During the summer, we often worry about our pets dehydrating. Exercising in the heat, out in the sun and water, we are conscious of their water intake and possible dehydration symptoms. But during the rest of the year, we may forget about the lingering danger of dehydration. The air is dry, the heat is running, and your pet may not be as thirsty. Older dogs or pets with health problems (especially if vomiting or have diarrhea!) may need more water than usual, yet have decreased thirst. In my recent attempts to get a dog to drink water, I did some research on the symptoms of dehydration, and what you can do to get fluids back into them.
Signs of dehydration can be vague, like sunken eyes and lethargy. There are a few tests you can do to check their hydration levels though. Pinch and lift slightly the skin on the back of their shoulders. If it doesn’t immediately return to normal, the skin has lost elasticity, and the pet is dehydration. You can also check their gums and mouth. Push slightly on the gum so it turns white. When you remove pressure, it should return to the normal color within less than two seconds. If the blood is not returning to the area as quickly, or their mouth is dry and sticky, the animal is dehydrated. When a pet is vomiting or has diarrhea repeatedly, you can also assume they are becoming dehydrated.
So what can you do? In some circumstances, veterinary attention is required. If there are other health problems, or the pet has been ill for a few days, IV fluids probably need to be given. But at home, there are several tricks you can use to get your pet to drink more water.
- Make sure there are several locations with fresh water in clean bowls. Remember that your pet’s nose is more sensitive than yours, and bacteria or dirt can build in water dishes within a few hours. Clean dishes every day and refresh water twice a day.
- Try ice cubes. If they don’t want to drink out of their dish, have them munch or lick ice cubes. Some pets prefer cold water, so you can add ice to their dish as well.
- Add water to their food. Whether they eat dry kibble or wet canned food, you can add a bit of water to it so they get more while eating a meal.
- Make the water more delicious. You can add a few tablespoons of unsalted chicken or beef broth to their water dish. The smell and taste will appeal to the animal, and can often replenish electrolytes as well.
- Soak a new toy in water. They will ingest the water as they chew on the toy. Some pet owners will also freeze toys or treats in ice, so the animal has to lick the water to get the treat.
- Change dishes. Some animals are picky about the material or shape of the dish they drink out of. You can try putting water in a human cup or bowl and leaving that out. Cats especially like to drink out of glasses or from running water out of a faucet.
- Consider electrolyte replacements The Gilroy Veterinary Hospital in California recommends 1 tablespoon of Pedialyte every hour for every 10 lbs the animal weighs. For example, if you have a 40 lb dog, you can give them 4 tbsp every hour. Consult your vet before giving electrolyte replacements, as this means they probably need IV fluids anyway.While many of these solutions are simple, they are often the difference between a sick, hospitalized pet, or a healthy, energetic one. You can monitor your pet’s fluid intake daily by refilling it at the same time every day, and keeping an eye on their fluid loss (urine output, bowl consistency, drooling, etc). Keeping your pet hydrated is key for every day, not just the hot ones!
While many of these solutions are simple, they are often the difference between a sick, hospitalized pet, or a healthy, energetic one. You can monitor your pet’s fluid intake daily by refilling it at the same time every day, and keeping an eye on their fluid loss (urine output, bowl consistency, drooling, etc). Keeping your pet hydrated is key for every day, not just the hot ones!
Sources: PetMD, Gilroy Veterinary Hospital, pethelpful.com, bestpethomeremedies.com