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What are the symptoms of low electrolytes in dogs?

Signs of Dehydration in Dogs

Signs of Dehydration in Dogs

Dehydration in dogs happens when your canine companion’s body loses more water and electrolytes than it takes in. This can cause issues with your pet’s body temperature, joints, digestion and internal organs. Today, our Charlotte vets share information on this serious health emergency.

Dehydration in Dogs

For people and dogs alike, water has a critical role to play when it comes to virtually all bodily functions. Dehydration happens if your dog loses more water and electrolytes than they take in, and organs and other areas of the body will start to suffer. This common but serious health emergency can lead to loss of consciousness and kidney failure. It may even be fatal.

How Dogs Get Their Hydration

Naturally, your dog’s body loses water throughout the day by breathing, defecating, urinating and panting. It will also evaporate through their paws. Your pup makes up for losing fluids and electrolytes by eating and drinking.

If your pooch’s body gets to the point where they’ve taken in less fluid than the amount the body is losing, the volume of fluids and blood flow decreases. In turn, the oxygen being delivered to your dog’s organs and tissues is reduced.

Both dogs and humans need electrolytes to keep their bodies healthy. These naturally occurring minerals include chloride, potassium and sodium, which help to move nutrients to cells, regulate nerve function, facilitate muscle function and balance the body’s pH.

Reasons your dog may become dehydrated include illness, fever, heatstroke, diarrhea, insufficient fluid intake and persistent vomiting.

Signs of Dehydration in Dogs

A loss of elasticity in a dog’s skin is often the most obvious sign of dehydration. If you pull lightly on your dog’s skin and it doesn’t readily return to its original position, your dog is likely suffering from dehydration.

Xerostomia (when your pup’s gums lose moisture and become dry and sticky, and the saliva becomes thick and pasty) is another early symptom of dehydration in dogs.

Other signs of dehydration include:

  • Dry nose
  • Loss of appetite
  • Panting

Symptoms of severe dehydration include:

What to Do if Your Dog is Dehydrated

If your dog is displaying symptoms of shock, heatstroke, or severe dehydration, call your veterinarian immediately or contact your nearest emergency animal hospital. Your vet may advise you to begin offering your dog small amounts of water to begin the rehydration process while you are on your way to their office. Treatment for dogs suffering from this level of dehydration is re-hydration using intravenous fluids.

If your pooch is mildly dehydrated provide your pet with small amounts of water to drink every few minutes or offer your dog pieces of ice to lick. To help restore your dog’s electrolyte balance you could also provide your pup with Ringer’s lactate (an electrolyte replacement fluid).

Do not offer too much water all at once since this could cause your dog to vomit, causing even further dehydration. Even if your dog is suffering from a mild case of dehydration we recommend that you contact your vet for additional recommendations.

Preventing Your Dog from Becoming Dehydrated

If your dog is suffering from continuous or severe bouts of vomiting and diarrhea, contact your vet to book an examination to determine the underlying cause. Severe vomiting and diarrhea can be a symptom of a number of serious conditions and requires immediate attention. To help keep your dog hydrated while they are experiencing these symptoms offer your pet an electrolytic solution until they feel better. If the symptoms continue IV fluids may be the only way to prevent the serious side effects of dehydration.

To prevent your healthy dog from developing dehydration, always provide your pet with an easily accessible and ample supply of clean drinking water. If your dog spends time outdoors in the hot weather or enjoys vigorous exercise, they will need extra amounts of water in order to stay hydrated.

Dogs typically require at least one ounce of water per day for each pound of body weight. If you’re unsure whether your dog is drinking enough, ask your vet for advice on how to ensure your dog consumes enough fluids.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet’s condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Dehydration and Overheating in Dogs

English Cocker Spaniel Puppy at Water Bowl

Potentially serious if left untreated, dehydration and overheating can be prevented by recognizing early warning signs. While field dogs are especially vulnerable, these conditions can impact all dogs.


A excess loss of body fluids, dehydration involves the loss of water and depletion of electrolytes, which include the essential minerals of potassium, sodium and chloride.

Signs of a dehydrated dog include sunken eyes and dry mouth, gums and nose. Poor skin elasticity is another dehydration symptom, which you can test by gently pulling up on the skin at the back of your dog’s neck. If the skin doesn’t immediately spring back to its normal position, your dog may be dehydrated. The longer it takes for the skin to return to its normal position, the more severe the dehydration.

You can perform another at-home dehydration test by checking your dog’s mouth for capillary refill time. Press your finger against your dog’s gums until they turn white, then remove it. If the gums don’t regain color immediately, your dog could be dehydrated.

Since untreated dehydration can lead to organ failure and death, seek immediate medical attention if dehydration is suspected. Depending on the severity, your vet may suggest water with electrolyte products. In extreme cases, intravenous fluids will be administered to replenish your dog’s fluids.


Heat-related canine conditions can also become life-threatening without immediate treatment. Overheated dogs can suffer heat exhaustion, heat stroke or sudden death from cardiac arrhythmias.

Panting, followed by disorientation and fast, noisy breathing could signal overheating. Other possible signs: Collapsing or convulsing, bright red or blue gums, vomiting and diarrhea. Since field dogs are unlikely to stop hunting or retrieving when they become dangerously hot, owners should watch their dog closely for overheating signs.

If you suspect your field dog or other dogs are overheated, wet him with cool tap water before heading to the veterinarian. Let the office know you’re on the way, so a team can be prepared to act quickly.

Your vet may apply alcohol to the ears, foot pads and groin to safely lower the temperature, as well as administer cool IV fluids. For serious overheating, your dog may need a breathing tube and artificial ventilation. Depending on the severity of symptoms, correcting electrolyte imbalances and controlling seizures may also be needed. If organ damage is suspected, hospitalization may be required.


Simple precautions can ward off dehydration and overheating.

To help prevent dehydration, offer field dogs water at least hourly, experts advise. Many enjoy hunting so much they run until collapsing, so owners should watch closely to know when their dog has had enough. Wobbliness, weakness or collapse are signs to provide shade and offer small amounts of water. If your dog doesn’t improve, seek immediate veterinary attention.

To prevent overheating, help your dog beat the heat by encouraging resting and drinking at his leisure. For field dogs, deep, fast-moving lakes, ponds and rivers may be available to provide fresh, cool water. Allow your dog to submerge his body to siphon off the building heat.

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    Help Future Generations of Dogs

    Participate in canine health research by providing samples or by enrolling in a clinical trial. Samples are needed from healthy dogs and dogs affected by specific diseases.

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