You can gauge a pet's degree of dehydration, or fluid loss, with a simple test. The first sign of a problem is loss of the skin's elasticity. Normally hydrated dogs and cats have extra loose skin at the tops of their heads and the bases of the necks (scruff) that's easy to grasp. When the water balance of the body is normal, you can gently pull up the scruff, and when you release it, the skin will spring back immediately to a normal position. The skin at the top of the head is more likely to show this effect, so you might want to test there first. The more severe the dehydration, though, the slower the skin will retract. Another sign of dehydration is dryness of the mouth. The gums, which should be wet and glistening, become dry and tacky. The saliva is thick and tenacious. In advanced dehydration the eyes are sunken and the dog exhibits signs of shock, including collapse.
Dehydration In Puppies
Kidney function in the newborn is 25 percent of what it will be later in life. These immature kidneys are unable to concentrate urine, and puppies therefore excrete large amounts of dilute urine regardless of whether they take in fluids. Signs of dehydration are lack of moisture in the mouth, a bright pink color to the tongue and mucous membranes and loss of muscle tone and weakness. Thus, dehydration is a complicating factor whenever puppies become too weak to nurse. This is another reason why it is important to begin supplemental feedings as soon as a puppy stops nursing or stops gaining weight.
A dog that is visibly dehydrated should receive immediate veterinary attention, including intravenuos fluids, to replace fluids and prevent further loss. For mild dehydration, if the dog is not vomiting you can give an electrolyte solution by bottle or syringe into the cheek pouch. Balanced electrolyte solutions for treating dehydration in children, such as Ringer's lactate with 5% dextrose in water and Pedialyte solution, are available at drugstores and are also suitable for dogs. Administer the solution at a rate of 2 to 4 ml per pound of body weight per hour, depending on the severity of dehydration, or as directed by your veterinarian.