Most of a dog’s body weight is comprised of water, which is estimated to be 79% of the total. It is estimated that if a dog’s body losses even 10% of body fluids, the condition may result in severe dehydration, which should be considered a medical emergency which requires immediate treatment.
Dehydration in dogs can be a symptom of any underlying medical condition. Most commonly, infectious or non infectious diseases which cause diarrhea, vomiting or frequent urination may leave a dog dehydrated. Similarly, some mechanical and environmental factors such as excessive heat, lower levels of water intake during the winter and excessive panting can cause the loss of body fluids, leaving a dog with mild to severe dehydration.
In general, canine dehydration is caused by medical conditions related to the digestive and urinary system, exposure to harsh weather, injuries and illness.
Symptoms and Diagnosis:
A dog may appear to be slightly or severely dehydrated. Dehydration in dogs should be assessed based on different common symptoms such as dullness, a lethargic appearance, increased heart rate but slower pulse rate, paleness and dryness over gums, dryness over the skin and delayed capillary refill time.
Veterinarians can also assess dehydration on the basis of these symptoms by specifically formulating an index for the different symptoms and by taking a clinical history of the condition along with the diagnosis of any possible underlying cause. Along with these symptoms, other conditions such as body temperature, blood pressure, rate of fluid absorption and urination etc are part of the assessment.
Dehydration in dogs should be considered a medical emergency. Even if a dog owner suspects minor dehydration, they should try to try and address it immediately or consult with a veterinarian for proper handling. Severe dehydration on other hand should never be treated at home.
There are different ways to approach canine dehydration treatment
- Oral Electrolytes and Fluids: Minor cases of dehydration can be treated with oral administration of fluids which contain electrolytes. Also, in medical conditions where vomiting is not the primary symptom, or oral intakes do not cause the dog to vomit, these fluids can be administered as well. Care is needed in the preparation and administration of these fluids. If oral fluids are required to be administered for treating dog dehydration, these should not be given in bulk or in larger quantities at once. Intead a minor volume of fluid several times a day is preferred. Common pedialyte, plain water containing salts etc can be used, but not in larger volumes, as these may end with the dog vomiting, which means more loss of fluids.
- Fluid Therapy: In severe dog dehydration or true medical emergencies, fluids can be administered through an Intra-Venous (IV) route or Sub-Cutaneous (SC) route. These fluids are administered in the form of Ringer Lactate solution combined with electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. Administering fluids through injections is done as the initial procedure in medical emergencies. Once the dog is rehydrated and saved, underlying causes are treated.
- Home Remedies: In order to treat mild dehydration or to prevent the occurrence of dog dehydration at all, dogs should be offered plenty of clean water. Moreover, if the dog experiences diarrhea or vomiting, it should be referred to a veterinarian before it gets dehydrated. At home, pedialyte and plain water can be an effective dog dehydration treatment in cases of mild dehydration.
- Specific Treatment: Canine dehydration always has an underlying cause. Once the normal level of water and fluids in the body is attained, conditions should be treated specifically according to a confirmed diagnosis. It should be noted that specific drugs such as antibiotics, anti fungals, anti parasitic drugs and other drugs for specific symptoms are never recommended, while a dog is dehydrated. These should only be administered once the patient is rehydrated.
Once a dog is rehydrated and the underlying cause is identified, specific treatment should be initiated. Along with a specific treatment, supportive supplements and natural remedies such as Energy Tonic should also be offered. These will certainly help to restore the dogs physiology or condition and it will also keep energy levels normal.