Dehydration is a common emergency in which a dog loses the ability to replace lost fluids orally. These fluids are comprised of vital electrolytes and water.
What to Watch For
The most common symptom of dehydration is the loss of elasticity in the skin. When pulled lightly, the skin will not readily come back to its original place. Another alarming symptom is xerostomia, in which the gums lose moistness and become dry and sticky, and the saliva becomes thick. In advanced dehydration, the eyes sink in and the dog may collapse with shock.
In addition to persistent vomiting and diarrhea, illness, fever, heat stroke, and a deficiency in fluid intake can all cause dehydration.
If there is moderate dehydration and the dog is not throwing up, you can treat the dog with Ringer's lactate (“lactated Ringers” with 5% dextrose in water). You can also administer an electrolytic solution at a rate of 2 to 4 ml per pound (1 to 2 ml per kilogram) of the dog's body weight per hour. Electrolyte-enhanced waters may be of assistance as well. If you have questions concerning dosage, contact your veterinarian.
If your dog is suffering from severe dehydration, however, seek immediate medical attention. They will be able to administer intravenous fluids to avoid further loss of fluids and to replace the present loss.
For a dog with continuous and severe bouts of vomiting and diarrhea, you can prevent dehydration by giving the dog electrolytic solutions until the illness passes. IV fluids, however, may be the only solution in severe cases.