How to Tell If Your Dog Is Dehydrated in 9 Steps | Pet PRO Advice

How to Tell If Your Dog Is Dehydrated in 9 Steps

When your body lacks enough water, it can lead to dehydration. The deadly condition not only affects people, but also animals, such as dogs. Since our pets can’t talk, we have to focus on their symptoms to determine if they’re suffering. Below, you’ll discover how to tell if your dog is dehydrated using nine steps. Each step is listed in terms of seriousness up until you should see a veterinarian for dog dehydration treatment.

1. Ensure They Have Enough Water

how to tell if your dog is dehydrated water bowl

Whether or not you believe your dog is dehydrated, you should always make sure that they are getting enough water.  In times of hot weather conditions, a lack of water in abundance is one of the first signs that your dog is dehydrated.

To keep your dog’s water supply up, remember to refill their bowl once they finish. However, don’t allow the water to sit too long without being touched. It will no longer be fresh, and your dog may avoid drinking it.

Beyond being fresh, the water should be clean in general. A clean bowl ensures a clean water supply, so make sure you wash it regularly.

Another way for your dog to get water is by adding wet food to their diet. If your dog isn’t prone to eating that type of food, consider mixing it with their dry food.

2. Focus on Their Behavior

You’ve checked that your dog has enough access to water, yet you still have concerns? A good method on how to tell if your dog is dehydrated is by paying attention to their behavior. There are clear signs to watch out for that can indicate your dog isn’t feeling their best. The signs that a dog is dehydrated include the following:

  • Attitude Change: Their unusual behavior can vary from refusing to play around or eat/ drink at all.
  • Excessive Panting: We all know dogs pant to cool off their bodies. It’s once the panting becomes too frequent, heavy, or done out of the blue that you should pay more attention to it.
  • Lethargy: Your dog may appear to be tired, groggy even, or they may be moving slower or refusing to get up altogether.
  • Unusual Gait: Beyond moving slowly, your dog can seem uncertain or wobbly when they attempt to walk. Their hind end can seem weaker as well.

3. Do a Scruff Test

When your dog is showing some of the behavior signs of dehydration, you can start focusing on the physical signs as well. The standard method for checking is the scruff test. Although vets often perform them, any pet owner can easily complete a scruff test at home.

If you haven’t checked your dog’s scruff before, the following guide should help:

  • Find the scruff. Scruff is the loose skin at the back of your dog’s neck or over their shoulders.
  • Elevate the skin. You want to do this part gently. Pull at the skin near the neck or shoulders, typically about 2-3 inches.
  • Release the scruff. If the skin does not spring back instantly, it may be a sign of dehydration. The reason is that dehydrated skin loses elasticity. It should usually bounce back in under two seconds.

Now, even though the scruff test is a classic one used by professionals, it is not completely foolproof. Older dogs naturally lose their elasticity. Moreover, the test is difficult to perform on dogs that are obese or underweight. If your pup falls under the latter category and you need help, look at our suggestions on how to put weight on a malnourished dog.

In addition, the skin on dehydrated dogs can still bounce back if they aren’t experiencing a high level of dehydration. Therefore, it’s all the more important to perform other examinations as well.

4. Examine Their Gums

how to tell if your dog is dehydrated by checking gums

If you cannot accurately perform the scruff test or you are looking for more signs, another reliable tip on how to tell if your dog is dehydrated is by testing their gums. You want your pet to be relaxed when you perform the gum test, as anxious dogs can lead to false results.

Once your dog is content, first observe their gums. Among the signs your dog is dehydrated are dry gums or gums that lack that shiny appearance similar to our own.

You can take the test a step further by firmly pressing your finger against their gums. Do so until they appear white and then remove your finger. Watch for how rapidly the blood and color return to their gums. A slow response time is another one of the signs that a dog is dehydrated.

5. Check Their Urine

If you still believe your dog is dehydrated after performing the behavioral and physical examinations, it’s important to start looking out for your pet’s bodily functions.

Examining the urine is a surefire method on how to tell if your dog is dehydrated. To begin with, check that they are actually urinating on a usual basis. If they aren’t, then it may be a sign that their kidneys are attempting to preserve the fluid they have by not filling up their bladder.

If your dog is urinating, you can check for signs of dehydration by looking at the color. Unusual colors are symptoms of an underlying condition. For example, an unusual color would be a deep yellow.

6. Pay Attention to Bowel Movements

Your dog’s urine isn’t the only bodily fluid that can point to dehydration. On the contrary, one of the best ways to learn how to tell if your dog is dehydrated is to examine their bowel movement. A regular bowel movement with normal consistency is of no alarm. However, when there is diarrhea, it may be time to take action.

Although watery feces can be a sign of numerous ailments, the fact that it exists can lead to a rapid loss of fluids in your dog. If your pet has an abnormal amount of bowel movements and they are more watery in nature, then they are putting out more fluids then they are taking in.

7. Look for Signs of Illness

how to tell if your dog is dehydrated illness

Beyond checking your dog’s urine and bowel movements, another tip on how to tell if your dog is dehydrated is looking for more symptoms of illness. From a physical viewpoint, symptoms include sunken eyes or a dry nose. Vomiting is another sign of sickness to keep an eye out for.

Likewise, with diarrhea, vomiting can cause your dog to lose valuable fluids because they are unable to keep it in.

8. Attempt to Replenish Them

Once you have performed all the tests and observations and have found your dog to be dehydrated, you can attempt to replenish their liquids. The task can be tougher if your dog is sick, so there are some tricks you can do to raise their water levels:

  • Ice cubes/ chips: Feeding your dog ice cubes or ice chips as a quick little “snack” can help them slowly gain back some of the water they have lost.
  • Chicken/ beef broth: Adding meat broth to their water is a good way of flavoring it up to their liking and getting them to drink more.
  • Fruit: Fruits like watermelon contain a high amount of water, and feeding it to your dog can not only replenish them but help cool them down as well.
  • More water bowls: Adding a few more water bowls around the house can help with a sick pet that may stop to rest in different spots.
  • Pedialyte: Thankfully, the supplement is not just good for babies and children. Pedialyte is safe for dogs to consume to help regain some electrolytes and water. Mixing the supplement with their water can help.

9. See a Vet

Finally, if your dog continues to reject liquids, you still must take them to a vet. Unfortunately, you cannot completely treat dehydration at home, nor should you attempt to if symptoms are serious.

Taking your dog to a vet will help determine the cause of dehydration. Also, your vet can help you further understand how to tell if your dog is dehydrated if it happens again. The vet can also perform additional tests, if needed, and can give your dog an IV if the condition is serious enough.


All in all, the above information is intended to help you learn how to tell if your dog is dehydrated. Nevertheless, it should not be used as a substitute for professional dog dehydration treatment. Consequently, always contact your veterinarian if symptoms persist.

Do you know any other tips on how to tell if your dog is dehydrated? Did you find a recommendation of ours to be particularly effective? Let’s continue the conversation in the comments.

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