Recognizing Dehydration in Dogs

As we enter in to the summer months, we wanted to inform our readers about the importance of recognizing dehydration in dogs, how to identify the signs, and what actions to take.

Did you know that water makes up 60% of an adult dog’s bodyweight and up to 70 – 80% of a puppy’s bodyweight?  Proper hydration is essential for your dog’s overall health, making it crucial to identify the early signs of dehydration.

What Happens When a Dog Becomes Dehydrated?

Dehydration occurs when a dog loses more water than it consumes, leading to a decrease in fluid volume and blood flow.  This impairs oxygen delivery to organs and tissues and disrupts the balance of electrolytes like sodium, chloride, and potassium, which are vital for muscle and organ function.

Dogs can exhibit dehydration symptoms rapidly, with mild cases potentially escalating to severe situations before you notice.  Severe dehydration can lead to organ failure and even death.

Causes of Dehydration in Dogs

Several factors can lead to dehydration in dogs, including:

  • Inadequate Water Intake: This can be due to lack of access or refusal to drink, often because of illness (like nausea) or behavioral issues.
  • Fluid Loss: Vomiting, diarrhea, increased urination, and excessive panting can all contribute to fluid loss.
  • Nursing: Nursing dogs may not consume enough water to compensate for the fluids lost through nursing.
  • Medical Conditions: Diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease, and cancer can cause increased drinking and urination.
  • Extreme Heat: Hot weather increases a dog’s need for water to prevent dehydration.

At-Home Tests to Determine If Your Dog Is Dehydrated

Dogs cannot communicate when they’re thirsty or dehydrated, so it’s up to you to recognize the subtle early signs of dehydration.  Here are two simple tests you can perform at home:

The Skin Tent Test

The skin tent test is a quick and easy way to check for dehydration. It’s helpful to practice this test when your dog is well-hydrated to know what’s normal for their skin.

  1. How to Perform: Gently grasp and lift the skin over your dog’s shoulder blades, then let it go.
  2. What to Look For: If your dog is well-hydrated, the skin will snap back into place quickly. If the dog is dehydrated, the skin will stay tented and fall back slowly.

Be aware that by the time your dog has tented skin, dehydration has already progressed to the point where internal organs may be affected.  For wrinkly breeds like Bulldogs or dogs with naturally looser skin, such as seniors, this test may be harder to interpret.  If you suspect dehydration, contact your veterinarian or an emergency clinic immediately.

The Gum Test

Your dog’s gums can also indicate dehydration.  Here’s how to use this method:

  1. Check Gum Color and Wetness: Healthy gums should be pink and moist. If your dog is mildly dehydrated, their gums may appear dry and tacky.
  2. Capillary Refill Time: Gently press your finger against your dog’s gum until it turns white, then remove your finger.  Observe how quickly the color returns to normal.
    • Normal Hydration: The gums should return to pink in less than two seconds.
    • Dehydration: If it takes longer than two seconds for the color to return, your dog may be dehydrated.

Using these simple tests can help you catch dehydration early and seek appropriate care for your dog promptly.

Physical Signs of Dehydration in Dogs

Recognizing the signs of dehydration in your dog is crucial for prompt intervention.  Here are the symptoms to look out for at different stages of dehydration:

Signs of Mild Dehydration

  • Lethargy or Decreased Energy: Your dog may lack the energy or desire to move around, which can result from lowered blood pressure due to dehydration.
  • Sticky Gums: As dehydration progresses, your dog’s mouth will lose its moisture.
  • Excessive Panting: Dogs pant to cool down and may need more water if they’re panting excessively.
  • Confusion, Stumbling, or Tripping: These behavioral changes can indicate dehydration.

If you observe any of these signs, encourage your dog to drink cool, clean water and contact your veterinarian for further advice.

Symptoms of Moderate Dehydration

  • Loss of Skin Elasticity: Dehydrated skin does not return to its normal position quickly after performing the skin tent test.
  • Loss of Appetite: A reduced appetite can be a sign of dehydration and may indicate other serious health issues.
  • Dry Gums: Gums become very dry in moderate dehydration.  Immediate veterinary care is necessary if you notice this symptom.

Indicators of Severe Dehydration

Immediate veterinary care is crucial if your dog exhibits any of these severe dehydration symptoms:

  • Vomiting: This can both result from and exacerbate severe dehydration.
  • Diarrhea: Similar to vomiting, diarrhea can worsen dehydration.
  • Excessive Panting: Difficulty breathing, with noticeable heaving sides and a hanging tongue, can signal severe dehydration.
  • Sunken, Dry-Looking Eyes: Dehydration causes the body to pull fluids from less essential areas, like the eyes, making them appear sunken.
  • Increased Heart Rate: A normal heart rate for dogs is 70-120 beats per minute.  A sustained heart rate over 160 beats per minute is a critical sign of severe dehydration, and rates over 250 beats per minute require immediate attention.
  • Confusion or Disorientation: Behavioral changes can indicate serious dehydration.
  • Extremely Dry, Dark Red, or Pale Gums: Low blood volume and poor blood flow can cause these changes in gum color.
  • Collapse: This is a sign of shock, where the circulatory system fails to deliver sufficient oxygen to essential organs.

While these symptoms can be alarming, understanding and recognizing the early signs of dehydration allows you to address the issue promptly before it escalates.


Electrolytes, Vitamins and Amino Acids Solution   is an unparalleled hydration solution for our beloved pets.  Meticulously crafted to cater to the needs of both cats and dogs, this solution is scientifically designed to be isotonic and sterile, ensuring rapid absorption.  By delivering a perfect blend of electrolytes, vitamins, and amino acids, it rejuvenates your pets with optimal nourishment.

Our electrolytes play a crucial role in maintaining their hydration levels, while our appetite stimulants effectively combat common ailments like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and anorexia. This solution serves as a vital nutritional supplement, especially for animals whose dietary intake may fall short of their nutritional requirements.

Dehydration poses a serious threat to animals, escalating rapidly if left unaddressed.  Hence, it’s imperative to promptly rehydrate pets and replenish lost electrolytes.  That’s precisely why Zoeuticals developed the Electrolytes, Vitamins, and Amino Acids Solution—a reliable electrolyte replacement supplement.  It aids in restoring normal hydration levels and promotes water intake, particularly beneficial for dogs and cats experiencing stress or fluid loss due to occasional diarrhea, vomiting, or strenuous activity.

This supplement not only boosts energy but also contains the essential components of a complete electrolyte solution, including 12 amino acids, 6 vitamins, 3 electrolytes, and dextrose