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Why Do We Still Underestimate Hydration in Dogs

author Lucy Byrne | Health and diet

Many people already carefully pick dry food, think about the proportion of proteins and fats in food but often forgets about fluid intake. Excessive loss of water which means only 10–15 percent may be even life-threatening to dogs. Therefore, regular drinking is more than important.

However, it’s not that easy to say how much water a dog should drink. It is important to realize that it depends on many factors. The size of the breed plays an important role (it is generally said a dog should drink 80 ml for 1 kg of its weight) and its age (puppies need more water, older, pregnant and breastfeeding dogs lose water faster). The need of water is also related to the type of food. Dogs that eat dry food will drink more than those fed with cans. And it also depends on the physical activity. Similarly to people – the more physical activity, the more water is needed. Even high temperature, vomiting and diarrhoea or administering certain medicines might influence the need of water. We can’t also forget about the influence of weather. In summer, dogs will be naturally thirstier than in winter.

With physical exertion, the ambient temperature doesn’t matter so much. Therefore, do not forget about these principles in winter! Do not forget to hydrate your dog enough before the physical activity, may it be doing sports or a longer walk or trip. However, not immediately before it. Not only the water might get from its stomach to its circulatory system, it could also cause a life-threatening gastric torsion. Before a race or a demanding training session, you might help yourself with rehydration drinks. And do not forget to let your dog drink after the activity.

If you go on a trip, have water for your dog companion always with you and offer it regularly to your dog. Do not rely on water you bump into on your journey. There doesn’t have to be any and the dog could also get poisoned from an untested water source. Puddles pose risks as there are pathogens and parasites, stagnant water (e.g. in ponds) might be infected by toxic cyanobacteria.

And how can you tell a dog is dehydrated? The easiest way is to check its urine colour. It should be light yellow to clear. A dehydrated dog also loses its energy and sometimes even appetite. You can notice its eyes are glassy (as when a disease comes) or its mouth is dry. You’ll also easily recognize the lack of fluids by catching the skin on the front part of its back. If it doesn’t get back immediately, it is just in time to give your dog some water. You can also check the hydration using a gentle pressure of a finger on the gum to turn it white. If everything is okay, it should turn red again after the pressure is released. Dehydration is also obvious from dog’s fur. It is drier, coarser and loses its shine.

In less serious cases, you can give the dog sufficient amount of water or a rehydration drink in a perfect case. With more serious cases, don’t hesitate and go to a vet. You can avoid harming the organs or, God forbids, even death.

Some dogs fight drinking regularly and they need some support sometimes. Water bowls should be made from washable material and always clean. Some dogs only need to change water in them several times a day or at least once a day. A drinking fountain might support their need to drink. If it doesn’t help, you might put a spoon from a can to water. It would be surprising if a dog didn’t drink this way. Partial source of fluids might be also contained in a suitable type of food which is perfect for stubborn non-drinkers – cans or adding little water into food or broth (always remove the bits the dog didn’t eat, some dogs may refuse to eat wet dry food, added water in a can is not so obvious).

Have you ever had problems with dehydration in dogs? Warm days are coming, therefore do not forget about their bowls with water and pay greater attention to them.