Many dog owners are wondering in these hotter months how much water their dog needs. Our Westminster vets will go over the causes, symptoms, and treatments if your dog gets dehydrated.
How Long Can My Dog Go Without Water?
This is a dangerous question. In theory, a dog can go without water for 2-3 days. This does not mean you should do this to your dog. Surviving for 2-3 days is the bare minimum of survival such as how a human can, in theory, survive 3 days without water. They can still get dangerously dehydrated.
Your dog should have access to clean water at all times. It becomes a greater issue depending on the age of your dog, any pre-existing health conditions, climate, and the level of activity your dog is experiencing.
Dehydration in Dogs
Dogs need water to keep their bodies functioning properly. When your dog is losing more water and electrolytes than they are taking in, dehydration occurs and your dog's body will begin to break down.
Dehydration in dogs is dangerous and can lead to kidney failure, loss of consciousness, and in extreme cases, death.
How Dogs Get Dehydrated
Your dog's body loses water throughout the day through panting, breathing, urinating, defecating, and evaporation through their paws. This loss of fluids and electrolytes is normal and is then replenished when your dog eats and drinks.
If your dog's body reaches the point where their fluid intake is less than the amount they are losing, their body's blood flow and the volume of fluids are reduced. The reduction of blood flow reduces the delivery of oxygen to your pet's organs and tissues.
Electrolytes are naturally occurring minerals that humans and dogs need to keep their bodies healthy. Electrolytes include sodium, chloride, and potassium which help to balance the body’s pH, move nutrients into cells, facilitate muscle function, and regulate nerve function.
Symptoms of Dehydration in Dogs
The easiest symptom of dehydration to spot is the loss of elasticity in your dog's skin. If you pull lightly on your dog's skin and it doesn't readily go back to its original position, your dog is likely suffering from dehydration.
Another sign of dehydration in dogs your pet's gums loses moistness and become dry and sticky, and your dog's saliva becomes thick and pasty.
Other symptoms of dehydration can include:
- Loss of appetite
- Dry nose
- In severe cases your dog's eyes may become sunken
- Your dog may collapse from shock
Immediate Treatment if Your Dog Becomes Dehydrated
If your dog is displaying symptoms of shock, heat stroke, or severe dehydration, call your veterinarian immediately. Treatment for dogs suffering high levels of dehydration is re-hydration using intravenous fluids.
If your dog is severely dehydrated immediate emergency care is essential. Contact your closest animal emergency center for advice and to let them know you and your dog are on your way.
If your dog is mildly dehydrated provide your dog with small amounts of water to drink every few minutes or offer your dog pieces of ice to lick. It is important not to offer too much water at once since this could cause your dog to vomit, exacerbating the problem.
Even if your dog is suffering from mild dehydration it's a good idea to contact your vet for additional recommendations.
Preventing Your Dog from Becoming Dehydrated
If your dog is suffering from severe and/or continuous vomiting and diarrhea, contact your vet to determine the underlying cause. Severe vomiting and diarrhea can be a symptom of a number of serious conditions and requires immediate attention and will cause your dog to get dehydrated.
To help keep your dog hydrated while they are experiencing symptoms of dehydration, if you have some, you may offer your pet an electrolytic solution until they feel better. If the symptoms continue IV fluids may be the only way to prevent the serious side effects of dehydration.
To prevent your healthy dog from developing dehydration, always provide your dog with an easily accessible supply of clean drinking water.
If your dog spends time outdoors in the hot weather, or enjoys vigorous exercise, they will need extra amounts of water in order to stay hydrated.
Dogs typically require at least one ounce of water per day for each pound of body weight. If you're unsure whether your dog is drinking enough, ask your vet for advice on how to ensure your dog consumes enough fluids.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. If you are concerned about your pet's health, contact your veterinarian right away for diagnosis and treatment.