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Be drink aware...

Dehydration in dogs is a common, potentially life-threatening condition. It's the result of not drinking enough water and electrolytes or losing too much fluid and will affect performance in milder cases and require immediate veterinary attention in more severe cases. Research by Slurps has found that two out of three dogs* don't drink enough. Susan Gregory, Chief Slurper, shares some ways to keep your dog safe.

Water is the single most important nutrient for humans and dogs alike.

All dogs struggle to stay cool in high temperatures and humid conditions since, unlike humans, they are unable to cool down quickly through sweating, which is especially pertinent when we are at training and shows. Dogs donít know how much activity you have planned, or that they need to drink more in warmer weather so itís really important that owners manage their hydration.

Unlike humans, dogs don't know how long they will be running for, or that warmer temperatures require more hydration so it's really important to make sure they drink enough.

The BVA reports that exertional, heat-related illness is a particular problem for younger dogs, active dogs (including Labrador Retrievers, Border Collies, Boxers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers), and particularly male dogs. They also state that in the UK, one in seven dogs affected by heat-related illness will die.

1. How often should your dog drink?

The answer is before, during, and after exercise. Whenever you drink water, you should also offer some to your dog. For shorter sessions (5km or less), you might not always take along bottled water, and your dog might be okay waiting until you get home. For longer sessions, always bring a portable dog bowl.

Watch out! Always avoid puddles Ė particularly in car parks, which harbour toxins and contaminants dogs should not ingest.

2. How much should your dog drink?

In cool weather, vets recommend 50ml per kg bodyweight per day for an averagely exercised dog.

  • Small dogs (10-15kg) need 500-750ml of water daily (1-1.5 bowls)

  • Medium dogs (20-30kg) need 1-1.5 litres (2-3 bowls)

  • Large dogs (40kg+) need a minimum of 2 litres (4 bowls +)

Watch out! In warmer weather and for sport and more active dogs, vets recommend increasing the above by 50%.

3. How do you get your dog to drink?

Just like the proverbial horse, you can lead a dog to water but it's really hard to make them drink if they're not interested.

  • Drop a treat in a water bowl and say the word 'drink' when your dog goes for it. They'll soon associate the word with the action.
  • Hydration drinks such as Slurps are super tasty, nutritious drinks made from all natural and organic ingredients. They smell amazing to dogs and can stimulate them into drinking when water doesn't work. They also contain high Omega 3 and six fish oils so it's added goodness.

Watch out! Make sure your dog doesn't drink an entire bowl of water in one go or you might see it all come back up! Moderate their drinking, even if it means taking the water bowl to slow things down.

What are the signs of dehydration in dogs?
Most owners can tell when their dog isn't 100%, but everyone should be aware of early signs of dehydration.

Early symptoms of dehydration include excessive panting, loss of appetite and general lethargy. At this point, get your dog into a cool place, ideally place a cool wet towel over them / stand them in cold water and hydrate them slowly with water or something with more nutrients.

More advanced symptoms of dehydration are extremely serious. If you see these, you should take your dog to a vet immediately.

  • The pinch test
    Hold the skin on the back of your dog's neck and then let go
    Return to normal = properly hydrated
    Stays wrinkled = seriously dehydrated

  • The gum test
    Run your fingers over your dog's gums
    Slimy = hydrated
    Dry = dehydrated

  • The poke test:
    What's normal? When you know your dog is hydrated, press your fingers against their gums until the tissue goes white. Stop pressing and time how long it takes for the gums go pink again.

Next time you're concerned about your dog's hydration, do the poke test again. If it takes longer than normal for the gums to go pink, your dog needs a drink.

Remember the basics...

  • If the weather is over 22C, it's likely to be too hot for most dogs.
  • If the pavement is too hot to touch, it's too hot for your dog's pads.
  • Take extreme care with large dogs, older dogs, thick-coated dogs and brachycephalic breeds.
  • Exercise in the mornings or evenings when it's cooler or choose shady spots.
  • Take frequent hydration breaks.
  • *Slurps research. 150 dogs May 2019

    For more information, visit British Veterinary Association or Slurps


First published: 28th August 2020


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