Preventing Summertime Dehydration

Photo Credit: Flicker CC, DBurkett, chaseSome of us take the phrase, “dog days of summer” quite literally- we want to go everywhere accompanied by our beloved dogs! Know that the heat of summer has the potential to be hazardous to your dog’s health. Without significant forethought and planning to accommodate higher temperatures, it’s easy for even the healthiest of dogs to become dehydrated, and dehydration can be a precursor to deadly heatstroke.

What exactly is dehydration?

Dehydration refers to a shortage of water within the body. Do you know that approximately 80% of your dog’s body mass is comprised of water? Not only is water a component of what flows within blood vessels (arteries and veins), water is also an essential component within cells and the tissues surrounding them. Given its ubiquitous nature, it’s easy to understand why having an adequate amount of water within the body is essential for maintaining normal blood pressure, circulation, and bodily functions.

Causes of dehydration

Dehydration results when too little water is consumed in relationship to the amount lost from the body. For example, a dog who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea and doesn’t feel good enough to drink lots of water to make up for these fluid losses can readily become dehydrated. Kidney failure can cause dehydration because the damaged kidneys produce abundant urine regardless of how little water is consumed.

Summertime heat promotes dehydration, particularly when a dog isn’t interested in or doesn’t have access to drinking lots of water. Think about the tennis ball obsessed dog who doesn’t like to interrupt a good game of fetch in order to gulp down some water. Whereas this may not be a problem in cooler temperatures, water loss associated with heavy summertime panting can quickly result in a fluid deficit.

Detecting dehydration

Dehydration causes a variety of symptoms and dogs may demonstrate from one to all of them. Symptoms include: lethargy, weakness, labored breathing, elevated heart rate, and dry and sticky feeling gums (normal gums are slick and smooth to the touch). If you suspect your dog may be suffering from dehydration, do your best to find some shade or an air conditioned environment and encourage drinking. If the symptoms don’t improve within a short time period (five minutes at most), it’s time to seek out emergency veterinary care.

Preventing dehydration

Here are some pointers to keep your favorite fido well hydrated this summer:

  • Exercise your dog early in the early morning or evening hours to avoid the most intense heat of the day.
  • Be sure to take along water and a water bowl (one that is familiar to your dog) wherever you go. Don’t rely on natural water sources being available.
  • Allow for plenty of rest and water breaks during play activity and exercise. Your dog may not know his or her limits and will continue to enthusiastically chase the Frisbee long after it’s time to slow down.
  • Provide water access frequently. When out in the heat, be sure to provide a water stop (for you and your dog) at least once every 15 to 20 minutes.
  • If your dog is preoccupied with something else (other dogs, a tennis ball, etc) or too excited to drink, best to cut your outing short for the sake of preventing dehydration.
  • As much as you love for your dog to go where you go, be reminded that, when temperatures are soaring, your dog’s well being may best served by being left at home.

What precautions do you take with your dog during the summer months?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at,, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

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2 Comments on “Preventing Summertime Dehydration

  1. I always have a no-tip water bowl in the car (“Water hole”). It is filled before every outing, which means every day. I have to make sure my dogs share; one would drink most of it if I let him. I also keep a bottle of water in the console of my car….for me or for the dogs. An Autodogmug will fit in the cup holder of your car and cannot spill. The dog drinks directly from it when you squeeze the water into the attached bowl-like lid. Walmart and other places. Handy at dog class.

  2. I observe the 60-60 rule: if heat is above 60 degrees and humidity is above 60 oercent, heat stroke is a possibility. Then I am very sure to watch my dog carefully and make sure of hydration. I carry a container of water in the summer that he can drink out of. I got it PetSmart for under about $5.00.

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