How to keep your dog hydrated

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dehydration, hydrated

ADEQUATE WATER INTAKE IS ESSENTIAL TO YOUR DOG’S GOOD HEALTH. HERE’S WHY, ALONG WITH TIPS ON KEEPING HER HYDRATED.

When we think of hydration, the first thing that usually comes to mind is water. Water makes up most of our bodies — and those of our animals — and its role in maintaining good health is unparalleled.

Water nourishes every cell in the body. Without proper hydration, the normal everyday functions of the body are impaired. Cells won’t be able to effectively communicate with one another, and as dehydration worsens, neurological imbalances and decreased mental states can occur. Eventually, cells can become diseased and die.

Hydration is also very important for the composition and movement of red and white blood cells within the body. Without proper hydration, the body’s immune system may not function at peak efficiency.

In well-hydrated dogs, blood flows very easily throughout the body. It circulates and nourishes all the organs, keeping them happy and healthy. The reverse is true for dehydrated dogs. They can develop problems such as blood clots, and poor circulation can lead to organ dysfunction.

SIGNS OF DEHYDRATION IN YOUR DOG

When a dog begins to become dehydrated, the body tries to protect the most vital organs such as the brain, heart, lungs, and kidneys. This in turn leaves the skin and outer organs showing some initial signs of dehydration. As a dog becomes more dehydrated, her overall appearance will change. The mouth may become dry and sticky.

dehydrationAs dehydration and electrolyte imbalances worsen, dogs may become restless and agitated. They may try to seek out any source of liquid, even toxic substances, in an effort to try and rehydrate themselves. As the dehydration continues, the dog will become ataxic, walking with an abnormal and unsteady gait; and as she becomes weaker, she will be unable to stand and mental functions become impaired.

2 STEPS TO KEEPING HER HYDRATED

During the course of a day, both humans and dogs lose a given amount of water through normal physiological functions such as respiration and excretion (urination and defecation). Replacing what is lost can be achieved in two ways:

1. Always provide fresh, clean, pure water, and change it every day. In some cases, dogs may prefer the water to be moving instead of still so consider a water fountain made for animals. During times of strenuous exercise, ensure plenty of water breaks.

2. Your dog’s food should provide not only optimal species-specific nutrition, but also the proper moisture content. Healthy treats can also help with adding extra moisture to the body — including fruits such as seedless watermelon and cucumbers.

Caught in its earliest stages, dehydration is easy to remedy. By being informed and following the advice in this article, you and your four-legged companion can relax and enjoy your activities together!

EVALUATING HYDRATION WITH SKIN ELASTICITY AND GUM MOISTURE TESTS

To check the gums:

  1. Carefully approach your dog, and rub her and reassure her that everything is ok.

2. Lift up the lips until you can see the gums.

3. Note the colour of the gums. Are they pale pink, pink, blue or white? Normal colour is usually pink to pale pink — any other colour warrants veterinary attention.

4. Carefully and gently touch her gums. Do they feel moist or dry? Well-hydrated dogs should have wet gums.

To check the skin:

  1. As you rub down the back of your dog, notice how the skin and hair feel to your touch. Do they feel vibrant and healthy or dry and scaly?

2. Next, in the lower neck and shoulder area (not scruff), gently lift the skin and release it. As you release, count how long it takes for the skin to return to its normal position. Healthy, well-hydrated skin will “snap” back into place very quickly. Dehydrated skin will continue to stand. The time it takes for the skin to return to normal gives some idea of the severity of the dehydration. Most normal skin will return to normal position within a count of two to three, if not sooner.

Your results from these tests should be validated and confirmed by your veterinarian.

JARED MITCHELL, DVM, CVMA
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