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Dehydration in Dogs:  How Long Can Dogs Go Without Water?

Dehydration in Dogs is A Guest Post by  Dan Richardson

If you’re asking this question it is probably because you have gone to work without remembering to top up your dog’s water bowl, either that or there's a biblical drought in your state!

Or,

Your dog has been sick, vomiting or diarrhea, and you aren't sure if he could be dehydrated.

Dogs Can Survive Up To Three Days Without Water

However there is a vast difference between surviving and being in good health. If a dog has gone three days without drinking anything then it will be in very poor health and will require immediate hydration as well as medical intervention to ensure that long term damage is avoided.

Humans, cats, dogs and all mammals need plenty of water to keep their bodies functioning. 

Your dog's body is made up of around 80% water so even a drop of 10% in the amount of water in their body can have serious consequences which can be fatal if not recognised and dealt with quickly. 

Causes of Dehydration In Dogs

It is unusual for a dog to not want to drink their water but there are several reasons why they may choose to avoid drinking.

Sore Mouth Due to Injuries

For example if our dog has been playing fetch with a splintered stick and has gotten bits of wood stuck in it’s mouth and tongue then it is likely that your dog will avoid eating and drinking.

Illness

If your dog is sick for any reason they can quickly become dehydrated because the act of vomiting causes them to lose a lot of water and the fact that they feel nauseous means they will often avoid drinking as they don’t feel like it. Diarrhea will also cause dehydration through the amount of fluid being depleted in his stool.

Lack of Access

Hot weather and a lack of access to water will quickly dehydrate your dog too.

Dehydration in Dogs: Warning Signs

It is important to be aware of how how much your dog usually drinks in a day so that if at the end of the day you notice that their water bowl is as full as it was in the morning then you can act quickly.

Make sure to watch out for these warning signs too:

  • Reduced appetite - being dehydrated makes it difficult to digest or even swallow food, if you notice that your usually ravenous dog is not interested in food then this could indicate that your dog is suffering from dehydration. 

  • Lethargy - dehydration makes it difficult to do most things, your dogs muscles will have less blood flowing through them and therefore less energy to fuel their muscles so may therefore be uncharacteristically tired.

  • Excessive Panting - this indicates that your dog is hot and is was of the early warnings signs that your dog may be thirsty, at this point a drink will usually suffice however if they are left to pant for too long then their dehydration will get worse.

  • Sunken eyes - this occurs because of the lack of water in the muscles behind the eye and in the eye itself. If your dog has noticeably sunken eyes it is likely that their dehydration is very serious and they should immediately be seen by a veterinary professional.

  • Dry nose and gums - a dog's nose and gums should feel wet and moist in a healthy dog. A dehydrated dog will have a noticeably dry nose which may quickly become cracked. 

  • Low skin elasticity - usually if you tug on a dog's skin it will immediately go back into place. In a dehydrated dog their skin will hold its shape for up to a few minutes and will take much longer to return to its intended position due to the lack of water in their body.

Top Tips To Prevent Your Dog from Getting Dehydrated

Hopefully, your dog will never go three days without water but even one day, particularly if it is hot, is far too much and will be bad for your dogs health.

Here are a few simple steps you can take to ensure that your dog is always well hydrated:

Protect your dog from DehydrationProtect your dog from Dehydration

Use Hydrated Food

If your dog is the type of dog who requires a bit of encouragement to have a drink or if your dog has recently been sick and requires rehydrating fast then an easy way to get more fluid into them is to give them wet food.

You don’t need to buy any special dog food simply add a some fresh water to their food and mix it in. If you usually feed your dog dry pellets then make sure that you leave the food for at least 15 minutes to allow the pellets time to absorb the water before letting your dog eat it.

Avoid salty foods

Food which are high in salt are very bad for dogs.  Salt, whether consumed by people or dogs leads to excess thirst.  If the dog does not respond by drinking, they can become somewhat dehydrated.  Salt is also problematic because it can eventually lead to high blood pressure.  

While it is tempting to allow your dog to share your snacks it is not a good idea. Foods such as crisps, biscuits, bread or popcorn contain a lot of salt which will make your dog thirsty and, if they are not drinking enough, will contribute towards them becoming dehydrated. Over consumption of salt can poison your dog and can cause vomiting, tremors and even fits.

Take Water On Walks

When the weather is hot it is important that you take water for your dog as well as for yourself. On long walks in particular it can be easy to forget that your dog needs a drink just as much as you do, a good rule of thumb is when you feel like you need a drink make sure your dog also gets a drink.

