7 Signs of Dehydration in Dogs

Picture of older dog, panting in hot weather, on the grass showing dehydration in dogs

7 Signs of Dehydration in Dogs

If water is the single most important nutrient in the body, then dehydration in dogs can be deadly. Dehydration in all pets, and humans, can have disastrous consequences.

As pet owners, it is crucial to ensure that your furry friend is properly hydrated at all times. Did you know that animals can lose over half of their protein, almost all of their body fat, but the loss of 10% of their water would result in death? (1).

Every tissue, cell and almost all metabolic processes needs water.

Water is essential for dogs to maintain healthy bodily functions, regulate body temperature, and support overall well-being.

Dehydration in dogs can lead to serious health complications, so it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms. In this article, we will explore the various physical and behavioral indicators that can help you identify if your dog is dehydrated. By spotting these telltale signs early on, you can take the necessary steps to prevent dehydration and keep your canine companion happy and healthy.

The Importance of Preventing Dehydration in Dogs, and ALL Pets.

Water is the foundation of life, and this holds true for our canine companions as well. Just like humans, dogs rely on water to perform essential bodily functions.

Hydration is crucial for:

  • Acting as a solvent for cellular reactions.
  • Transporting nutrients.
  • Transporting cellular waste.
  • Absorbs heat that metabolic reactions create.
  • Regulates temperature.
  • Digestion, as it is needed for breaking up large molecules into small ones.

Even digestive enzymes rely on water, as they are secreted as a solution! This brings them into contact with food molecules.

The kidneys, part of the Urogenital System, needs a large amount of water to transport and release toxins.


So you see, without water, maintaining healthy organs, supporting digestion, and regulating body temperature would not be possible. Without adequate hydration, dogs can suffer from a range of health issues, including kidney problems, urinary tract infections, and even heatstroke.

Proper hydration is especially important during hot weather or periods of increased physical activity.


Dogs and cats lose water through panting, sweating through their paws, and urination. They also lose water through something called OBLIGATORY LOSS (1). That is the MINIMUM amount of water needed by the kidneys to eliminate urinary waste products.

There is also something called FACULTATIVE LOSS. This loss of water is excreted in response to the normal re-uptake of the kidneys, and to the process of maintaining water homeostasis in the body.

The body also loses water with respiration. Increased panting with heat or anxiety increases water loss.

It is essential to replenish this lost fluid to ensure that your dog’s body functions optimally.

Understanding the Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration in Dogs

Dogs are unable to communicate their needs verbally, so it is our responsibility as pet owners to pay attention to their behavior and physical condition. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of dehydration is crucial in identifying and addressing the issue promptly. Here are seven telltale signs that your dog may be dehydrated:

1. Dry Mouth and Gums

One of the most noticeable signs of dehydration in dogs is a dry mouth and gums. Normally, a dog’s mouth and gums should be moist and pink. If you notice that your dog’s mouth appears dry or his gums are pale and sticky, it may be an indication that he is dehydrated. Hopefully you are brushing your dogs teeth, so you can monitor this on a daily basis.

Saliva may also be thick, and ropey looking. Thick saliva may mean dehydration. 

Brown dog on beige background, panting, with thick saliva showing dehydration in dogs.

2. Loss of Skin Elasticity

Dehydration in dogs can result in something called skin turgor. This is a sign of loss of fluid. Properly hydrated dogs have skin that quickly snaps back into place when gently pulled. To check your dog’s skin elasticity, gently pinch the skin on the back of his neck or between his shoulder blades. If the skin takes longer to return to its original position or remains tented, it could be a sign of dehydration. There are stages of turgor, and they are listed here, for your interest.

3. Sunken Eyes

Dehydration can cause a dog’s eyes to appear sunken or dull. This is an emergency situation! Normally, a dog’s eyes should be bright, clear, and well-hydrated. If you notice a change in your dog’s eye appearance, it may be an indication that he is dehydrated, and medical attention may be needed. There are other medical conditions associated with this.

4. Lethargy and Weakness

Dehydration can cause dogs to become lethargic and weak. If your dog seems unusually tired or lacks energy, it could be a sign of dehydration in dogs. They may also exhibit signs of weakness, such as difficulty walking or lack of coordination.

5. Decreased Urination

A decrease in urination frequency or volume can be an indicator of dehydration. If you notice that your dog is urinating less frequently or producing smaller amounts of urine, it may be a sign that he is not getting enough fluids.

6. Loss of Appetite

Dehydrated dogs may lose their appetite or show a reduced interest in food. If you notice they suddenly become disinterested in eating or shows a significant decrease in appetite, it could be a sign of dehydration in dogs.

7. Vomiting and Diarrhea

In some cases, dehydration can be accompanied by vomiting and diarrhea. These symptoms can lead to further fluid loss and worsen the state of dehydration. If your dog is experiencing vomiting or diarrhea, it is important to monitor his hydration levels closely.

By being aware of these signs, you can quickly identify if your dog is dehydrated and take appropriate measures to address the issue. Remember, prevention is key, so let’s explore some ways to keep your beloved pets hydrated and healthy.

