Water is the most abundant nutrient in the human body, making up as much as 60 percent of our composition. And it’s even more abundant in dogs.
Dog bodies are composed of 75 to 80 percent water, making them more susceptible to dehydration than human beings. Dogs also get hotter faster than people, since they lack sweat glands in their skin.
Warm weather is here, so it’s more important than ever for dog owners to monitor their pets for signs of dehydration. Especially on hot and humid days, dogs need time to cool down. If they don’t, dogs can suffer grave consequences, such as weakness, unconsciousness, and even death.
What’s tricky is that dogs can’t communicate their symptoms of dehydration to us, so dog owners need to be extra vigilant.
Here are some of the tell-tale signs of dehydration:
- Loss of appetite
- Dry mouth (also known as xerostomia) - The gums will feel dry and sticky, not moist.
- Increased heart rate
- A weak pulse
- Heavy, dry panting
- Dry, red eyes - Eyes may also appear to be sunken.
- Loss of skin elasticity (“tenting") - In a hydrated dog, lifted skin will drop down quickly. In a dehydrated one, it will drop more slowly (e.g. remain “tented”).
Another common sign of dehydration is slow capillary refill time. To test this, put pressure on your dog’s gums with your finger. When they blanche white, remove your finger. The color should return within one second. However, if your dog is dehydrated, the return of color will be prolonged—taking two or three seconds, if not more.
Of course, knowing the symptoms of dehydration isn’t enough. Dog owners also need to do their best to prevent dehydration from ever occurring, especially during the summer. Here are three ways to do it:
- Always keep your dog’s water bowl full, changing it frequently to retain the water’s freshness. You should also wash the bowl regularly to prevent bacterial growth.
- Exercise your dog early in the morning or later in the evening, avoiding the warmest parts of the day. When it’s warmest outside, make sure to provide your dog with plenty of shade indoors.
- While exercise is important, don’t push your dog too hard either. Allow for plenty of rest and relaxation, particularly if it’s warm outside. Overexercise is the road to dehydration.