The summer months are a great time to get out with our dogs and enjoy the warm weather. But because we are often going farther and longer in hot conditions, our dogs are at greater risk of exhaustion and dehydration.
While we often remember to pack our own water or sports drink when heading out on the trail, our dogs are often left to fend for themselves in the ponds, rivers, and lakes along the way. This is often not the best option for canine hydration.
Here are a few common questions we’re asked about dehydration prevention on the trail.
It’s cool outside, do I still need to bring along water for my dog?
As a dog’s respiratory rate rises from heat, exercise, or anxiety, their breathing increases and evaporates from their tongue faster. In fact, water loss can increase over 20 times the normal rate when a dog is exercising. This water loss can contribute to circular instability, reduced physical work capacity, kidney damage, and heat stroke.
How much water should I take with me?
There’s no magic number to calculate adequate water supply because each dog varies in size, activity level, and heat tolerance. Your dog will dehydrate at an increased rate while exercising, so they will generally consume more water than usual.
We did some in-house research at Ruff Wear and found that 1 – 2 liters of water is sufficient for most of our dogs for adventures lasting less than four hours. Another good rule of thumb is to determine how much water you would bring for yourself, and bring an equal amount for your dog. While this may seem like a large load to carry, there are simple solutions, such as mounting an extra water carrier on your bike, using a larger hydration pack, or using a dog pack with water bladders (such as the Palisades Pack™) and letting your dog carry their own water.
Won’t my dog just drink from the water sources available on our hike?
Keep in mind that dogs will often drink less in new environments due to the different taste of the water. They may also drink less if excited by the day’s adventures.
In addition, still, non-moving water presents potential problems, such as bacteria and parasites that are harmful to dogs. Even though Rover may drink out of puddles and toilets, still lake and pond water can be contaminated with Giardia. The best option is to bring along water from home to keep your dog hydrated.
How can I tell if my dog is dehydrated?
While water intake varies depending on the dog and the environment, a dog that shows signs of fatigue, weakness, tremors, or temperature elevation are all indicators of severe dehydration. Other indicators include increased heart rate, panting, brick-red gums, difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, anxiety, increase in temperature, and confusion.
Another quick trick is to grab the skin on the back of the neck of the dog. Give it a tug, and if the skin snaps back, it’s a good indicator that the dog is hydrated. If there is very little elasticity in the skin, the dog is probably in need of hydration.
What should I do if my dog becomes dehydrated?
Move your dog to a cool, shaded area. Submerge the dog in cold water if possible, and encourage them to drink water.
The best guard against dehydration is to keep a close eye on your dog and encourage them to drink along the trail. Under-hydration can lead to a reduced sense of thirst, making the dog more reluctant to drink when water is needed most.
By bringing along sufficient water supplies, you and your dog will be ready to take on summertime adventures, whatever the weather!