Monitoring Water Intake and Hydration Levels in Dogs

To ensure that your dog remains properly hydrated, it is important to monitor his water intake and hydration levels. Here are a few tips to help you keep track:

  1. Provide Fresh Water: Make sure your dog always has access to clean, fresh water. Change the water regularly and clean the water bowl daily to prevent bacterial growth. Mold can grow in you pet’s water bowl, and mold spores can also be airborne.
  2. Monitor Water Consumption: Keep an eye on how much water your dog is drinking throughout the day. A sudden decrease in water intake could be a sign of dehydration. This is important in hot weather.
  3. Promote Hydration: Encourage your dog to drink more water by adding flavor to it. Some dogs prefer the taste of bone broth or fermented goat milk. You can also try using a pet water fountain, as the running water may entice your dog to drink more.
  4. Offer Ice Cubes: On hot days, provide your dog with ice cubes to lick or chew on. Not only does this help keep them cool, but it also provides a source of hydration.
  5. Consider Wet Food: If your dog primarily eats dry kibble, consider incorporating wet food into his diet. Wet food contains a higher moisture content, which can contribute to overall hydration.

By monitoring water intake and taking proactive measures to promote hydration, you can significantly reduce the risk of dehydration in dogs.

Preventing Dehydration in Dogs

Prevention is always better than cure, and the same applies to dehydration in dogs. Here are some preventive measures you can take to ensure that your fur friend remains hydrated:

1. Provide Shade and Fresh Water

During hot weather, make sure your dog has access to a shaded area where he can rest and cool down. Additionally, always ensure that there is fresh water available for him to drink.

2. Avoid Excessive Exercise in Heat

While exercise is important for your dog’s physical and mental well-being, it is crucial to avoid excessive exercise during hot weather. High temperatures can quickly lead to dehydration and heatstroke. Opt for early morning or late evening walks when the weather is cooler.

3. Never Leave Your Dog in a Parked Car

Leaving your dog in a parked car, even for a few minutes, can be extremely dangerous. The temperature inside a parked car can rise rapidly, leading to heatstroke and dehydration. Always take your dog with you or leave him in a safe, cool environment.

4. Consider Portable Water Bowls

If you enjoy outdoor activities or frequently take your dog on adventures, invest in a portable water bowl. These collapsible bowls are easy to carry and allow you to provide your dog with water wherever you go.

5. Regular Vet Check-ups

Regular veterinary check-ups are essential for maintaining your dog’s overall health. During these visits, your vet can assess your dog’s hydration levels and provide guidance on how to keep him properly hydrated.

By following these preventive measures, you can minimize the risk of dehydration and ensure that your dog remains happy and healthy.

Preventing Dehydration in Dogs

If you suspect that your dog is dehydrated, it is important to take immediate action.

Mild dehydration can often be resolved by offering your dog small amounts of water to drink. In fact, small amounts should be given in sever dehydration, while you contact your vet.

Tips for Keeping Your Dog Hydrated and Healthy

Now that you are equipped with the identifying the signs of dehydration in dogs, here are some additional tips to help you ensure that your pet remains hydrated and healthy:

  • Provide multiple water stations around your home, especially if you have a large or multi-level house.
  • Encourage your dog to drink by placing his water bowl in a quiet and accessible location.
  • Consider using a water fountain designed specifically for pets, as the continuous flow of water can entice dogs to drink more.
  • During hot weather, freeze some dog-friendly fruits or vegetables in ice cubes and offer them as a cool and hydrating treat.
  • If your dog is reluctant to drink water, try adding a small amount of low-sodium broth to make it more appealing.
  • Regularly groom your dog to prevent matting or excessive fur, which can hinder the evaporation of moisture from his skin.
  • Be mindful of your dog’s water intake during periods of increased physical activity or when he is on medication that may cause increased thirst.

By implementing these tips into your daily routine, you can promote proper hydration and maintain your dog’s overall health and well-being.

When to Seek Veterinary Care for Dehydration in Dogs

While mild cases of dehydration can often be resolved at home, there are instances when immediate veterinary care is necessary. If you notice any of the following signs, it is important to seek professional help:

  • Severe lethargy or weakness
  • Rapid breathing or panting
  • Sunken eyes that do not improve
  • Vomiting or diarrhea that persists
  • Loss of appetite for an extended period

Your veterinarian will be able to assess your dog’s condition, administer appropriate treatment, and provide further guidance on how to prevent future episodes of dehydration.


Dehydration in dogs is a serious condition that can have detrimental effects on their health. Do NOT let your dog sit in the heat, or in a parked car.

By being vigilant and familiarizing yourself with the signs of dehydration, you can take proactive measures to ensure that your pet remains properly hydrated.

Remember to monitor your dog’s water intake, exercise level, and  provide fresh water at all times, and take precautions during hot weather or periods of increased activity. By prioritizing your dog’s hydration, you are safeguarding his health and well-being. So, keep an eye out for those telltale signs of dehydration and make hydration a top priority for your beloved four-legged companion.

If you have done a Full Scan, and you see Urogenital Stress, one of the first things to pay attention to, is hydration. If you pet is on a dry diet, moisture added to the food can help the digestive process and keep metabolic process in top shape!


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DISCLAIMER: PetMedella does not provide medical advice or services. This post is designed for educational and informational purposes only and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, condition, complaint, illness or medical condition and are not a substitute for professional services or medical advice. Seek the advice of a physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking treatment. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or any other government agencies or regulatory authorities.