The blistering and almost unbearable heat during the past couple of weeks has directed my attention to an extremely serious and potentially deadly condition: dehydration.
The type of weather we have been experiencing, with temperatures above 90 degrees and high humidity, poses real concerns for many pets. Any pet that lives strictly or primarily outdoors faces severe difficulties and struggles during hot weather.
Water is absolutely essential to all living creatures, including your pets, that depend on proper fluid intake daily to maintain their health. Water makes up 80 percent of your pet’s body and is necessary for all normal bodily functions. Water is involved in every body system including circulation, digestion, respiratory and waste removal.
Dehydration is simply when fluid levels in the body are less than normal. This can occur either from not taking in enough fluids or from losing too much fluids, such as through vomiting and diarrhea. Obviously, vomiting causes fluid loss but also prevents one from taking in any fluids. Regardless, dehydration is a serious condition and if left untreated can lead to organ failure or death.
Generally, your pet needs at least one ounce of water for each pound of body weight per day. Therefore, a 50-pound dog would require approximately a half a gallon of water every day. The bottom line is that all pets should have fresh clean water available to them at all times.
Certainly, pets that are kept outdoors are more likely to become overheated and should always have a minimum of proper shade and water at all times. Their water bowl should be emptied and fresh water added at least once a day. A water bowl that is not cleaned out can grow bacteria that may be detrimental to your pet’s health by causing gastrointestinal infection.
Any pet that has any kind of health issues such as diabetes, kidney disease or gastrointestinal disease are much more likely to succumb to the effects of hot weather. They simply are not able to maintain their hydration in hot weather even if sufficient water is available to them.
Pets that are kept outside are more likely to become dehydrated from other factors such as them accidentally turning their water bowl over. Therefore, it is extremely important to monitor their water intake. Also, you should avoid chaining your dog outside especially close to any objects that he may get tangled up around causing him not to be able to reach the water bowl. A water bucket with a handle can be tied to a fence or other object to prevent it from turning over. Another solution is to purchase a water bowl with a weighted bottom that prevents it from being turned over.
The common symptoms of dehydration include lack of skin elasticity, dry and sticky gums, sunken eyes, lethargy and decreased urination. You can gently pull up on the skin just behind the neck and if the skin does not spring back to the normal position quickly, your pet is probably dehydrated and needs immediate attention. This test may be difficult to determine accurately especially if the animal is malnourished.
Dehydration can also cause pets to become disoriented, unable to walk normally, and even cause seizures. Dehydration would make pets more likely to suffer from heat stroke as well.
Dehydration is serious and if left untreated may even be deadly. If you suspect your pet is dehydrated, do not try to treat him at home. It is very unlikely he will be able to drink enough water to correct the situation. You should take your pet to your veterinarian immediately because dehydration requires prompt attention by a veterinarian.
The sooner your pet is treated by your veterinarian, the more likely he is to make a full recovery.
Treatment consists of primarily intravenous fluids that contain a proper balance of electrolytes. Most of the time. the prognosis is very good, but it depends on the severity of dehydration, concurrent illnesses, and length of time affected.
If you ever suspect your pet is dehydrated, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to ensure your pet lives a long, healthy and happy life.