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Wondering, “How can I tell if a dog is dehydrated?” There are a couple simple tests that can be used to determine if a dog is dehydrated. These methods to test for dehydration can also be used for a sick cat or in cases where a cat won’t drink or eat.
The Skin Pinch Test for Dehydration in Dogs
In a dehydrated dog, the skin will lose its elasticity. The more dehydrated the dog, the less elasticity will be present in the dog’s skin.
There is a simple test for dehydration that can be performed at home. This is called “the pinch test” or “the skin pinch test” for dehydration:
- Locate an area of loose skin on the dog’s body. Usually, the scruff of the neck is the best place to perform this test.
- Gently pinch a bit of skin and pull it away from the dog’s body, creating a “tent.”
- Hold the skin for 2-3 seconds and then release your grasp.
- Observe the skin as it flattens out.
In a healthy dog, the skin will return to its normal position instantly. In a moderately dehydrated dog, the skin will take 1 second or longer to flatten.
In cases of very severe dehydration, the dog’s skin will remain a bit “tented” for several seconds or until you rub the area. If the latter is observed, this should be regarded as a medical emergency and the pet will require immediate transport to a veterinary clinic for treatment.
Sometimes, it can help to perform this test when the pet is healthy, as this provides a point of reference for the future. If other healthy pets are present in the household, you can perform this home test for dehydration on the healthy pet as a comparison.
Checking the Dog’s Gums for Symptoms of Dehydration
Another fairly easy test for dehydration involves checking the dog’s gums.
In a healthy dog, the gums will be slick and pink in color.
In a sick, dehydrated dog, the gums will feel sticky or dry when you run your finger across the surface. The a sick dog’s gum color will be pale and he will exhibit slow capillary refill time.
Dog Dehydration and How to Treat a Dog for Dehydration
Dehydration can be a potentially deadly situation. A dog’s diarrhea and vomiting is one common cause of dehydration; fluid loss occurs over the span of a day or two. If a dog won’t eat and drink at all, dehydration can set in within a matter of hours and the situation can turn critical within 24 to 48 hours.
If left untreated, a dehydrated dog will suffer kidney damage and organ failure. In many cases, when a dog won’t drink or eat, the underlying disease, infection or other health problem that caused the dehydration in the first place will worsen very quickly.
Dog dehydration can be treated in a few ways, including:
- IV Fluids for Serious Dehydration in a Pet – In serious cases of dehydration, a dog will have low blood pressure, kidney problems and other very serious symptoms. An IV will be inserted into a vein and the dog will receive fluids via his circulatory system.
- Subcutaneous Injection of Fluids for Sick Dogs – The fluid (called Ringer’s Solution) is injected under the dog’s skin; the pet’s body absorbs the fluids, thereby treating dehydration.
- Pedialyte for Dogs With Dehydration – To treat minor dehydration at home, mix 50% Pedialyte (unflavored) with 50% water. If the dog won’t drink voluntarily, the the dog can be given liquids by mouth using a fluid syringe. Feeding wet dog food can also be helpful. Pet owners can saturate dry dog food with hot water. Add enough water to cover the kibble and wait 15 minutes for the food to absorb the fluid. The kibble will swell as it becomes soft and mushy.
Readers may also want to read related articles, including information about how to check a dog’s capillary refill time, along with how to check a dog’s gums, along with photos of pale gums in a dog and photos of normal gums.
Pet owners can learn about these topics and more on The Sick Dog Blog. Visit The Sick Dog Blog’s Archives to read more!