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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Dehydration View In Dogs

First Aid Condition

First aid health condition




Condition Overview

Dehydration usually involves the loss of both water and electrolytes.Cats and dogs bodies are made up of 60% water. That means there is more than 7 pounds of liquid in your 12 pound pet. When the water ratio falls even 5% below normal, pets will start to show signs of dehydration.


If your pet's eyes look different than normal and he is showing signs of weakness or lethargy, dehydration is probably becoming severe. Another sign of dehydration is dryness of the mouth. The gums, which should be wet and glistening, become dry and tacky. The saliva is thick and tenacious. In an advanced case, the eyes are sunken and the dog exhibits signs of shock, including collapse.


Dehydration occurs when a dog loses body fluids faster than he can replace them. Pets are prone to dehydration when the weather is very hot and not enough water is available, but more often, vomiting and diarrhea cause the problem. Dehydration can also be caused by inadequate fluid intake, often associated with fever and severe illness. A rapid loss of fluids also occurs with heat stroke.


The most prominent sign of dehydration is loss of skin elasticity. When the skin along the back is pulled up, it should spring back into place. In a dehydrated animal, the skin stays up in a ridge.


Mild cases of dehydration, when the pet has no fever, diarrhea, or vomiting and is still interacting with the family, can be helped with first aid at home, but moderate to severe problems need medical attention as soon as possible.

A dog who is visibly dehydrated should receive immediate veterinary attention, including intravenous fluids, to replace fluids and prevent further loss.

  1. Offer your pet some water - As long as your pet isn't vomiting continuously, offer him some water to drink. Dogs tend to be willing to lap up the water the need from a bowl, but cats can be reluctant to drink as much as they need. Re-hydration takes time, so you will want to slowly add water to the bowl and let your pet drink. Take care to limit the single sitting gulping of water. You can make the water more attractive by flavoring it with a bit of low fat, no-salt chicken broth or the juice from water packed tuna and warming it slightly before offering it to your cat. You can also use a needle-less syringe or turkey baster to give the water.
  2. Try Ice - Some pets, especially dogs, like ice cubes as a treat, and that can be a way to give them more fluid. This works especially well when dehydration is a result of hot weather. Float ice in a bowl of water or just offer a cube for your pet to crunch.

For mild dehydration, or while en route to the veterinarian for severe dehydration treatment, and if the dog is not vomiting, you can give him an electrolyte solution by bottle or syringe into the cheek pouch. Balanced electrolyte solutions for treating dehydration in children, such as Ringer's lactate with 5% dextrose in water or Pedialyte solution, are available at drugstores and are also suitable for dogs. Gatorade is another short term substitute to help replace fluids. Administer the solution at a rate of 2 - 4ml per pound (1 - 2 ml per kilo) of body weight per hour, depending on the severity of the dehydration (or as directed by your veterinarian).


Never leave you dog unattended or without proper shelter while outside for an extended time or in the elements. Always provide fresh, clean water. If your pet has been vomiting repeatedly, or is suffering from chronic diarrhea, call your veterinarian at once.


Pets with moderate to severe dehydration will probably get intravenous fluid therapy at the veterinary hospital. Pets with chronic conditions like kidney failure, liver disease, or intestinal problems often need ongoing fluid therapy on a daily basis. Your veterinarian will inform you if this is necessary for your pet.

Show Sources & Contributors +


The First Aid Companion for Dogs And Cats

Publisher: Rodale Inc, 2001

Website: http://www.rodalebooks.com/

Authors: Amy D. Shojai, Shane Bateman DVM

Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

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