What Does Water Do For Pets?
The purpose of water for pets is to carry important nutrients into and out of the cells of the body, aiding in digestion and the absorption of nutrients. It also regulates body temperature, lubricates joints, improves cognitive function, and cushions the brain and spinal cord. Every important bodily function requires water. (Ref: True Care Veterinary Hospital)
My Recent Experience
A few weeks ago I decided to take a hike with my Belgian Malinois, Loki. Temperatures did not seem to be excessively high and the downhill hike to the gorgeous waterfall was quite enjoyable. Loki happily trotted next to me looking inquisitive and greeting other friendly dogs along the trail. Loki loves hiking, additionally, he is a working dog, so as soon as he puts on his saddle bags, he knows he’s going to “work”.
This particular hike was to Dukes Creek Falls in Helen, Ga. Round trip, this hike is about 2.5 miles. Unfortunately, direct access to the water is not easy. The hike ends at an observation deck that overlooks several different views of the 150 foot waterfall. We always hike with water and a collapsible water bowl for Loki attached to his saddle bags.
After a 30-45 minute break at the observation deck, a drink of water, and a few pats on the head from fellow hikers, we were on our way back to the trail head. The air had become thick and humid, rain would eventually beat us to the car.
Not So Happy Ending
Not even a mile into the return hike, I noticed Loki lagging behind. I thought he was simply sniffing the scent of all the dogs that had been along the trail, when I noticed him insistent on leaving the trail itself, edging towards the woods. This was definitely odd behavior for him. I stopped to talk to him and check out the surroundings, and within a minute or two he was vomiting. I had not noticed excessive panting, only the desire to go off trail. I felt HORRIBLE! Was he dehydrated? Had I worked him too hard? He had water when we stopped, could he have drank too much? This had never happened before on any of our other hikes and I felt like a really bad mom for not noticing the signs!
Typical Signs of Dehydration
- Lethargy (low energy)
- Sunken eyes
- Lack of appetite
- Dry nose
- Thick saliva
- Tacky gums
I had not noticed any of the above symptoms. He was panting, but it didn’t seem to be more than usual, and it came on so fast! While Loki fully recovered, just thinking about how my misjudgment of the situation may have been part of the cause fills me with guilt.
This particularly frightening incident, is why I decided to share this story during National Pet Hydration Month. I am a devout animal lover and have been since I was a kid. I was nick-named Eli Mae Clampett (from the Beverly Hillbillies) by my parents, because I was always bringing home strays. I love my pets just as I love the many human children I have raised. I always thought of myself as knowledgeable and aware of what to watch out for when hiking or working with my dogs. Yet, this happened to us on a beautiful day, during a moderate hike.
So yeah, if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. Here are a few very helpful resources to make hiking with your dog, a great adventure!
- Dehydration In Dogs
- Pet Hydration Awareness Month
- Pet Hydration: More Than a Water Bowl
- A Message from the True Care Veterinary Team
Story written by Carmen Rose, GenSol Diagnostics Staff Member