Dehydration in Dogs: Signs, Symptoms, Solutions

By: Wendy Rose GouldUpdated:

Dehydration in Dogs

Dehydration in Dogs: Signs, Symptoms, Solutions

Keeping both your pup and yourself hydrated is always super important, but especially so in the summer when you’re heading out on daily walks in high heat and strong sunshine. While there is tons of fun to be had in the summertime weather, pet parents should be aware of the dangers of dehydration in dogs.

We spoke with veterinarians to break down everything you need to know about what dog dehydration looks like and why keeping your pup hydrated is so important. We’re also detailing the ways in which puppy dehydration might look different compared to adult dogs and sharing signs to look for and how to react.

And, because no one wants to tote around a boring (and wasteful) plastic water bottle, we have some stylish supplies for ensuring you and your doggo have what you need to stay hydrated.

Take Note, Pet Parents! Here Are the Signs of Dehydration in Dogs

It’s obvious, but we have to say it: Thirst is one of the first signs of dehydration. It’s essentially a “warning sign” from your body, urging you to gulp down some H2O stat. It’s easy for us humans to tell when we’re thirsty, but recognizing that our dogs are feeling dehydrated requires paying a bit more attention.

Albert Ahn, DVM, outlines some obvious signs your dog is feeling thirsty or dehydrated:

  • Panting
  • Lethargy (low energy)
  • Sunken eyes
  • Lack of appetite
  • Dry nose
  • Thick saliva
  • Tacky gums

“If your dog is lethargic, be sure to check the eyes to make sure that they are not sunken in, which could indicate dehydration,” says Dr. Ahn who is a strategic advisor for MYOS, a senior pet healthcare company in Cedar Knolls, New Jersey.

“Also take a close look at your dog’s nose,” he says. “If it is dry and your canine companion is panting—particularly in the absence of strenuous physical exercise—this could be an important sign pointing to the possibility of dehydration.”

Dr. Ahn adds that checking the gums or saliva is another way to tell if your pup is potentially dehydrated. If their saliva is thicker than normal, or if the gums look and feel tacky instead of slippery and wet, these are both signs that your dog could be significantly dehydrated. Canines may also experience gastrointestinal upset, such as diarrhea, constipation or vomiting, if they’re not adequately hydrated.

Note that dog dehydration can also occur if your dog has ongoing diarrhea, due to the loss of fluids during the digestion process. If your dog has diarrhea, call and/or arrange an appointment with your veterinarian to get a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Why Dehydration in Dogs Is So Dangerous

Leonardo Da Vinci once said, “Water is the driving force of all nature,” and he couldn’t have been closer to the truth! Nothing on this earth can survive without water, and it’s integral to our health and wellbeing. With that said, not getting enough water can take a serious toll on our bodies—dogs included!

“There are several systems in the body which require water to properly function. One of the most important are the kidneys, which can become damaged if a dog becomes dehydrated for a prolonged period of time,” Dr. Ahn explains.

“The heart is another organ that is sensitive to dehydration because, [without enough water], it has to work harder to circulate the blood,” he continues. “The digestive system also requires water to effectively do its job of digesting and processing food. [And] a dog that does not get enough water may become constipated and may require veterinary treatment.”

In the most extreme cases, dehydration can lead to organ failure and even death, according to Dr. Ahn.

If all that doesn’t make you want to get up and double check that your pup’s water bowl is full, I don’t know what will!

What to Do If You Suspect Your Dog Is Dehydrated (No. 1: Don’t Panic!)

If you suspect that your dog is dehydrated, then provide them with water immediately. Be sure to introduce water slowly to prevent vomiting. In severe cases—which include your dog losing consciousness, not moving, not eating or refusing to drink water—contact your veterinarian or an emergency vet immediately.

