Dog hydration strategies


As we bid farewell to summer, with the memories of 40ºC days fresh in our minds, we are acutely aware of the effects of high temperatures and humidity on our pets, dogs in particular.

Given their inability to sweat (except through  the pads of their feet), dogs rely on panting to cool them down and high temperatures, coupled with a lack of water, can severely interfere with this process, leading to dehydration. High humidity can also negatively effect a canine’s capacity for evaporative cooling. Even in moderate temperatures, dogs can even suffer from dehydration.

How well a dog is acclimatised (i.e. adapted) and conditioned to its environments can dictate how severely it is affected by heat and humidity. Although these are long-term strategies to help combat dehydration, the best short-term strategy for working dogs is hydration with water, oral electrolytes or subcutaneous fluids. But which of these is the most effective as a hydrating solution?

These three solutions were tested on border patrol dogs on the US/Mexican border to see which, if any were most effective.¹ Dogs in the study were given chicken-flavoured electrolyte solution, subcutaneous fluids or water. The dogs in all groups were also offered a set volume of water according to their weight at regular interval. Their body temperature, behaviour, physiology and detection performance were measured and compared.

Dogs on the electrolyte solution drank significantly more water than with the other hydration strategies, suggesting these dogs were better hydrated. However, that was about the only major difference between the strategies and the behaviour of all dogs in the study remained consistent, reinforcing that hydration is important no matter how it’s achieved. Additionally, these dogs were accustomed to their working conditions, so may have been more tolerant to higher temperatures and humidity.

There is no magic solution when it comes to preventing dehydration in dogs. Water and a bit of common sense should do the trick.

This article appeared in the Australian Veterinary Journal: Aust Vet J 2018;96(3):N20

Nidhi Sodhi
Science Writer


  1. Otto  CM, Hare E, Nord JL et al. Evaluation of three hydration strategies in detection dogs working in a hot environment. Front Vet Sci 2017;4:174.

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