Dehydration in Dogs: Here’s What You Need to Know

Dehydration in dogs is something we don’t think about very much, but it’s a serious condition that occurs a lot more often than it should.

· 5 min read

Dehydration in dogs is something we don’t think about very much, but it’s a serious condition that occurs a lot more often than it should. Dog dehydration is one of the more common dog health problems out there.

When dogs don’t drink enough water, they can become dehydrated which can make them exceptionally sick. Dehydration in dogs could even be fatal if the condition is neglected. Just like humans need water to survive, so do dogs. As a result, it is essential that you ensure your dog drinks enough water, and that you notice when their water bowl is empty (or when it’s been left full for too long, which means your dog isn’t drinking water.)

The first sign of a dog becoming dehydrated is panting, and this can quickly develop into weakness and lethargy if they don’t get some water to drink. In severe cases, dehydration has to be treated by a vet with intravenous fluids. In this guide, I will take you through everything you need to know about dehydration in dogs, so that you can take good care of your canine companion.


Why is Dehydration in Dogs Dangerous?

Water is essential for your dog’s body and brain to function. This is true for most living creatures. Water is needed to lubricate their joints, keep their body temperature regulated, and help their digestive system run smoothly. Pretty much everything your dog does and every function their body undertakes needs water in order to perform properly.

When dehydration happens, it means the body is no longer able to function properly. This means the delivery of oxygen to the cells is disrupted and greatly reduced, and the electrolytes that are essential to life are lost. These electrolytes facilitate a range of functions within the body, including nerve and muscle function and the transportation of nutrients.

As the lack of fluids becomes more severe and these functions continue to decline, the risk of fatality increases. This is why dehydration in dogs is so dangerous - the loss of electrolytes and water has damaging effects. Even if it is treated before it becomes deadly, it can still cause lasting damage to the body.

What Happens When a Dog is Dehydrated?

Dehydration happens when more fluids are lost than they are gained in the body. Just like in humans, water is lost and gained naturally throughout the day and this is how fluid levels are maintained and kept balanced.

Dehydration inhibits your dog’s ability to absorb nutrients and function properly, and you will find that they become weak and lethargic as they get more dehydrated. Since dogs gain their required fluid levels through eating and drinking, it is important that they always have a bowl of fresh water and enjoy a balanced diet.


What are the Signs of Dehydration in Dogs?

It can be frustrating not knowing what’s wrong with your dog, especially since they can’t just tell us where it hurts or what the problem is. However, there are physical signs you can look out for that will show you that your dog might be suffering from dehydration.

Signs of dehydration in dogs include:

  • Saliva that is thick and viscous
  • Excessive panting
  • Dry gums that are sticky, especially to touch
  • Sunken eyes
  • Dry or cracked nose
  • Vomiting or dry heaving, and an upset stomach
  • Lethargy and not wanting to eat
  • Skin loses its elasticity

Skin elasticity is actually one of the first things you should check when you fear your dog might be dehydrated. If you gently pinch a little skin or hold their scruff, a healthy and hydrated dog will have it fall back into place without issue. If your dog is dehydrated, you will find that it takes a lot longer for the skin to return to its original position.

What are the Common Causes of Dehydration in Dogs?

Not having proper access to water is a common cause of dehydration, and the same goes if they refuse to drink enough. If the latter seems to be a problem, you should try a different water bowl or move the bowl before you take them to the vet.

Illnesses such as diarrhea and vomiting can cause dehydration and a loss of electrolytes, which is why they should be replenished as quickly as possible. Heat stroke can also cause dehydration, and it can be a sign of other conditions like diabetes and kidney failure. As a result, you should always take your dog to the vet if they seem dehydrated.

Can Dehydration in Dogs be Treated?

Dehydration in dogs can definitely be treated, so there’s no need to panic too much if you’re worried that your dog hasn’t been drinking enough. In some cases, you might be given chicken-flavored electrolytes to put into their water at home to encourage them to drink and replenish what they lost.

It can be difficult because dehydration leads to a lack of appetite, which then causes further fluid loss. The flavoring found in the canine electrolytes can entice them, bringing back just a little appetite so that they can get back on their feet.

In more severe cases, your dog will need to stay at the vet and have their fluids and electrolytes replenished through intravenous methods. Your dog will also likely have to undergo a series of tests to check that their dehydration is not linked to a larger health concern. A dog should never go more than a day without drinking anything, so keep an eye on them.

How Can You Prevent Dehydration in Dogs?

The easiest way to prevent dehydration in dogs is to ensure they have access to water that is fresh and clean at all times, and that their water bowl is often refilled. Even when they go outside, and you take them on walks, you should ensure you bring water with you so that they can drink when needed. Ice cubes and an unseasoned bone broth can also be a great way to encourage dogs that don’t seem to drink enough water.

Some dogs will naturally drink more water than others, but as long as they are getting at least an ounce of water for every pound of their bodyweight, your dog will be fine. As a side note, excessive drinking can also be a sign of illness (namely diabetes or kidney problems) and so if you feel that your dog is drinking too much, take them to get checked out.

Final Thoughts

Now you know more about how dehydration in dogs works, the causes, and the ways in which it can be treated. Hopefully, it means you have a better idea of how to care for your dog and how important it is that they always have a bowl full of fresh water. Dehydration can be fatal or cause serious health complications in dogs, so it’s not something to be taken lightly.

While you’re here, have you considered a DNA test for your dog from CirclePaw? Dog DNA tests like this one can help give you more insight into the breeds that are found in your dog which also leads to learning more about potential genetic health risks. A DNA test is also a great way to get to know them better, so you can provide them with the best possible care.


  1. Brown SA. Renal Dysfunction in Small Animals. MSD Veterinary Manual. Published October 2, 2013. Accessed January 8, 2023.
  2. Miller A, Pure Pet Food. Dehydration in dogs. Published 2020. Accessed January 8, 2023. In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment - DogTime. DogTime. Published September 17, 2021. Accessed January 8, 2023.