydrated, Dr. Sievert said, “Offer them small amounts of water to drink every few minutes, or offer them pieces of ice. If they don't want to drink, you can offer them chicken broth to see if this will tempt them.”

If your dog’s exhibiting signs of loose skin, fast breathing or loss of balance, you should contact your vet immediately, according to Dr. Sievert. “Once you arrive at the vet, they will take your dog's weight to calculate the amount of fluid he needs and then administer fluid slowly through an injection or IV,” Dr. Sievert said. “Most of the time, they will do it through the IV since it's the most efficient method.”
While most cases of dehydration can be solved simply with more water available to your dog, it’s vitally important that you watch out for the symptoms listed above in case the situation gets worse.

And as always, contact your veterinarian to see if your dog should be brought in for further examination.