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Signs of Dehydration in Pets

November 15, 2022

What is Dehydration in Pets?

When we think of nutrition, we often only consider food. Seldom we talk about the importance of water. Water is necessary to virtually every important body function, including lubricating joints, cushioning internal organs, aiding digestion, and regulating body temperature. The loss or removal of water from something or a harmful reduction in the amount of water in the body is the definition of dehydration. Dehydration can have causes that aren’t due to underlying disease. Examples include heat, excessive activity, insufficient fluid consumption, excessive sweating or medication side effects. It can also be caused if there has been a significant reduction in the water levels in the body. Fluids can be lost through sweat, tears, vomiting, urine or diarrhea.

We may have faced this a lot of times during a football game or while running to catch a train or standing in the hot sun for long. And what we run for is a nice and chilled glass of water or an energy drink. Common reasons for feeling dehydrated are –

  • Headache, delirium, confusion

  • Tiredness or fatigue

  • Dizziness, weakness, light-headedness

  • Dry mouth or a dry cough

  • High heart rate but low blood pressure

  • Loss of appetite but maybe craving sugar

  • Flushed (red) skin. Swollen feet. Muscle cramps

  • Heat intolerance, or chills

We are not the only ones who face this. Almost all animals go through this including our beloved pets like cats and dogs.

Common causes of Dehydration in Dogs

The causes more or less remain the same in both cats and dogs. These include –

Addison’s disease is another reason which causes dogs to urinate more, resulting into loss of water from the body. There can be other reasons too but these are most commonly seen ones.

Signs of dehydration in Pets

Unlike us humans, our lovely pets, unfortunately, cannot communicate in words if they are feeling dehydrated. They do let us know with several signs that we as responsible pet owners must check out for. These include –

  • Excessive panting – just like humans, dogs also go for open mouth rapid breathing in the form of panting when feeling exhausted. This is a sign of dehydration amongst them. Most pets, including dogs and cats do not sweat like humans. This is why they go for panting.

  • Dry gums – If there is a suspicion about dehydration then check the gums to see if they are moist or dry. Dry gums are usually a sign of low water in the body.

  • Skin Turgor test – Gently gather up your dog’s skin under his neck and between his shoulders, lift it up, and release it. If the skin snaps back down quickly then the fluid content is adequate and if the skin descends slowly, it means the pet needs some water. This may not work at times for older dogs as their skin generally would come down slowly

These are the most common signs of dehydration. Other signs of dehydration in canines include –

  • Loss of appetite

  • Vomiting with or without diarrhea

  • Lethargy

  • Sunken or dry-looking eyes

  • Dry nose

  • Thick and dry saliva

Sometimes dehydration can be just a symptom of an underlying disease including kidney disease, diabetes, or some types of cancer.

When you should be concerned about dehydration in Pets?

Dehydration is normal in pets. In fact, your pet can survive without drinking water for about 72 hours (three days). However, it’ll show signs of dehydration after the first 24 hours. And as time passes, the above signs will keep getting more prominent. Look out for the following signs to know that the pet has reached a dangerous level of dehydration and needs a solution immediately –

  • Fever – A dry and hot nose instead of a wet and cool one indicates signs of a fever. Check for their body temperature. A body temperature above 103°F is considered abnormal.

  • Bright red, gray, purple, or bluish gums – Early signs would be dry gums but when the gums start changing color is when you should be highly concerned

  • Lack of urine – If there is trouble producing urine for a long time, the pet might be severely dehydrated

  • Rapid Pulse – Place your hand on their chest near their front elbow joint. If the pulse is faster than normal, they could be very dehydrated

  • Muscle tremors – If your pet is seen shaking or shivering irrespective of the outside climate then it could be a sign of elevated dehydration

  • Dizziness – If your pet seems to be troubled for walking in a straight line and ends up hitting furniture, it may be because he/she is getting blacked out due to lack of fluids in the body.

All these signs are for when the dehydration levels have risen above the normal levels. You as a responsible and loving owner should be providing immediate remedies and should consult your vet immediately.

Treatment for Dehydration in Dogs

If the signs are severe then you must be contacting your vet immediately. On the other hand, there are some quick remedies that you can carry out as soon as you see signs of dehydration. These include –

  • Take your pet to a cooler area with sufficient ventilation

  • Wet them thoroughly with water. Do not use very cold water as a sudden change in the temperature can be harmful. For smaller dogs, lukewarm water should be used.

  • Apple cool water around their ears and paws. This helps reducing fever, if any.

  • Place them in front of a fan to cool their body off. Do not rush to an area with A/C as again sudden change in the temperature should be avoided.

  • Provide them small quantities of room temperature water. Avoid ice or cold water.

  • Lastly, do consult your vet as soon as possible to avoid the chances of severe conditions or any resulting disease

It is better to prevent dehydration from happening by keeping water accessible all the time when the dog is in the sun or going through training or on a long walk. If the sun exposure is a lot, keep dabbing them with a wet towel to allow the body temperature to stay stable. Do not exhaust the pet completely during any form of physical activity.


Everyone likes a beach outing on hot-sunny day or an occasional run or a trek / hike in the woods. These should be encouraged, but when accompanied by your pets, do take precautions to avoid dehydration in them. We do not want a sick pet or one with low energy levels when on a camp or walk. Your beloved pets can get tired faster than you and may require small doses of water every 10-15 minutes or so during a physical activity. Avail the same for them and keep checking for any signs of dehydration like a loving responsible parent.

Happy Mood and Health to your Doggo and lots of Love and Licks to you!


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