I’ve told you about my friend Debbie, from the dog park, who has the overweight Beagle, Chuck (see Step Away From the Dish, Doggie, You are Way Too Fat!) Debbie is battling the bulge, too, and she and Chuck are on a pretty serious diet and exercise program. Debbie has dropped a couple of clothing sizes, and although Chuck is still a bit on the porky side, I think I’m going to have to stop referring to him as “Chunk.”
I think one of the reasons it’s working out so well for them is that there’s a third party involved in the project.Since Debbie inherited her late aunt’s Miniature Schnauzer, Dingus (see No Dogs for Seniors), Debbie has to exercise two dogs. They all kind of motivate one another, I guess.
Anyway, Debbie has become an “exercise evangelist,” and lately, she’s been trying to drag me into the mix. “C’mon, Ash,” she says, “Come for a run with us!”
Well, I do it all for dogs, right? And I like Debbie, too, so I figured that if she wanted to take the dogs for a run, I could try to tag along. So, one day last week, we decided to forego the dog park in favor of a run along a country road. I left Janice and Leroy home; they’re not used to running on leash, because…
…I Am Not an Athlete!
I am still in pain. Everything hurts. My calves, my thighs, my lower back… and I’m not even sure what shin splints are, but I bet I have them!
The worst of the whole experience, though, wasn’t trying to keep up with the newly-speedy Debbie and her rapidly-slimming beagle, and the incredibly active Dingus. It was that I forgot to bring along a water bottle.
By the time we finished our run, my throat felt like I’d inhaled about half of the Sahara Desert; I was dizzy and a bit disoriented. If Debbie hadn’t shared her water with me, I’m sure I’d have just curled up, turned to dust and died on the spot, kind of like Bela Lugosi did in the last scene of the classic black and white movie, Dracula.
So Debbie bailed me out in the short term, and then on the way home, I stopped by the convenience store and bought a six-pack of Gatorade, which I drank in the car.
Then I got to wondering: could I give Gatorade to dogs?
Dehydration in Dogs
Of course, you can’t even begin to consider talking about giving Gatorade to dogs without first talking about the problem of dehydration.
So first, think about what dogs are made of.
I know: sugar and spice and all things nice, cuddles and kisses and light and warmth and all that stuff. And 60% water.
No kidding; about 60% of your dog’s total bodyweight is water – about the same amount of water as is in your own body. That gives you an idea of how important hydration is. If your dog weighs, say, 20 pounds, that means that 12 pounds is water! And letting the water level drop too much can be very bad for your dog.
We Love Summer!
Of course we do.It’s the time for visits to the beach, lying out in the sun and just generally soaking up the heat. But there’s a very real danger, come summertime, that your dog could become dangerously dehydrated. To prevent that from happening, make sure that you always have several containers of cool, fresh water scattered about where your dog is most likely to use them. Your dog can’t say, “Mom, I’m thirsty,” or “Dad, I’d like a drink of water.” It’s your job to make sure that he’s always well-hydrated.
That being said, a dog can also become dehydrated in the winter if he’s left outside, not that he ever should be (see Can Dogs Live Outdoors Full Time). Dogs are pack animals, and what they want more than anything is to be with their pack, which is you, and your family. If you’re the sort of person who thinks that it’s okay to get a dog and tie him outside in the yard, then I’d like to ask you to leave this site and not come back. I don’t want you here.
A dog that’s left to fend for himself outside can become dehydrated any time of the year, and when that happens, the next thing is often kidney or liver disease, and a slow, miserable death for the dog.
I really hope that you’re the type of person who likes to go out and play with your dog as opposed to leaving him to his own devices. Not just because it makes your dog happy to play with you, but because it also makes it a lot easier to tell if it’s time for your dog to have a drink. If you share playtime with your dog, you can watch for signs of dehydration, which can include:
- Lack of skin elasticity (to identify this problem, take a bit of the skin on your dog’s head between your fingers, pull it up and then let it go – if it doesn’t spring back right away, your dog could be dehydrated)
In serious cases of dehydration, your dog could also develop a fever.
What to Do if Your Dog Is Dehydrated
Before you go rushing to give your dog Gatorade, lift his upper lip and look at the color of his gums. If he is well-hydrated, they should be pink. Now, press your fingertip against the gum. When you apply the pressure, the gum will turn white. When you lift your finger, the gum should turn pink again. If it does so in a couple of seconds, you have nothing to worry about, but if it doesn’t, then you should get your dog to the vet immediately; he is seriously dehydrated. In this case, if you can get Gatorade into your dog, it would be a good idea to do so.
You don’t always have to immediately rush to give Gatorade to dogs, though. If your dog seems to be dehydrated but is not vomiting, you can try to induce him to take some water. There are a number of ways that you can do this:
- Give him some ice chips.
- Try to place some water in his mouth using a turkey baster or a needle-less syringe.
- Soak a towel in water and then squeeze the water into your dog’s mouth.
- Give him a Popsicle (assuming that he is not diabetic).
Before giving Gatorade to dogs, try a less extreme measure. Gatorade is quite high in sugar, and that’s not necessarily the best thing for dogs. You might try mixing half Gatorade with half water before going full-on with the Gatorade.
Cool water is always best, but if you think that your dog is really dehydrated, often a little “flavor” will induce him to drink. However, this doesn’t have to be Gatorade. To dogs, almost any flavors are pleasing, so you might try adding a bit of chicken or beef broth to his water.
Again, though, if you suspect that the dehydration is serious, please don’t waste time; if you’re going to hang around thinking about what to do, your dog could end up in serious distress while you ponder. Just take him to the vet. You might find that you had nothing to worry about, no biggie, it’s all good, or… well, your dog could die while you dither. So don’t.
Something else that I should mention is that often, people think that their dog will not become dehydrated because, after all, there’s water everywhere. He hangs out next to the backyard pool, for instance.
The thing here is that pool water typically contains a lot more chlorine than drinking water. Your dog wouldn’t be the first to end up horribly dehydrated because he simply couldn’t stomach the taste of pool water. Also, if you have a saltwater pool, your dog will not likely drink that water, because saltwater doesn’t correct dehydration; it causes it.
Some dogs are also very fussy (I know, you don’t usually think of dogs being fussy, but it’s not unheard of) and won’t drink dirty water.
So please, always give your dog a source of clean, good-tasting water. If you have to buy bottled water for your dog, do it. Don’t give him anything you wouldn’t want to drink.
The Final Word
I know I’ve gone on a lot here about dehydration and water, and very little about Gatorade given to dogs. That’s because Gatorade isn’t the best solution, for people or for dogs. Is Gatorade safe for dogs? Yes, as long as it’s not their main source of hydration. If your dog has had a serious workout and appears to be dehydrated, the electrolytes in Gatorade can help him to bounce back. But it shouldn’t be your “go to” solution. Make sure that your dog has plenty of good, clean drinking water, and you can dispense with the Gatorade.
As for me, I’m going out for another six-pack of that pretty blue stuff to take along the next time Debbie makes me go for a run – if I ever go again. Oh, my aching legs!