Everyone knows that water nourishes, cleanses and hydrates all living creatures on earth, including our canine friends. Dogs, like humans, are made up of nearly 80 percent water. Without enough of it, neither can survive for long.

Some dog owners are surprised to learn their pet may be drinking too little or too much water daily. It’s important to monitor your dog’s water consumption to insure he’s getting enough, but not too much. It’s also important because a change in a dog’s normal water intake can signal an underlying health problem.

Dehydration is a lack of water in the body, and can cause serious complications for pets and people alike. To determine if your dog may be dehydrated or needs more water, lift some skin at the back of his neck and release it. If your dog is well hydrated, the skin will snap right back into place. Another test is to check your dog’s gums. Moist, slick gums indicate a good level of hydration; dry or sticky gums mean your pet’s body needs more water.

Just how much water your dog needs each day depends on several factors, including her size, diet, age, activity level, and the time of year.  As a general rule, healthy dogs need from one-half to one full ounce of water per pound of body weight each day.

If your dog is dehydrated for a medical reason, like diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, or heat stroke, you need to visit your veterinarian. These are considered veterinarian emergencies. Dehydration makes it harder for your pet to recover, increasing her risks of suffering damaging or possibly fatal consequences.

Water is not the only thing dehydrated dogs lose. Those electrolytes also need to be replaced, and water alone will not get the job done. Your veterinarian may recommend giving your dog fluids to help balance her systems and you may need to return to your veterinarian’s office a few times for more fluids while your dog recovers.

Dehydration is often a symptom of a larger problem, so in addition to fluids, your veterinarian will want to diagnose and treat the underlying condition. This process will depend on your dog’s other symptoms, and could involve anything from blood work and radiographs to surgery.

Very young dogs, senior dogs, nursing mothers, and toy dog breeds may be at an increased risk of dehydration, so be sure you know the signs if your dog falls into one of these categories.

Here are some of the common symptoms of dehydration:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Reduced energy levels and/or lethargy
  • Panting
  • Sunken, dry-looking eyes
  • Dry nose and gums
  • Loss of skin elasticity

If you suspect your dog maybe suffering from dehydration, get him to a veterinarian right away.

How Can I Prevent Dehydration?

  • Provide clean water at all times, and change it frequently to ensure freshness. Also, don’t forget to wash your pet’s water bowl every day to prevent bacteria from forming.
  • Monitor your dog’s water intake. Generally, a dog needs at least one ounce of water for each pound of body weight per day. If your dog is not drinking an adequate amount of water, seek veterinary advice.
  • Be sure to monitor water intake this is especially important if he’s recovering from diarrhea, vomiting or other illnesses.
  • Purchase a water bowl with a weighted bottom to prevent your dog from knocking it over.
  • Bring extra water when you’re traveling or exercising with your dog.
  • If you notice your pet is drinking less than usual, check his mouth for sores or other foreign objects, such as burrs or sticks.
  • Avoid chaining a dog outside, since he may get tangled up, preventing him from accessing his water bowl.
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