Signs of Dehydration in Dogs

dehydration prevention dehydration signs dehydration treatment dog dehydration dog water

If this is an emergency, call urgent animal care immediately. Skip ahead and check for dog dehydration, or jump to treat dog dehydration.

Reading time: 5 minutes

Water is a source of fun on hot summer days and a key element in fighting dehydration in dogs. 

Like all mammals, dogs need water to maintain a healthy body. Your dog needs water for a functioning body by lubricating joints, regulating body temperature, aiding digestion, regulating nerve function, and balancing her PH.

Water is critical because it aids in the transport of nutrients in your dogs' body; it also contains necessary minerals like magnesium, calcium, potassium, iron, and zinc. Not to mention, it makes up around 80% of her body. Clean, fresh water is as essential, if not more, than a healthy, balanced diet.

Dehydration occurs when your dog loses more water than she drinks. There are many causes of dehydration, like illness, age, heightened physical activity, or insufficient water available on a hot day.

Hot summer days are not the only cause of dehydration; sometimes, underlying severe health conditions are factors. That is why it's crucial to recognize the warning signs of dehydration in your dog.

Initial warning signs of dog dehydration:

  • Lethargy or low energy
  • Sunken eyes
  • Repeatedly licking lips
  • Nausea
  • Dry nose
  • Loss of appetite
  • Frequent vomiting, diarrhea or panting

The last point can be a tricky one because if your dog is continuing to drink and unable to retain the water, it is vital to get her looked at by a vet immediately.

Older dogs or ones that suffer from arthritis or renal disease are more prone to dehydration. Pay particular care if your dog falls under these categories.

Checking for Dehydration

If she shows any of the above signs, there are a few tests you can quickly run to see if she's suffering from dehydration.

Scruff Check

Gently pinch the skin between her shoulder blades and lift until the skin is taut. Now let go, the skin should quickly go back to normal. If it takes a few seconds, there is a good sign that they're hydrated. It is essential to run this test when you know your dog is hydrated so you can tell the difference (seriously, do it right now).

Gum Check

This one is similar to checking yourself for sunburn and is a good indicator of early dehydration. Press her gums with your fingertip and pull your finger back. The white spot left behind should return to pink immediately, but if it takes a few seconds, that is another sign of dehydration.

Urine Color

Much like us, a healthy color is closer to clear than it is to yellow. A deep yellow color is concerning because her body is busy recycling fluids through the kidneys. If she is urinating less frequently, that's a sign of dehydration too.


Dog not a fan of fingers in her mouth?

Anxious or frightened dogs might also have dry gums, be sure she is relaxed. If their gums look wet and have a glossy shine, they should be okay. If they're dull and dry looking, that's a sign of her being dehydrated.


If any of these signs lead you to believe your dog is dehydrated, consult your vet. They'll likely ask that you continue to monitor your pup for any changes in behavior and ask for the color of her urine.

Dogs can go for a few days without water; while this would occur only in extreme circumstances, it's crucial to have a backup plan for your dog in emergencies. It's also worth mentioning that if you find a stray, it's unknown how long they've been away from home. Be sure to offer them water immediately, and always approach strays with care and caution.

Treating Dehydration in Dogs

Veterinarians will want to do a full head to paw examination. They'll want to test for the severity of her dehydration and determine if there are any underlying causes. If their dehydration is severe enough, the vet will likely use an IV drip to administer fluids.

Though less common, administering fluid beneath their skin is also an option. This creates a camel-like hump that allows the body to absorb the water over a longer duration.

Don't be alarmed when they recommend some bloodwork. Blood samples are taken to check for dehydration since water content can easily be determined from the blood. This is usually taken from a vein in one of her front legs or the jugular in her neck.

Rehydrating your dog at home water is typically the best choice, however, there are two critical things to know. Quickly rehydrating a dehydrated dog could lead to frequent vomiting. That's why it's essential to give them small amounts over a long duration (similar to the camel drip above).

Alternatively, vets recommend using Pedialyte for dogs to replace their electrolytes lost through dehydration. This will help your dog recover from dehydration much faster, but if you don't have any handy, that's okay. Some dogs are picky drinkers and won't take the Pedialyte; in any case, water is better than nothing.

If dehydration is caused by overheating on a hot day, small amounts of water are a priority. Because drinking a lot of water at once can make her sick. But also try cooling her down by wetting her coat and paws while resting in a cool place.


Preventing Dehydration in Dogs

Of course, keeping that water bowl full is a great start. Most dogs need one ounce of water per pound of body weight per day. Older dogs, nursing dogs, and hot dogs (not the food, dogs playing in the summer sun) might require more.

Keeping track can be tedious, but with a canteen, you can better estimate how much your dog is drinking. Be sure to fill up with filtered water or mineral water.

Water from the tap contains chlorine, fluoride, or other harmful chemicals like lead or even pharmaceuticals. Yuck! Distilled water is also a big no-no; its lack of mineral content will pull minerals from your dog's body. (These are useful tips for your water drinking habits too).

There's also water hancing products out there that help boost the mineral content of the water your dog drinks. Oceanspray's pet project (pun intended) Tally-Ho sells squeeze bottles full of vitamins to enhance your dog's water.

If you're playing outdoors, always be sure to bring some water along. The Travel Buddy is our choice because it serves as a water bottle and bowl in one.

If you have a larger dog or plan on being away for a while, bring a canteen to refill and use. Playing outside can make the time fly; every quarter of an hour offer her some water to be sure.

Since diarrhea and vomiting can quickly dehydrate your dog, it's essential to prevent these ailments too. Parasites, worms, and bacteria can trigger these symptoms in all dogs. Be sure they're up to date on all of their vaccinations to prevent these issues.

No matter how enticing, keeping your dog out of old food and garbage will also help prevent them from coming into contact with these pathogens in the first place.


🐶 Friendly reminder are not veterinarians, animal experts or health care professionals. Just enthusiastic dog people that want to make a difference.

Information is based on our own thorough research or experiences. By reading our information today you accept that we do not have a patient relationship with you and are not advising you to act on what you are reading.

Please consult a veterinarian, animal expert, or health care professional and follow their advice before making decisions on all matters.

Enjoy your reading and we appreciate you stopping by our camp today.

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