In summer's blistering heat, it is essential to keep your favorite pooch hydrated and happy. However, it doesn't matter what season it is, water is extremely important to your dog's health. Just like your body is made up of 80% water, your dog's body is approximately 70% water. This means that if he loses even 5% or 10% of water, it could lead to serious dehydration.
Signs of Dehydration
First, let's look at some signs of dehydration in a dog. What are some of the symptoms you should look out for, if you think your dog might be dehydrated?
- Loss of appetite
- Reduced energy levels and/or lethargy
- Sunken, dry-looking eyes
- Dry mouth
- Loss of skin elasticity
Some of these are obvious. If your dog is panting heavily, give him some water. Others, you might have to look for more carefully. Skin elasticity is a good way to test for hydration levels and requires a simple test. Pinch your dog's skin gently between your thumb and forefinger, then release. If it bounces back immediately, all is well, he is drinking enough water. If it doesn't, then you know your dog is dehydrated. Be sure to perform the test when he is fully hydrated too, so you can tell the difference, especially if your dog is a wrinkly breed such as a Bulldog or Mastiff. Their skin can be misleading.
Dry mouth is another sign to watch out for, since dogs cool themselves through the evaporation of saliva as they pant. If your dog's mouth has become dry, he will not be able to cool himself. To check, feel his gums. The gums should be wet. If they are tacky, and your finger sticks to them, your dog is mildly dehydrated.
Now that you know how to check for signs of dehydration, let's make sure your dog is always hydrated. We know that you would never leave your dog without water, but we are going to mention it here anyway. Always ensure that he has access to clean drinking water. Dogs need about an ounce of water for every pound of weight, on a daily basis. Give him about twice the amount he needs, in a good sized bowl for him, and that's a good way to go. Of course, if your dog has exercised or if the weather is very warm, he will need more. Also, keep in mind if you are giving him any medication, there are some that will dehydrate him, and he will need more water then.
What a lot of people don't realize is that water bowls need cleaning daily. This is because bacteria can form on the rim and sides, making the water turn foul quickly. Your dog may not want to drink from it, or will drink from it, which is worse as it could make him sick. Simply cleaning the water bowl every day with a little bit of dish soap will do the trick.
If you're used to taking your dog on long walks or hikes or having extended playtimes outdoors, it is necessary to carry a bowl and fresh water for him. During exercise, give him small amounts of water every 15-20 minutes, and not all at once. When the activity is done, refrain from putting a water bowl in front of him immediately. Wait a few minutes until he has stopped panting, or in his hurry he may swallow large amounts of water and air, and that could lead to stomach discomfort.
Absolutely don't allow your dog to drink out of lakes, streams, or ponds when out hiking and camping. These water sources can be contaminated. Out on the trail, your dog can carry his own water bottle in a lightweight pack. Check out our tips on camping with your dog for more information.
Finally, everyone knows of the dangers of dehydration in summer when it's hot. Winters can be dehydrating too. When its cold and dry, your dog can get as dehydrated as in summer.
Dehydration is a serious matter, and it's not always easy to tell with dogs whether they're dehydrated. Your dog loves to play with you, and have fun in the sun with you, and we know you want to look after him every way that you can. Making sure he is hydrated is a simple way to care for your dog, so you can enjoy these summer days together.