Dehydration in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Dogs are just like people; they need water to function properly. It is essential that your dog takes in water just as much as you do, as it plays a significant role in the functioning of almost every body part. When your dog does not drink enough water, their body will compensate for this by drawing water out of their cells. This will lead to them losing electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and chloride, and ultimately becoming dehydrated.

When your dog is dehydrated, their body will begin to break down as the lack of water will affect most of the body’s systems, and this includes muscle function. Dehydration is a serious problem that can lead to other complicated health issues like kidney failure and loss of consciousness. It could eventually lead to death in extreme cases if left untreated, which is why it should not be overlooked.

A dog can lose water from their body through vomiting, fever, panting, and an underlying illness that can cause a loss of appetite and thirst, eventually leading to dehydration. In this article, you will learn about dehydration in dogs, the causes, the symptoms to look out for, and the treatments your dog will undergo. Keep reading for more information.

dog dehydration in Wilmington, DE

How Dehydration Occurs in Dogs

As stated above, dehydration occurs when a dog does not drink as much water as they should, leading to a drop in their water level. Every dog owner should know that their dog will lose water every day through urinating, panting, and evaporation through their paws. This is a lot to keep up with, but you need to ensure that your dog takes the necessary amount of water to compensate for the loss of electrolytes and fluid in their body.  When dogs are healthy and have access to fresh water, they will drink what they need to when they need to.  Dehydration becomes more of a concern when your dog is not healthy or your dog’s access to water is impaired.

When your dog is dehydrated and losing water, they will eventually get to a point where the fluid they are consuming is less than the amount they are losing. When this happens, their body will try to compensate by drawing water from the cells, and there will also be a decrease in the volume of fluids and their body’s blood flow. Lastly, all of these will reduce oxygen to your dog’s tissues and organs.

Symptoms of Dehydration in Dogs

As a dog owner, you should be able to identify the symptoms of dehydration in dogs. This way, you can easily tell if there is anything wrong with your dog and nip it in the bud before it becomes too late. If you aren’t sure, you can perform two tests to check for dehydration.

The first test is the skin test. This test will examine if your dog has lost elasticity (turgor) in his or her skin. If a dog has decreased skin turgor, then he or she could be dehydrated. You can test this by pulling lightly on their skin, and if it does not immediately go back to its original position, there is a chance your furry friend is dehydrated.

The second test you can try is the gum test. Press your finger on your dog’s gums until the area you are pressing becomes white, then remove your finger. If the area does not turn pink immediately, your dog may be dehydrated

Other symptoms of dehydration in dogs to look out for include:

  • Dry or sunken eyes
  • Xerostomia: thick and pasty saliva and dry gums
  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive panting
  • An increase in urine odor and a decrease in urine output
  • A heart rate above 140
  • A loss of balance or a wobbly walk
  • Your dog may collapse from hypovolemic shock or shock that occurs from fluid loss.
  • Dulled mental activity and apprehensive behavior
  • Weak pulse

Causes of Dehydration in Dogs

There are many reasons why your dog could become dehydrated, which are listed below. Check out these reasons and try to avoid them as best as possible, as this will be a great contribution to preventing dehydration in your dog.

  • Persistent diarrhea or vomiting
  • Heat stroke or fever
  • A lack of or decrease in food intake
  • Illnesses such as diabetes, kidney disease, and some types of cancer
  • Injuries like burns
  • A lack or decrease in water intake due to impaired access to water
  • Excessive perspiration through different body areas like the dog’s paws
  • Excessive breathing or panting

Diagnosis and Treatment of Dehydration in Dogs

If your dog has dehydration symptoms, you should contact your veterinarian immediately, especially when your dog displays heat stroke or shock symptoms. The vet will thoroughly examine if your dog is actually dehydrated or if there is another problem. This exam will also be able to tell your vet if there is an underlying medical condition that is causing your furry friend to be dehydrated. Your veterinarian will decide on the best route of treatment.

The main treatment of dehydration in dogs is giving them the fluid intake they need. You should always tell your veterinarian about every symptom your dog has exhibited. The vet might advise you to give your dog small amounts of water to begin the rehydration process. If your dog is mildly dehydrated, you can give them small amounts of water to drink every few minutes, and they will be able to drink on their own.

Do not offer your dog too much water as they could end up vomiting it up, leading to further dehydration. Note that you should still contact your veterinarian even if your dog has mild dehydration.

Dogs are usually administered fluid therapy through injection (intravenously or subcutaneously). It is the most efficient rehydration method, especially for dogs that cannot drink on their own. It is always closely monitored and is extremely safe. Dogs with severe or acute dehydration will find it difficult to drink on their own.


Dehydration in dogs is a serious health problem and should not be taken lightly as it could lead to death if left untreated. If you suspect your furry friend has dehydration, look for all the signs above and try out any of the two tests to get a diagnosis. Most importantly, contact your veterinarian.

If you believe your dog is struggling with dehydration in Wilmington, DE, reach out to Wilmington Animal Hospital at (302) 762-2694! Our veterinarians are here to help and keep your pet hydrated and healthy.