Dehydration is a medical condition, not just thirst. Dehydration means that your dog has less fluid in its body than is required for health and wellbeing. Dehydration is a serious ailment because it will automatically lead to many related ailments, all of which put enormous strain on the health and wellbeing of your dog long-term, and some of which are even fatal.
Along with a loss of water, dehydration also involves a loss of crucial electrolytes – minerals such as sodium, chloride, potassium, etc.
Who suffers from Dehydration
Dehydration may well be the most common ailment for German Shepherds because this breed is so agile and has such a strong metabolism that it is simply not enough to serve a bowl of fresh water with each dog meal.
In addition, the hotter it is and/or the more exercise your dog does and/or the more stress the dog is suffering, the more fresh water you must supply.
Finally, fever and most ailments also contribute to the condition of dehydration, because the healing process consumes extra fluids. For the same reason, if your dog is getting any medicament at all, again fluid needs are higher.
Typical warning signs of dehydration are:
- Dry, sticky gums
- whitish mucous-like slime filling the dog's mouth (and finally even dripping down)
- Delay in capillary refill time - when the time it takes for your dog’s gums to return to the normal dark-pink color after you carefully press your finger against it exceeds 1 second
- Lack of skin elasticity
- Persistent panting beyond 30 min after exercise end
- Sunken eyes
- Too much or too little urination (yes, both conditions)
- Illness and injury increase the likelihood of dehydration because the healing process requires extra fluids and because you may think that your dog is too weak to drink now
To avoid Dehydration, always provide a large bowl of fresh water, day and night. Do not think "If I restrict the amount of water intake of my dog, I don't need to walk my dog that often and get more sleep". With that logic you would better argue "If I don't have a dog, I don't need to walk at all"!
If your dog can't relieve every three hours MAX when awake and after six hours when the metabolism is slowed down during sleep (and a young puppy every hour), then you are asking for German Shepherd behavior problems, plus for ailments like Bladder Infection, Bloat, Digestive Disorder, Kidney Failure etc, all the way through to otherwise rare conditions such as liver disease, blindness, etc.
If you are not willing to or cannot take your dog at least for a brisk walk that often, you must provide a potty place on your premises or a sizable dog potty that is suitable for a German Shepherd.
Whenever you take your GSD on a hike, a run, or prolonged outdoor exercise, consider getting one of those useful dog backpacks and put a large bottle of water on each side. This type of dog backpack has four benefits:
- Your German Shepherd will carry its own water supply, not you
- You can be sure your dog will get fresh water, not contaminated water
- You can put lots of stuff in them, in addition to the water for your dog
- Crucially, the equal weight distribution on the sides and the harness-style straps hold this dog backpack in place, while most models annoy the dog as they constantly move around the dog's body and make the skin sore.
When prevention (see above) came too late, to treat Dehydration you do not necessarily need to take your dog to the vet, as cheap text copies on internet marketing sites suggest. If that were the case, the majority of the agile herding dogs with a strong metabolism would be at the vet every week!
So, better use your common sense: The first warning signs of dehydration are whitish mucous-like slime from the mouth or lethargy or dry sticky gums or a delay in capillary refill time (OR because not all signs will show). Therefore, simply observe your dog during the day, and when you notice any of the signs that may indicate dehydration, ACT and treat your dog for these first signs of dehydration: Get your dog to drink an entire bowl of fresh water, and if you feel the dehydration is severe, add the recommended dosage of electrolytes to replace the trace minerals lost during dehydration. Do not serve milk. Never milk for GSDs. Because the German Shepherd Dog GI tract is extremely sensitive, and dogs in general cannot digest milk well (they lack the enzymes for it).
If you have a cucumber at home or in your travel bag, this also is perfect for your dog now. Give slice after slice to your dog. The high water content of foods like cucumber the body absorbes MUCH better than pure drinking water (AND still MUCH better than high-priced isotonic drinks - this is to highlight the benefits of cucumber, you must never give your dog isotonic drinks anyway). Water melon is another food with extremely high water content (but you won't have water melon year-round).
If your German Shepherd does not empty the entire bowl of fresh water although you are mildly encouraging your dog for 10 minutes or so, then your GSD may have an underlying ailment that causes the Dehydration or that causes the dog not to want to drink, and you should take your dog to the vet immediately. However, any such underlying ailment will not manifest from one hour to the next, so if your dog doesn't regularly show the signs of dehydration and doesn't regularly refuse to drink, then an immediate vet visit is not indicated (but do see the vet every 6 to 12 months, that's a long time for a short dog life).
Likewise, if you notice persistent panting or sunken eyes in your German Shepherd, then the problem is severe and you should take your dog to the vet immediately.
Conversely, too much or too little urination or lethargy are hard to judge because they depend on so many other factors. Therefore, these warning signs must be considered in combination with other warning signs - see the Important Introductory Notes, especially Note 5.
If the condition of dehydration persists or is recurring somewhat regularly, then you either over-exercise your GSD (unlikely) in relation to the temperature and sun exposure where you live, or again there is an underlying cause for the frequent Dehydration and you should take your German Shepherd to a reputable holistic veterinarian for a full medical checkup - this is a complimentary link to one of our normally subscribers-only Periodicals, because choosing the right veterinarian can literally save your dog's life, your own sanity, and your bank account's funds!
With regular dehydration, don't wait for the next routine examination (which could be half a year away, see the Important Introductory Notes, especially Note 4). Take your GSD to a reputable holistic veterinarian straight away.
Sure, a vet visit costs money (although a reputable holistic vet won't give your dog anything that forces you to come back with ever more dog health problems - what average allopathic vets generally do!), but having an ill German Shepherd or one with behavior problems may in future cost you much more! In my personal opinion - unless you are Rockefeller or generally very lucky - a large, strong, and agile outdoor dog like the German Shepherd should always come with dog health insurance and liability dog insurance - regardless of any legal requirements (which always only serve people who can't think for themselves). That's my personal view, and we have explained the reasons here.