If your dog is vomiting, you are rightfully concerned about your dog losing too much fluid at once and becoming dehydrated. It's therefore important recognizing dehydration in a vomiting dog so that you can take action promptly.
Young puppies and small dogs in particular are prone to getting dehydrated at a much faster rate than bigger, adult dogs.
Dogs who are vomiting repeatedly and also have diarrhea, undergo a double whammy of fluid loss which causes them to get dehydrated pretty quickly.
If your dog is vomiting a lot, it's important to see the vet to find the underlying cause and properly address it. Dehydrated dogs may need IV fluids to replenish lost fluids and electrolytes to feel better.
Following are ways you can recognize dehydration in a vomiting dog. See your vet as soon as possible if you notice any of these signs as these signs tend to show up when the dehydration is already significant.
Dehydration in a Vomiting Dog
Dehydration is a state that develops when the dog's body loses more fluids than he is taking in. Dogs, just like any other mammal, require water to maintain proper bodily function. Under normal circumstances, dogs need one ounce of water per day per pound of body weight.
Water is necessary for a variety of functions: lubricating the dog's joints, cushioning the internal organs, regulating the body temperature, absorbing nutrients from food and aiding digestion.
Normally, throughout the day, the dog’s body both gains and loses water. Dogs gain water through drinking and eating. On the flip side, they lose water through processes like breathing, panting, urinating, defecating and evaporation through the paws.
Further losses can occur when a dog is vomiting. When a dog's fluid intake is smaller and therefore fails to make up for the water loss, the dog becomes dehydrated, explains veterinarian Dr. Ivana.
1) The Skin Tent Test
One way to recognize dehydration in a vomiting dog is by checking the skin. In a normal, healthy and well-hydrated dog, the skin is nice and elastic.
In a dehydrated dog, the skin instead loses elasticity. A way to tell if a dog's skin is losing elasticity is by performing a skin tent test.
Simply grab with your thumb and forefinger some of your dog's skin over the shoulder blade area, right behind the neck, and lift it up about 1 to 2 inches, and then let it go.
In a hydrated dog, the skin should snap back into position like a rubber band, if the skin goes down slowly, then dehydration may be present, explains veterinarian Dr. Dave. Generally, the slower it takes, the more severe the dehydration is. Skin that remains lifted in a "skin tent" is concerning.
One thing to consider is that skin tenting is not a very effective way to assess hydration in very young puppies and kittens, for the simple fact that they lack sufficient subcutaneous fat, which is what causes the normal skin tent and relaxation response in pets that are well hydrated, warns Dr. Margareth V. Root Kustriz in an article for DVM360.
A better way to assess hydration levels in a neonatal puppy is to look at the color of urine. Normal urine color in hydrated puppies is colorless. If it's visibly yellow therefore there are chances that the pup is dehydrated and requires fluid therapy.
2) Checking the Gums
As a dog becomes dehydrated, his mouth will start drying up. With less saliva around, you will notice signs of dehydration by checking your dog's gums.
Safety warning: Avoid these tests if you are concerned about your dog biting you.
Slide your finger gently across your dog's gums. In a healthy, well-hydrated dog, the gums are normally moist and slimy.
Instead, in a dog with advanced dehydration, the gums will be either sticky or dry.
One factor to consider though is that, if a dog is panting, the gums will become dry, and therefore this won't be much helpful in providing an idea about hydration levels, explains Brandy Terry, director of critical care and specialty nursing at Animal Critical Care and Specialty Group in Malvern, Pa.
Another important factor is that, in neonatal puppies, it may be difficult to access their gums for sliminess for obvious reasons, being that they have a tiny oral cavity.
On top of that, it's important to consider that their gums may give the impression of being wet, when in reality they are artificially lubricated with milk, further points out Dr. Kustritz.
3) Checking Refill Times
On top of checking the gums for dryness, you may also want to check your dog's capillary refill time. In a healthy, well-hydrated dog, the blood is flowing well and the gums are delivering oxygen to tissues, in a dehydrated dog, the blood may be slow to allow perfusion.
To test your dog's capillary refill time, simply press with your thumb on your dog's gums and apply some pressure. This should cause the gums to blanch. Then, remove your thumb and count how long it takes for the gums to return to a healthy pink color.
It should take 2 seconds or less, but if it's taking significantly more time, see your emergency vet, explains veterinarian Pet Doc.
Also, you want to see your emergency vet if your dog happens to have white or pale gums!
Tip: make it a habit to check how your dog's gums feel and look like when your dog is healthy. By getting acquainted with their normal look and feel, you should be able to promptly recognize when something is amiss.
4) Check the Eyes
When dehydration is allowed to progress, affected dogs will exhibit further worrisome signs such as sunken eyes. The eyes basically appear sunken within the eye sockets and may appear dull.
Warning! Dehydration should not be allowed to progress at this stage because, next, the dog will become very lethargic and weak and will show signs of shock such as increased heart rate, cool extremities, and a rapid and weak pulse.
There may be also changes in a dog's level of consciousness and death can be imminent if not corrected.
It is therefore paramount that you see your vet as soon as you notice any signs of dehydration in your dog, even more ideally before you get to this point.
Do not allow the dehydration to progress! If your dog is vomiting profusely and is also having diarrhea, he can become dehydrated quite quickly.
There are several causes of vomiting in dogs that require treatment in order to make the vomiting stop. Please play it safe and see your veterinarian.