Fun in the sun with your four-legged friend is one of life’s greatest pleasures. But it can be a recipe for disaster if you’re unprepared for the dangers of dehydration on a hot day.
The biggest risk a dog runs while outdoors in the summer heat is dehydration. Left untreated, dehydration can rapidly progress to heat stroke and even death. But it’s easily preventable if you make sure you are well prepared when hiking or playing outdoors in warm weather with your dog, and if you learn how to recognize the warning signs and take appropriate action.
Signs of dehydration
- Dry mouth. If you have a normally slobbery dog, a lack of slobber is a really easy indicator of hydration status. If you are unsure, simply feel his gums. They should feel wet.
- Loss of normal skin elasticity. Test this by pinching the skin on top of your dog’s head into a little tent. If it snaps back quickly, that’s great. If it takes a few seconds for the skin to return to its normal position, your dog is dehydrated.
- Weakness, lethargy, trembling legs and sunken eyes. These are indicators of severe and potentially life threatening dehydration. At this point, oral rehydration will not be enough to replace the lost fluid, and hospitalization and intravenous fluids are necessary to prevent organ damage or death.
Tips for prevention
Unlike humans, dogs don’t sweat to cool off. They cool themselves primarily by panting. This means frequent access to fresh clean water is an absolute must! Follow these tips to protect your doggie from dehydration:
- At home, provide easy access to fresh, cold water at all times.
- If you notice your dog isn’t drinking, make his H20 more appealing by adding some bone broth.
- On the trail or road, always carry a large quantity of water to share with your pooch.
- As tempting as it may be to just allow your dog to drink out of lakes, streams and ponds, don’t. These water sources are often contaminated with a parasite called giardia that can cause nasty diarrhea.
- Take frequent water breaks in a shady area.
- Fit your dog with a specially designed dog pack for carrying his own water bottles. These lightweight packs can be purchased through many pet supply and sporting retailers. Collapsible water bowls for dogs are also available for easy packing.
- Always carry water and a bowl when traveling with your dog in the car, and be sure to bring a leash: any rest stops you make must include your dog. Temperatures in a parked car can rapidly exceed 100ºF on a warm day, and leaving a dog in this environment for even a few minutes can rapidly lead to heat stroke.