How to Prevent Dehydration in Dogs

The best way to prevent dehydration in dogs is to make sure your pet has access to clean water at all times. Furthermore, it’s important to keep an eye on their actual liquid intake. Generally speaking, a dog’s daily water needs are about one ounce of fluid for each pound of body weight, says Dr. Ahn. For example, a 32-pound dog requires 32 ounces (or a quarter gallon) of water per day to meet their physiological needs.

“It is important to bear in mind that heavy exercise, dry and hot environments, such as the desert [landscape] of the southwestern United States, and hot summer weather may significantly increase the amount of water that your dog requires in order to stay properly hydrated,” Dr. Ahn adds.

At all times, be mindful of your dog’s water bowl; make sure that it is always brimming full of fresh, clean water.

“It is easy to overlook a water bowl that is somewhat low,” says Dr. Ahn. “In the summer, an active dog may drink a lot more water and can easily drain a bowl. This is why it is important to frequently check on the status of the bowl to make sure that it is full or close to full.”

What to Remember

  • Dehydration in dogs can be extremely dangerous, leading to organ failure and even death.
  • Ensure that your dog always has access to clean water. Generally speaking, a dog’s daily water needs are about one ounce of fluid for each pound of body weight.
  • Some signs that your dog is feeling thirsty or dehydrated include panting, low energy and appetite, sunken eyes, dry nose, thick saliva and tacky gums.
  • If you suspect that your dog is dehydrated, provide them with water immediately. Be sure to introduce water slowly to prevent vomiting and contact your veterinarian.

Some other ways you can prevent dog dehydration is to avoid strenuous physical activities during midday (when the sun is at its peak and the temperatures outside are at their highest outside) and to limit time spent outside in warm weather.

With your veterinarian’s OK, you can even offer your dog healthy and hydrating treats, such as celery or carrots, suggests Dr. Ahn, which contain a significant amount of water. You may also want to consider adding water to their kibble or feeding them wet food during high-heat months/days. (Just be sure to discuss any dietary changes with your vet and to always introduce new foods gradually.)

Carefully monitor your dog for any signs of dehydration and offer them water immediately if you see any of the worrisome symptoms. And as always, consult with your veterinarian if you have any questions about the hydration status or health of your dog.

Puppy Dehydration: Causes, Signs and How to Help

Though puppies can become dehydrated for the same reasons as older dogs—including lack of water, heavy exercise and hot climates—Ann Hohenhaus, DVM, says puppies are at risk for dehydration for different reasons, too.

Specifically, parvovirus, intestinal parasites, and foreign objects stuck in the intestinal tract are much more often the cause of dehydration, causing vomiting and/or diarrhea in puppies. Additionally, puppies typically require more urgent care if you suspect they’re dehydrated. That's both because of the more serious cause and the fact that they’re naturally more fragile compared to adult dogs.

“I am less worried about dehydration and more worried about the underlying cause of dehydration, which can be lethal if not treated,” notes Dr. Hohenhaus, staff doctor at NYC’s Animal Medical Center (AMC). “If your puppy has vomiting and/or diarrhea, see your veterinarian as soon as possible. If your puppy has bloody diarrhea, can’t keep any food or water down, or is extremely lethargic, then a trip to the ER is warranted.”

Even if the issue ends up simply being thirst, puppies will benefit from immediate, professional intervention. The sooner your dehydrated puppy is with a veterinarian, the faster they’ll be on the path to recovery and the higher their chances for a full recovery.

Signs of Puppy Dehydration

Veterinarians assess puppies for dehydration by pulling up the skin on the nape of the neck, creating a kind of tent shape. In a hydrated puppy, the slips right back into place when the vet lets go, says Dr. Hohenhaus. Dehydrated puppies' skin may stay in that pinched/tented form for a few seconds or longer.

“We also look at the gums and eyes," Dr. Hohenhaus adds. "Moist, shiny gums and eyes indicate good hydration. Dry, dull eyes or sticky gums indicate dehydration.”

