Keeping Dogs Hydrated

Schnauzer drinking water
Most of us find motorway toilets to be rather functional places that offer a necessary and welcome, but otherwise unrewarding, experience. However, earlier today, when I made a perfunctory pit-stop on the M6, I was delighted to see a series of bright and arresting posters alerting readers to the fact that dogs die in hot cars. It’s something we should already know, but, like most things, most of us have the ability to think that it could never happen to us. Maybe we think that we are not going to be that long, or because it’s not that hot outside we think the dogs will be fine. The reality is that modern cars are deliberately designed to provide as much light as possible to their occupants and they act as very efficient greenhouses when exposed to sunlight.

Schnauzer drinking water

These posters show that a wide number of organisations including rescue and re-homing charities, veterinary, police, and welfare groups are all working together to ensure owners know the dangers the warm weather can pose to dogs over the summer months. To quote the RSPCA, (one of those organisations involved in this initiative) the message is clear: ‘not long’ is too long.

Thousands of reports of dogs suffering from heat exposure are received every year – that equates to one call every hour. Although the RSPCA records these calls as heat exposure in dogs (and includes dogs left outside who are suffering from the heat, or dogs left inside in conservatories or caravans) the majority of these incidents are dogs in hot cars.

Of course, not all incidents of heat stress in dogs are a result of neglect or thoughtlessness, but we do have a responsibility to ensure that dogs are kept properly hydrated at all times. In Britain, we are not used to the soaring temperatures that our Mediterranean cousins regularly experience, but while spending more outdoor time with your dog can be a great source of adventure and fun, it’s essential to bear in mind that even our British summer temperatures can lead to dehydration and heat stress.

So, before you and your dog soak up the sun, here are three ideas that can help you keep your best friend hydrated and cool.

1. Keep several bowls of fresh water in your home

Even if you are just enjoying the sunshine at home, ensure that you provide different water stations around your home for your dog. It is so easy to fail to notice that their drinking bowl is empty and having at least two bowls topped up with clean, fresh water – maybe one inside and another in the garden – will ensure that there is a continuous supply of fresh water even when one source runs out. Remember to keep the bowls clean to prevent bacterial growth which also happens faster in sunlight. A useful tip is to place some ice cubes in the water; many dogs will play with ice cubes which helps to keep them hydrated and, if not, the addition of ice will keep the water cool.

2. Carry water with you every time you go out

All supermarkets sell inexpensive, bottled water in various sizes of plastic containers so it’s easy to carry a few litres in your car and to carry at least one small bottle with you whenever you are out. In the summer, dogs can drink a bowl of water much faster than you might expect. When heading out, it’s really important to take a bottle of fresh water and a clean bowl so that your dog can have a drink wherever you are.

3. Hydrate during exercise

We soon get to understand a normal pattern of exercise with our dogs and most of us recognise that playing games with a ball or other toy is a great way of caring for both the physical and emotional wellbeing of our pets. However, in warmer weather, that same degree of exercise will lead to a greater need for hydration. When exercising dogs in warmer weather, ensure that you give them small amounts of water every 15-20 minutes as this will help keep them from overheating. Don’t forget that dogs do not sweat as we do and deal with heat by panting and will need to stop panting before they drink. If you watch a dog drinking, you’ll see that the tongue curls underneath itself to scoop in the water and they simply cannot do this efficiently with a lolling tongue that is busy functioning as a heat exchanger.

Signs to watch out for in dehydration and overheating in dogs

PDSA Vet, Rebecca Ashman advises: “In the first instance, check if the dog is in distress – heavy panting, excessive salivation, lethargy or appearing uncoordinated are all early signs of heatstroke”.

Important Info
If in doubt, always contact a veterinary surgeon without delay as every second counts.

If you see dogs in distress in a locked car, dial 999 for police assistance.