How To Tell If A Dog Is Dehydrated


I consider knowing how to tell if you dog is dehydrated a vital skill set for all dog owners. It is especially crucial if you are doing a strenuous activity, like a hiking trip, where tiredness creeps in and water loss speeds up. In this article I will list the signs of dehydration of a dog and how you can identify it easily.

There are 4 main ways to tell if your dog is dehydrated or not. Skin Tint Test No Tears In Eyes Nose Is Dry Friction In Gums These are signs that are the most obvious to observe and learn.

Skin Tint Test

The first test that I am going to introduce is what is dubbed the “Skin Tint Test” and it is related to the elasticity of your dog’s skin. Simply grab a portion of the skin of the back of your dog gently and lift it up slightly. Then, let go and observe what happens. A well-hydrated dog’s skin will plopped back to the body smoothly and healthily. That is an indication of healthy skin that is not dry and the body is receiving enough water to distribute to the skin. On the other hand, a dehydrated dog will have a dry and inelastic skin that will stay in the elevated position longer and take a longer time to fall back on to the body of the dog.

The video clip below will put my explanation in action.

No Tears In Eyes

This is the probably the easiest telltale sign of hydration. A well-hydrated dog will have tears in the corner of their eyes. It should be wet and should have a healthy reflection when you are looking at the corner of their eyes.

Dogs have tear ducts in their eyes, just like us humans. It is meant to keep the eyes clean and prevent it from becoming dry which can become an irritation. It is also a biological lifeline for the cells in the eyes. Moisture is required for them to function and live, and tear ducts are the purveyors of the water supply.

Tear stains in dogs
Tear stains in dogs

You may observe some dogs, especially the stray ones, have a trail of tears running down their cheeks from the caruncle of their eye. This is a result of tear production which is a healthy sign of hydration in dogs.

However, too much of it causes a phenomenon known as tear staining in dogs, which combined with negative health factors, leaves a trail of scar that cannot be removed with ease. In fact, it looks ugly and disfigures the dogs to a large extent that many dog owners tend to wipe them away to keep the dogs clean before the scar sets in. This is why this is more commonly seen in stray dogs where there is no one to take care of them and their looks.

Crying Dog
Crying Dog

However, note that there is a difference between having tears in the eyes versus crying, like the poor dog as shown above. There is a whole different list of issues that you should be concerned with, and dehydration is definitely not on it. Do note the difference.

Nose Is Dry

The nose is also a litmus test of dehydration in dogs. A healthy and well-hydrated dog’s nose should be wet and nice. Use your hand to touch its nose and feel the amount of moisture on it as compared with other days.

Dog’s noses “work best when damp because scent particles stick better to damp surfaces”. This is the reason why they have mucous glands in their noses to secrete mucus to keep it wet and moist. Dogs also tend to lick their noses to keep it wet, very likely for the same purpose. In addition, it also serves as a cooling mechanism to keep the dog cool, although not as effective as its tongue.

Using the nose to test for hydration is an especially convenient method when I am on a hiking trip as it is very easy to execute outdoors. As a personal precaution, since dog’s noses are especially sensitive, make sure you are not smearing any dirt or mud on it and introducing germs into their body system when you are touching their noses. I tend to use the back of my hand to do what I call the “nose hydration test” as it is going to be much cleaner on that side than my palm when we are out hiking in the woods or mountains.

Friction In Gums

Before you try this, make sure you cut your nails!

The last method is based on the moisture in the gums. The steps involves putting your finger in your dog’s mouth and stroking along the gums. If your dog is dehydrated, you should encounter friction and experience difficulty moving along its gums.

This is best demonstrated in the section of the video as shown below.

The logic behind it is that the mouth is naturally wet from moisture and saliva. So if the gums are dry, it means the body is not getting enough water.

However, do not use the tongue as an indicator. The tongue is also wet because it is the main mechanism through which dogs lose most of their sweat and stay cool. It has a more important need to stay moist as compared to the gums. Therefore, the dog’s body system tends to prioritize sending water to the tongue rather than the gums. It is thus not a good indicator of hydration.

In fact if the tongue is dry, your dog is probably ill in a more critical situation than just mere dehydration. Other symptoms not related to dehydration will have appeared before we get there.

Final Thoughts

Water is extremely crucial to all living things, let alone dogs. It is our responsibility as dog owners to make sure they are given ample supply of this elixir of life.

I hope these tips that I have shared with you in this article will help you to keep your dogs hydrated and healthy.


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