She adds that your vet may also run laboratory tests to help assess puppy dehydration. “If the protein in the liquid part of the blood or the level of red blood cells is higher than normal, it indicates inadequate ‘water’ in the blood stream,” she says.

Preventing Puppy Dehydration

Below are some ways you can ensure your puppy stays healthy and hydrated:

  • providing access to a clean source of water for drinking (even at the beach, lake, or pool when they are especially tempted by other sources of water
  • make sure your puppy is up to date on all their vaccines and booster shots
  • If your puppy isn’t yet up to date, schedule their appointment(s) and refrain from letting them outside or around other dogs or puppies
  • Provide shade when your puppy is outdoors so they can stay cool
  • Avoid peak hours of sunshine and keep outside visits short when temperatures exceed 90 degrees.
  • Do not allow your puppy to be in an enclosed car with the A/C off
  • Seek veterinary care for vomiting and diarrhea before dehydration sets in

Why Your Hydration Matters, Too

As the fur parent in this dog/human relationship, it’s important for you to be in tip-top health, as well. That means staying hydrated, too! A common recommendation is to drink eight, 8-ounce glasses of water daily, although Mayo Clinic sites The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s guidelines of about 124 fluid ounces of fluids (for men) and 92 ounces (for women) per day.

When in doubt, listen to your body and gulp some H2O anytime you feel thirsty.

As is the case with dogs, you’re more likely to get thirsty in hot and dry scenarios, such as those summertime dog walks, verifies the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One of the best ways to ensure you and your pup stay well-hydrated during the summer months (and year-round, really) is to carry a reusable water bottle and transportable pet bowl.

For your dog, consider something like the Prima Pets Collapsible Travel Bowl which is easy to take on-the-go since it collapses down to a slim disc, or or the Frisco Elevated Collapsible Travel Bowl, which provides both a collapsible bowl and elevated holder with fold-in legs. Another option is the KONG H2O Stainless Steel Dog Water Bottle, a two-in-one bottle with both a water container and a detachable bowl. It also comes in six colors, so you can be sure to snag your favorite.

Dehydration in Dogs
Prima Pets Collapsible Travel Bowl
Dehydration in Dogs
Dexas Popware for Pets BottlePocket
Dehydration in Dogs
KONG H2O Stainless Steel Dog Water Bottle

As for you, there are some impressively chic reusable water bottles out there that’ll have you hydrating in style. Consider the Corkcicle Color Block Canteen. It features triple-layer insulation designed to keep cold beverages cool for up 24 hours and hot drinks warm for 12. Plus, it’s hard not to love that trendy color-blocking pattern!

If collapsible capability is your jam, the Que Bottle with its spiral design is legit; it comes in lots of different color options and shrinks down to half its size.

Those who struggle with getting enough water everyday might feel more encouraged to up their daily intake with HydroMate’s One Liter Glass Bottle. We love the clean, minimalist look of glass water bottles, and this one has motivational blurbs that act as goals throughout the day.

Finally, in scenarios where you need to carry lots of water easily for both you and your pup (like a hike, for instance), we recommend a backpack with a bladder. The CamelBak Women’s L.U.X.E 100 OZ Hydration Pack can carry 10 liters of water and boasts both a slim shape and an icy blue hue. It may be pricey, but adventurous types will definitely get a lot of use out of this hands-free hydration option.

Dehydration in Dogs
Corkcicle Color Block Canteen
Dehydration in Dogs
Collapsible Que Bottle
Dehydration in Dogs
HydroMate One Liter Glass Bottle

Now you and your pooch are all set to hydrate in serious style! Just be sure that you two are staying safe by watching out for the signs of dehydration in dogs.

Expert input provided by: Dr. Albert Ahn, DVM, strategic advisor for MYOS, a senior pet healthcare company in Cedar Knolls, New Jersey; and Ann Hohenhaus, DVM, staff doctor at NYC’s Animal Medical Center (AMC).


By: Wendy Rose GouldUpdated: