Keeping Your Dog Hydrated
Just like people, our dogs need to stay cool and stay hydrated. In BeeGee’s case, this is extremely true because of her thick coat and dark color. She just absorbs all that Texas heat. One of the best ways to ensure your hiking partner is getting enough water is to set up hourly water breaks or to provide water every time you drink water. This includes providing plenty of water before the hike, after the hike, and in camp. To keep your dog healthy and hydrated it is essential to carry along a water system for them as well.
|BeeGee panting to keep cool on a hot day|
Dehydration is a negative fluid balance, which is caused by water loss or decreased water intake. Water can be lost in multiple ways such as panting, vomiting, diarrhea, salivation, and infection. Whatever the cause, dehydration leads to less blood to circulate and fewer intercellular fluids. The big issue is that cells will not receive adequate oxygen and nutrients, which results in decrease system and organ function or even death.
While I don’t have explicit training in dog dehydration and heat injuries, I have extensive training in humans and many of the signs, symptoms, and treatments are the same. Common signs and symptoms:
- Sunken eyes
- Loss of appetite
- Dry mouth/nose
- Gums dry and sunken
- Confusion or odd behavior
- Loss of consciousness
- Failing the pinch test - lift the skin at your dog’s shoulders. If it does not fall or is slow to fall, that is a sign of dehydration.
|The Pinch Test: this is where you lift the skin. Courtesy of Peteducation.com|
The key to realizing if your dog has become dehydrated is paying attention to their behavior. If your dog becomes tired and lethargic or is just acting different from normal, this is a possible sign something is wrong. Once we have determined something is possibly wrong, we can use the symptoms above to determine if its dehydration. I recommend using the pinch test and evaluating the gums because it has provided the best results for BeeGee and me.
Once we have determined our buddies are dehydrated or we think they are, it is time to treat dehydration. The first step is to stop and find shade or a cool location. A great place would be in the shade by water so your dog can wet their stomach. If a body of water is available, take some of your available water and wet their stomachs by hand. Through cooling off, we stop sweating or panting and prevent even more water loss. Depending on the severity of dehydration, this might be the end of your adventure for a few hours or the rest of the day.
After you get your dog cool, the next step is ensuring water is available. Put out your dog’s water source so they can drink freely. Be mindful though, that they may not want to drink any water until they have cooled off, so it could take a while. As a precaution or for more severe dehydration, you can add Pedialyte (salt replenishing fluid for infants) to your dog’s water. Provide Pedialyte in a max of 50/50 mix with water. The formula is approximately 1 ounce for every 10 pounds for dog weighs. So a 50 lbs. dog should receive 5 oz. of Pedialyte in their water.
Finally, if everything you are doing is ineffective or you feel like it’s not working; it is time to start planning your extraction. This could mean slowly walking out with a lot of breaks to calling for rescue service. If you feel it’s warranted or conditions persist and worsen by all means call for help. I would rather look foolish for a day than know I could have done more to help BeeGee.
Just like you and me, dogs need to drink clean water as well. It is true that dogs have a better immune system and that their stomach is more acidic, but they are still susceptible to water borne illnesses. In addition, these illnesses can cause vomiting and diarrhea resulting in an increased dehydration risk. Giardia and Cryptosporidium, both protozoans, are the two largest threats to dogs drinking out of lakes and rivers.
It is because of these waterborne illnesses that it is important to treat or filter your dog’s water. However, BeeGee prefers, what I considered yucky, water that is fresh from the source and unfiltered. It can be difficult to make sure she doesn’t drink any water. BeeGee likes to lie down in water to cool and she always drinks while doing this. It would be difficult to stop her from drinking while cooling off. The key is to use good judgment, try to avoid murky, stagnant water around fields or livestock. Thankfully, dogs rarely get sick from untreated water, but it is best not to push your luck. Filter your water when you can.
As with any post, these are just my thoughts so if you have any questions or concerns make sure you consult your vet. Plus, keeping your dog hydrated is the key to having a good trip with your buddy. There have been a few occasions in the heat when I feel like I let BeeGee get too hot. Now I try my best to pay attention to her needs as well because it’s both our adventure not just mine.