By Andrew Fischer

Dehydration In Labradors: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment

Dehydration is a condition where the loss of water from a dog’s body is greater than the amount of water the dog takes in. A general guideline is that a healthy Labrador should drink between ½ and 1 ounce of water per pound of bodyweight each day.

Dehydration in Labradors is quite common but may be very serious. Your Labs always needs fresh water available no matter what their diet and physical activities. 

Symptoms of dehydration in Labradors

There are various signs of dehydration in Labradors. We recommend you to become familiar with the symptoms listed below as they are key to treating dehydration before it develops to a more serious health issue.

First symptoms of dehydration appear when the dog’s body starts to draw water out of cells. Symptoms may begin mildly but can rapidly progress to more serious signs.

If symptoms are only mild you may be able to improve them just by giving water to your dog. However, if they are more severe you may need to talk to your veterinary as soon as possible.

Symptoms of dehydration in dogs include:

  • Dry nose and mouth
  • Darker urine
  • Lack of appetite
  • Sunken eyes
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Xerostomia (dry mouth)
  • Weak pulse
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Panting
  • White gums
  • Collapse
  • Changes in mental awareness
  • Vomiting

How to test if my Labrador is dehydrated?

A loss of skin elasticity is one of the most common symptoms of dehydration in dogs. So the first test you can do is to check your dog’s skin elasticity. Pinch your pup’s skin with your thumb and index finger. If your dog’s skin doesn’t snap back into its original place quickly/immediately your Labrador may be dehydrated. As the skin loses water it loses its ability to pull back, so it doesn’t snap back after one or two seconds you should visit your veterinarian. The longer the delay, the more dehydrated your dog is.

Another test you can do to see whether your dog is dehydrated is to check his gums. Press the gum of your dog so that it gets white. Release your finger and count how quickly the colour changes to its original state. The gums of a healthy dog refill almost immediately. The gums of a dehydrated dog take up to 4 seconds to refill fully.

Also, check the colour of your Lab’s gums. Healthy dog’s gums are usually pinkish and moist. Red sticky dry gums are an indication of dehydration.

Causes of dehydration in Labradors

There are a number of possible causes of dehydration in Labradors.  Especially small pups, pregnant or nursing dogs and older dogs are at increased risk of dehydration.

Excessive panting and activities in the scorching sun, diarrhea, heat stroke, fever, vomiting and other health issues can all cause dehydration in your Labrador.

One of the most common reasons is overheating. Labradors who don’t get enough water during hot days may suffer from dehydration. This happens especially when they are very active and run around the whole day.

Another common cause of dehydration in dogs is vomiting or diarrhea, as these result in a quick loss of fluid in the body.

Also, some diseases can cause excessive urination and panting and a decrease in thirst. Kidney disease, cancers or diabetes are another common cause of dehydration.

Treatment of dehydration

When the symptoms of dehydration are mild, your dog can be treated with a solution that replenishes electrolytes and access to water.

Re-hydrate your mildly dehydrated dog by offering him small sips of water every few minutes. We recommend mixing electrolyte powder with the water. Another thing you can do is to offer him a piece of ice to lick. Don’t offer your dog a whole bowl of water as drinking too much water too quickly can cause him to vomit, which would only worsen the dehydration.

If you observe signs of severe dehydration in your dog, we recommend you to get to a veterinarian as soon as possible. He will be able to propose a treatment plan. If your Lab is unable to drink on its own, you should also take him to the vet.

Your veterinarian may replace the loss of fluids by introducing intravenous fluids over the course of 1 to 2 days.

Preveting dehydration in Labradors

Offering your Lab plenty of water throughout the day is the best obvious way to prevent his dehydration.

You shouldn’t exercise your dog too much in hot weather.

If you go outdoors with your dog for an extended period of time you should bring a portable bowl and water with you. Bring a bottle of water with you when you go to the beach. Drinking sea water will make your Lab ill.

Avoid giving your Lab too much water too quickly. If you have to work all day and cannot offer the water in small amounts throughout the day you can buy an automatic water bowl that fills up automatically.

Always offer your dog clean and fresh water with every meal. Clean your dog’s water bowl daily. Place water bowls in places your dog likes to be and praise him when he drinks.

In order to encourage your dog to drink more you can also add chicken broth to the water to make it more appealing. You can also substitute dry kibbles with wet food. If you want to serve dry food consider soaking it with water before feeding.

Don’t leave your dog alone in a hot car.