Dog Hydration 101

In the very distant past, man and beast were not as depended on each other as they are today. The canine protected the man while the man’s purpose was food. A very simple relationship but as part of the domestication of the canines, the dog developed a dependence on its owner. The negative of this relationship shows up in headlines every year as dogs pass away due to the fact that they get too hot and/or do not receive the proper hydration but what is proper?

A golden rule to dog hydration states that your canine companion needs ½ to 1 ounce of water per pound of weight. This means that on the low end, if you dog weighs 5 pounds then he would need to drink 2 ½ ounces of water per day. Now, again, this is just an example and it is pretty straightforward. Having said that though, it does not mean all at once nor does it take into account other factors in the calculation.

One of the first factors has to do with the environment. As you know, dogs sweat through their tongue. When in a hot environment, inside or out, the demand for water increases. The stress of the sweating can also compound the problem and require more water. Hence, the problem begins.

Another factor is the level of activity. We have all seen our dogs run and play at the dog park. The end result we hope is an exhausted companion with his/her tongue handing out covered with slobber. While the exercise is wonderful for the health of your pet, the stress of not having proper hydration can and will counter the positives gained through exercise.

The last factor has to do with the sex of your pet. Nursing females need more water for proper milk flow. Weaned puppies or those in the process of being weaned also need more hydration.  But making sure that your dog receives enough water regardless of factor can be a challenge so what is the answer.

First, remember that the total amount needs to be provided throughout the day. For proper hydration, the water needs time to be absorbed, not simply run through the intestinal tract. Second, hydration from food counts toward this total. This means if you feed your dog wet food part of the hydration quota is met through this food.  Finally, keep an eye out on how your dog is acting. It is difficult to overdose your dog on water but it can happen if given all at one time. Having said that though, it is very unlikely this situation will happen, excluding other factors. In just, if your dog is thirsty, let him/her drink. If your companion is panting, make water available. Lastly, pay attention when your dog will not drink and/or has stopped urinating for an unusual time period. Dogs, just as humans, develop habits and these can be set bathroom times along with feeding/drinking behaviors. If these change for no reason, it is time to explore the cause through a veterinary consultation.