Avoiding Dehydration in You and Your Agility Dog
You may think that it is easy to keep hydrated in the summer because you feel thirsty and so you drink something. However, if you are only drinking when you are thirsty there is a good chance you are staying in mild dehydration. This is a greater concern in the summer as heat and exertion can quickly lead to over heating and heat exhaustion in a matter of minutes from mild dehydration.
The best defense is an offense, and in summer that means limiting exercise in the heat of the day, pacing yourself when working in the heat, hydrating yourself before starting your work, and proper replacement of lost fluids and electrolytes during work. This goes for your dog as well.
Signs of dehydration in you include: dry mouth, low blood pressure, fast heart rate, dry skin, headaches, and feeling tired or sluggish. Some will experience muscle cramping with more severe dehydration. Without the proper fluid and potassium levels the cells in the body cannot function properly causing the muscles to work harder. If you experience severe headaches, nausea, dizziness or vomiting you should go directly to an emergency room as you are in advanced stages of dehydration and heat exhaustion.
For your dog symptoms include: sunken eyes, lethargy, loss of appetite, dry mouth and depression. If you dog starts to vomit, seem disoriented, highly lethargic or unresponsive, you need to get them to a vet immediately and start cooling them with cool water on the chest and feet.
Another indicator of dehydration is to do a skin pinch test on yourself and your dog. For you it would be on the top side of your fingers between the bottom two knuckles and on your dog the skin between the shoulder blades. When the skin is pinched and released the skin should snap back. If it does not it could be an indicator or the onset of dehydration.
Here are the best ways to stay off dehydration in you:
- Drink hot water and teas with lemon instead of high caffeine beverages.
- Consume coconut water, banana, tomato sauce or dried fruit to add potassium.
- Choose low sodium foods and lock in moisture by applying oil such as coconut oil to your body after showers or baths.
- Men require about 3 quarts of water daily and women about 2 quarts baseline. On days of high exertion or elevations over 10,000 feet it can be doubled.
- Sports drinks should contain only 4-8% carbohydrate, more than that can slow stomach emptying and cause abdominal cramping.
- Drink 16-24 ounces of fluid two hours before activity and on warm or humid days add 16-30 ounces one hour before activity. Water is fine for activities one hour and under. Longer times should use sport drinks with 4-8% carbohydrates and small amounts of electrolytes.
- During activity consume 3-6 fluid ounces of fluids every 15 minutes and keep your intake of fluids up after the end of activities. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty!
For your dog:
- Keep fresh, clean, cool water in easy access of your dog at all times and always pack extra water for trips away from home.
- Keep water cool in warm areas by putting ice in the bucket. Don’t make the water too cold for them to drink
- Soak your dog’s food in water to keep moisture in their gut on days of high heat or exertion.
- Keep your dog cool with a wading pool, shaded area to rest, frozen treats or stuffed, frozen Kong.
- On average a dog needs at least one ounce of water for each pound of body weight per day, more on days of high activity.
- If you notice your dog is drinking less check your dog’s mouth for sores or foreign objects.
If at any time you feel your dog is suffering from dehydration you should take them to the veterinarian as soon as possible. Not only will they stabilize your dog and put them on fluids to re-hydrate, they will also be able to find the problem leading to dehydration which could include kidney disorders, cancer and infectious disease.
If you are showing signs of dehydration you need to get yourself to somewhere cool and start taking in cool fluids. If you think your dehydration is turning into heat exhaustion, get yourself inside and call your doctor. With each episode of heat exhaustion you become more easily susceptible to it in the future. Avoid it by staying hydrated and staying low during the heat of the day.