It’s no secret that water is vital for all life. Be it in humans or in our four-legged friends, every single function of the body depends directly or indirectly on hydration. For our dogs, water plays a role in food digestion, nutrient absorption, the carrying of components in and out of cells, and removing waste through urine and faeces. It also provides cushion for joints and protects delicate structures such as the brain and spinal cord, as well as assisting with thermoregulation (keeping the body temperature within safe parameters). This list could go on and on!
Water accounts for approximately 70% of an adult dog’s weight, that’s how crucial water is. When for some reason they are deprived of adequate hydration, they start losing an amount of water that is beyond what the body takes in, leading to negative health implications.
Giving us the run down on dog rehydration is our Veterinary Advisor, Paola Lenzi – take it away Paola!
What can cause a dog to become dehydrated?
Your dog becoming dehydrated can be caused by a number of different things and as a pet owner, it’s really important to understand the different scenarios that may cause excessive panting and fluid loss.
Environmental – this aspect relates to something happening in your pet’s immediate environment that may affect it either physically or mentally. Let’s imagine a dog called Rio walking in the park, with his guardian Anna. It’s a sunny day, he is very excited about exploring new sounds, sights and smells as well as meeting new friends to run around with. As he is exercising, his body temperature starts to rise. What is the canine’s first thermoregulation strategy? That’s right, panting.
They inhale cooler, dryer air through their nose and mouth, before exhaling warmer, moister air, causing them to lose heat through evaporation from the tongue and nasal mucosa. If the panting is not enough, salivation and lingual blood flow are increased, and they also lose some sweat through their paws. Did you notice that throughout this process, in addition to losing heat… they also lose water? Exercise can accelerate water loss by a factor of 10-20 times higher than usual. Just like us humans, each and every pet has a different lifestyle – some may enjoy leisurely strolls and fun games of fetch with their owners, while others may venture out on regular hikes and runs, take part in competitive agility sports, or carry out amazing work as search and rescue dogs. The higher levels and intensity of the exercise, the greater the risk of dehydration.
Situational stress – sometimes certain situations may cause our pet anxiety and stress, and as a result they may pant more and/or drink less water. Again, each dog is very different and what may stress out one dog, may not affect another at all. Such situations include travelling in the car with their owner, being welcomed into a new home, trips to the vet, and busy environments or loud noises such as fireworks.
Age / Breed – age is an important factor that can affect your pet’s intake of water on a daily basis – as they grow older, they may suffer from mobility problems, which could mean less trips to their water bowls. Brachycephalic breeds such as pugs or French bulldogs are also more likely to suffer from overheating and subsequent dehydration due to their flat faces which means they can’t pant as efficiently.
Feeling unwell – health conditions such as kidney disease may increase your dog’s likelihood of becoming dehydrated as their kidneys may struggle to keep their body fluids balanced, leading to dehydration. Bouts of vomiting and diarrhoea also cause high fluid loss and can result in dehydration.
What happens when a dog is dehydrated?
Now, let’s go back to our furry friend, Rio. I must warn you that this story will become quite tragic for educational reasons. Rio gets separated from Anna and does not have access to any source of water for quite some time. As dehydration increases, the amount of water available for evaporation, salivation, and circulation decreases. If he loses 1% of his body water, Rio’s temperature could rise by 0.5oC and blood plasma volume could decrease by 2.5%.
Less blood is reaching Rio’s extremities (where it would have the opportunity to cool down), which means even more heat is building up. Less blood volume also implies less oxygen to the working muscles. Even mild dehydration can lead to reduced performance so, in terms of physical, mental, and olfactory (smelling) abilities, Rio is beginning to feel the effects. Notice that I’m merely discussing the effects of dehydration; the exercise and exposure to the sun may also cause hyperthermia, which would cause the circumstances to quickly escalate.
At this stage, Rio is potentially feeling unwell from nausea and stomach disturbances. If these symptoms persisted, losing 15-20% of water could result in death. But thankfully, this story is mine and I have a strong preference for happy endings.
There is quite a commotion in the park since Anna noticed Rio was missing and Rio himself is certainly not having as much fun as he was at the beginning of his adventure. When they finally find each other, Anna couldn’t be more relieved but also very concerned for Rio’s wellbeing from the effects of dehydration and the stressful situation.
How to help your dehydrated dog – hydration!
Leading us to the happy ending of my story, Anna was aware of the steps she could take right away to help Rio. In situations of mild dehydration, Oralade® is a helpful solution that helps rehydrate while also offering micro enteral support to your pet’s gastrointestinal system. The isotonic formula combines essential electrolytes and simple sugars geared at rapid rehydration and made with 100% natural chicken flavour, also served as a tasty treat for Rio.
Just like how we as humans have a first aid kit for when we’re feeling unwell, it’s important to be as equally prepared for your pet. With a bottle of Oralade GI+, you will have a ready to pour bottle that can quickly replenish your dog’s fluids and electrolytes in a time of need. Pet owners can also proactively manage their dog’s risk of dehydration by using Oralade GI+ as a pre-hydration treat – especially in situations mentioned earlier such as high temperatures or high stress situations!