Make Sure Water Is Always Available

It is vitally important that your dog always has easy access to water, their water bowl should be left in a place where they will always be able to access it. If they spend a lot of time in the garden then their bowl should be left outside, if they are mostly indoors then their bowl should be placed in a room where the door is always left open. Alternatively, place bowls in both locations.

Make sure that you check the level of their water at least twice a day and top it up. Everyday their bowl should be emptied out, washed with soap and water, and refilled with fresh clean water.

Make Sure Your Dogs Water Bowl Is Big Enough For Your Dog

It is important to ensure that your dog’s water bowl is the right size for your dog, don’t make the mistake of giving your puppy a bowl that is too big as they are likely to step in it and spill it everywhere! Some puppies find it hard to resist a quick swim in a large water bowl.  It is also important to ensure that bigger dogs have bigger bowls as obviously they will require more water.

Dogs typically require around 30ml of water for every pound of body weight per day. A quick bit of maths (dogs weight in lbs x 30ml) will give you their daily water requirement. So, a ten pound dog should consume about 300 ml or 10 ounces per day. 

That may seem like a lot, but consider where some of that water may be coming from.  Canned food is 70% liquid and an ice cube treat will add to the daily water intake. Hot days and exercise will increase your dog's need for water.  Make sure when purchasing a water bowl that has sufficient capacity to be able to hold enough water to last at least 24 hours.  

Don’t Let Them Get Too Hot

Dogs die in cars is a mantra which is often repeated during the hot summer months and with good cause, thousands of dogs die every year from overheating. Heat stroke and dehydration in dogs is more common that we'd like to think.

In the UK the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) receives on average a call every two hours between June and August regarding a dog which has been left in a car.

Even when the temperature is only a pleasantly warm 70°F the temperature levels within your car can rise to 115°F in less than an hour, those sort of temperatures will definitely cause severe heat stroke and can potentially lead to death.

On hot days do not leave your dog in a car or an enclosed place which is likely to get very hot such as a conservatory. Make sure that they are left in a well ventilated space with plenty of shade and cool fresh water to drink.

Dehydration in Dogs Due to Illness

At the Veterinary Hospital:  If your dog is vomiting or has diarrhea, the obvious thing to do is to call the vet.  If you notice any of the signs of dehydration above, an emergency trip to the vet is in order. It is often not possible to rehydrate a severely dehydrated dog at home, especially if he is refusing water. 

At the vet clinic, the veterinarian will provide fluids either under the skin or through an IV catheter.  The types of fluids normally used by veterinarians (Lactated Ringer's Solution) is a prescription medication, but if your dog is only mildly dehydrated, there are some simple things you can do at home to help, assuming he will accept fluids by mouth.

Possible Home Remedies to Try

Pedialyte can be used in dogs.  Dilute pedialyte 50:50 with plain water and offer with a syringe if the dog will not drink voluntarily.  No fluids with artificial sweeteners.   You can also offer plain fresh water in addition to the Pedialyte solution.

Another option if you don't have access to Pedialyte, chicken or beef broth will will also provide the hydration your dog needs along with some electrolytes.  Add a cube of bouillon to a cup of hot water and then allow the cube or powder to dissolve.  Cool to room temperature before serving.

Another option is to keep an electrolyte solution in your first aid kit. Many owners of working and sporting dogs will use products such as those below on a routine basis.  Just like athletes consume sports drinks, dogs need the fluid as well as some electrolytes.  Here are two popular products found on Amazon.

Conclusion  Dehydration in Dogs

Although dogs can manage for up to three days without water in favourable conditions extreme heat will reduce the amount of time that they can last. 

Dogs are much like humans as regards their reliance on water to keep functioning, lack of water particularly when it is hot or they have been very active can have lethal consequences for both dogs and humans.

Treat your dog like you treat yourself or your kids, make sure your dog is always hydrated and doesn’t overheat. 

So long as you do that there is no reason why you can’t enjoy the hot summer months filled with walks, adventures and lots of fun!

Author Bio:  Dehydration in Dogs

Dan Richardson is a pet blogger at milumimi.com. He has an excitable five-year-old golden retriever called Jenny and a confident four-year-old-black and white cat called Whisky, they both get on famously and of course the cat is in charge!

In his spare time he likes reading, walking the dog, cycling and playing with his one-year-old son.

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