Keeping Your Pet Hydrated in the Summer Months

Dehydration is loss of water from the body (usually through vomiting or diarrhea), panting or decreased water intake. Being dehydrated makes your pet feel crummy, and can potentially cause problems with the kidneys and other internal organs if left untreated. With summer upon us, it’s easy for a pet left outside without water to become dehydrated, so I thought I’d share some tips for checking your pet’s hydration, and how to avoid dehydration as the weather warms up.

As vets, we rely on physical exam findings to check pets for dehydration, but in some cases lab tests are needed to really find out how bad things are and determine the cause. Blood tests, urinalysis and X-rays are the usual starting point for any investigation into how dehydrated a pet is (and why).

Treating dehydration can sometimes be done at home, but for severe cases therapy is best done in a vet hospital where fluids can be given and your pet monitored. Sometimes vets will give fluids under the skin (SQ fluids) as treatment for mild dehydration, but this isn’t enough for more severe cases. As with many things, prevention is key! More on this below.

Checking your pet for dehydration:

  • Eyes: Are your pet’s eyes shiny, or do they look sunken in and dull? Dull, sunken or dry eyes might indicate dehydration and warrant a vet checkup.
  • Mouth: Are the gums and tongue dry or moist? If dry or sticky, your pet may be dehydrated. Normally, saliva is watery, so if it is thick and gooey, your pet may be dehydrated.
  • Skin: To perform the “skin turgor” test to check hydration, pinch a small fold of skin over the shoulders and gently lift it up and inch or two. How rapidly it takes to go back into normal position is related to hydration level. If well-hydrated, it’ll snap back into position right away. In dehydrated pets, it creeps down slowly. This test isn’t always accurate and lots of things (such as age and weight loss) can give false results.

Your vet can help you determine if your pet is dehydrated, what the cause may be and the best course of therapy. If in doubt, always have your pet evaluated by a veterinarian.

Preventing dehydration is the best way to go and might save you a trip to the vet. Providing fresh water at all times is vital, and especially so during the warmer months when a pet’s water intake increases and water can evaporate from a bowl in the sun rapidly.

Do:

  • Always give your pet clean and accessible water, especially in warm weather
  • If you’re worried your pet is dehydrated based on the info above, see your vet
  • If your pet is in pain, lethargic, or hasn’t eaten for 24 hours, see your vet
  • If your pet is vomiting (especially if they are a young, unvaccinated puppy) and seems dehydrated, see your vet

Don’t:

  • Don’t allow your pet immediate, unlimited free access to large amounts water if vomiting
  • Leave your pet out in the sun without checking the water supply at least twice daily

Preventing dehydration is important; check your pet’s water bowl today and make sure it’s clean and filled. Now you have the skills to check your pet’s hydration and make sure they stay cool and well hydrated all summer long!

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