A panting pet is a common sight during the summer months. A natural response to heat or physical exertion, panting helps a pet regulate body temperature – but it’s not nearly as effective as sweating is for humans. The natural consequence of overheating is fluid loss, and when an animal’s body is comprised of 80% water, pet dehydration is a real threat to overall health.

I Saw the Sign

Most pet owners watch carefully for even the slightest shift in behavior. Being in tune with your pet’s patterns and personality helps ensure normalcy, but sometimes, signals are subtle or confusing.

Pet dehydration can stem from vomiting, diarrhea, or illnesses such as diabetes and kidney disease, but most often, it occurs alongside excessive panting. When the body expels more fluid than it consumes, dehydration occurs. Blood flow and oxygen distribution to the organs is disrupted, resulting in an electrolyte imbalance characterized by the following:

  • Lethargy
  • Sunken eyes
  • Indifference to food
  • Dry nose
  • Fatigue
  • Tacky or pale gums
  • Disrupted elimination habits

If left untreated, pet dehydration can cause seizures and even death.

The Facts Are In

Wondering how to measure your pet’s hydration? Pull the loose skin between the shoulder blades and the back of the neck. If you see it settle back into place quickly, your pet isn’t suffering from dehydration. If it takes a while for the skin to re-settle, please call us immediately.

Pet dehydration is treated with IV fluid support and close observation.

Pet Dehydration During the Summer

A combination of water and shade helps prevent pet dehydration. Your pet should have access to endless amounts of fresh, clean water inside and outside the home during the summer. Make sure your pet cannot overturn water bowls outside. A nice nap in the cool shade of an old tree, patio cover, or awning sounds appealing, as long as he or she also has water nearby.

Can We Still Walk Together?

Of course, your pet deserves to maintain valued exercise routines. As long as you limit his or her exposure to midday heat and extreme UV rays, you can keep up walks or runs. However, be sure to provide breaks in the shade and extra water breaks. If you have concerns about whether your pet should continue certain exercises, we invite you to schedule a preventive exam.

Watch Those Levels

Pet dehydration can also be mitigated by close control of how much water your pet actually consumes in a day. On average, dogs should drink one ounce of water per pound of body weight daily. Cats need about 5-10 ounces each day. A wet diet can also help your pet get more fluids or consider adding tuna water or chicken broth to your pet’s water dish.

Because pet dehydration can quickly escalate into an emergency, we urge you to take extra care of your pet this summer. Puppies, kittens, and senior pets, as well as brachycephalic breeds and those with compromised health, are at significant risk.

Please call The Pet Experts at Elmhurst Animal Care Center for more information, and above all, have a safe, happy summer!