On Wednesday I passed along some information and tips on canine hydration from Steve Ries at Native Performance Dog Food. But how to tell if your dog may be suffering from over-heating or dehydration? One answer lies in your dog’s mouth, says Ries. It’s called capillary refill time. Simply apply some pressure to your dog’s gums by pushing in on them with a fingertip. If the area doesn’t fill back in with red and stays white instead, then get your dog cooled off first, then watered. In addition, obviously dry or tacky gums is another warning sign your dog needs water.
Skin elasticity is another indicator of a dog’s state of hydration. You’ve probably seen your vet pull up the skin on back of your dog’s neck during vet visits. Why? Because skin is a good indicator of hydration. A properly hydrated dog’s skin will snap back into place quickly, but if that loose skin on the back of the neck doesn’t snap back quickly, it’s a sign your dog needs water.
Additionally, a dog’s internal temperature can also be a sign. If it’s above 105 then stop, cool and then hydrate. One thing you don’t want to do if you think your dog is overheating or dehydrated is to wet them down or swim them and then stick them in a dog box or kennel. Evaporative cooling is the most effective way to cool down a dog, but putting a wet dog in a hot box or kennel only turns that space into a humid sauna. Instead, stake out or your dog in the shade where he can get some airflow for good cooling, or better yet, throw them into the cab of your truck and crank the A/C.
If you want some additional information on effectively cooling dogs, I’d recommend reading this post on the the Retriever Training Net forum It’s written by a veterinarian and contains a lot of great information on the physiology of the canine cooling mechanism and practical tips on keeping your dog out of the overheating danger zone.