Drink, Dog, Drink: How to Keep Your Dog Hydrated & Why It Matters
As the weather starts to warm, you and your dog are probably getting antsy for a run in the park, a little frisbee tossing, or just a good game of fetch in the backyard. Better yet, why not pack up your gear and head out for a nice camping trip.
But those higher temps could mean trouble for your pet. Unlike humans, dogs are often so task oriented they don’t pay attention to their bodies, and they don’t sweat like you and me. Dogs have a few sweat glands in their paws, but their primary means of getting rid of excess body heat is to pant.
However, panting isn’t always enough to keep your dog cool, particularly in higher summer temperatures. Furthermore, panting leads to water loss and this dehydration only makes the effects of heat worse. Even a 10-15% loss of the water in a dog’s body can result in severe illness and even death. It’s thus important for owners to monitor their dogs for signs of dehydration, to keep them hydrated, and to use methods to cool them in hot weather.
The Importance of Monitoring Hydration
As a rule of thumb, dogs require about one ounce of water per day for each pound of body weight, of course this increases with higher temperatures and increased levels of activity. When exercising your dog during summer heat, you should offer water every 15 -20 minutes.
When dogs don’t drink adequately, they may begin to show signs of severe dehydration that you should be aware of. The earliest symptom is excessive panting, a sign that your pet is trying to rapidly expel heat. Other signs of dehydration include:
- Loss of appetite
- Sunken eyes
- Dry nose
- Lack of skin elasticity
- Dry sticky gums
- Thick saliva
It’s important should any of these signs occur that you move your dog to a cooler area and try to give them water. There are also ways to check whether your dog is adequately hydrated other than simply observing. A dog’s skin is usually very elastic. If you pinch and lift an area of skin on the back of the head or between the shoulder blades, the skin should quickly spring back into normal position.
If it is slow to do so, your dog may be in need of water. You can also feel your dog’s gums to see if they are dry. Try pressing your finger against their gums. In a well-hydrated dog, the gum color should quickly return after you remove your finger.
You should also be aware that some types of dogs are more prone to overheating and dehydration. Older dogs, puppies, and nursing mothers tend to be more susceptible to dehydration. Certain breeds such as toy breeds, long-haired breeds, and working dogs are also more prone. Additionally, overweight dogs, dogs with breathing, kidney, or heart problems, and dogs with short noses and flat faces seem to be more susceptible.
Always be aware of how much your dog is drinking and if they are displaying signs of overheating. Many of these signs are not only symptoms of an immediate problem but may indicate underlying conditions, so you should take your pet to the vet promptly if you see any signs of severe dehydration.
Keep Them Cool and Watered
Keeping a dog cool and hydrated is much easier at home, but while you’re out it requires some forethought. The most important thing is to have plenty of water with you and a dish from which the dog can drink. There are also clever carry devices, such as the squeezable dog mug that can be attached to a pack and that allow you to dispense water with one hand.
On hot days, you can freeze a water bottle and allow it to slowly melt while you’re out so that your pet has access to cool water that will help keep body temperature down.
For those dogs that resist drinking, try feeding them ice cubes as a treat or add a little water to their dry food to increase hydration. Some owners even add some beef broth to water to encourage reluctant dogs to drink.
Water loss is decreased by keeping your dog cool, which is perhaps a bigger challenge when you’re camping, hiking, or engaging in other activities far from home. On camping trips try to create a shaded, airy space where your dog can retire from the sun when needed. You can also purchase cooling beds for your pet to rest on when overheated.
For on the trail, you can purchase cooling dog vests and collars that use evaporation of water to draw heat away from the dog’s skin. Allowing your pup to take a dip in a lake or stream is also an excellent means of keeping them cool. If nothing else is available, take a break in the shade and dab water on to your dog’s paws, belly, armpits, and ears.
Don’t let the heat break you. Dogs love being out just as much as you do, but they need your attention. If you come prepared and take steps to keep them cool and watered, there’s no reason you can’t both enjoy a day out.