"Keeping puppies hydrated
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"Keeping puppies hydrated

Dogs
Education & Training

Taking care of a puppy during their first year of life comes with lots of challenges as well as being very rewarding, and as your puppy grows and develops, your care will have to adapt accordingly. Most of us don’t give a huge amount of thought to how much our dogs drink, because they should have water available at all times, and can take care of their own needs when they are hot or thirsty, just needing us to wash up and top up the bowl on occasion.

However, dehydration can be a problem for puppies during their first year of life, both when they are still with their dam and nursing, when being weaned onto solid foods, and when they go on to their new forever homes to learn about the big wide world.

In this article, we will talk about keeping puppies properly hydrated during their first year of life, and some potential problems to watch out for.

Signs of dehydration

First of all, it is a good idea for all dog owners to know the signs of dehydration in both puppies and adult dogs, in order to spot potential problems quickly and intervene. Some of the signs of dehydration in dogs include:

  • Producing small quantities of urine that is very dark in colour and that may smell strongly.
  • A dry, tacky mouth and lack of saliva production.
  • Sunken eyes in extreme cases.
  • Crying or other signs of distress.
  • Inelastic skin that does not promptly spring back into position if you lightly pinch and then release it.
  • Foul breath.
  • Pale gums and mucous membranes.
  • Bouts of diarrhoea or vomiting can lead to dehydration, even if the pup has been drinking enough water.
  • Excessive urination can cause dehydration, rather than being a specific symptom of it, but this is important to bear in mind, and may be caused by kidney problems or other health conditions.

Nursing puppies

Dehydration in very young puppies that are still drinking milk is relatively common, and can occur for a variety of reasons. If a lot of pups are competing for milk, smaller, slower or weaker puppies may not be able to drink as much as they need to, which can lead to them failing to get enough nutrients and also becoming dehydrated.

Take care to check that every pup manages to feed successfully, moving larger or more dominant pups away to give their smaller brothers and sisters a chance if necessary.

Additionally, sometimes a dam might not produce enough milk to satisfy all of her puppies, which may lead to the need for supplemental feeding. For pups that are either fully or partially hand reared or given supplemental milk, it is vital to ensure that all of the pups get enough and are offered milk frequently enough.

Weaning puppies and solid food

When the dam’s milk begins to dry up and/or the puppies begin to start moving on to solid food, you should monitor the process carefully to ensure that every puppy stays hydrated. Weaning should be a gradual process, with a phase where pups are still nursing whilst trying out solid foods and water or milk from a bowl, and trying to expedite weaning can lead to problems including dehydration.

Make sure that the pups still have milk if they need it, and show them the water bowl and make sure that they can and do drink from it before they are fully weaned.

Additionally, transitioning to dry food can lead to dehydration until the pups learn to drink more water to accommodate for the reduced level of fluid, so check for this too.

In the new home

A puppy in their new home will be facing a lot of change and upheaval, and it is important to make sure that they feel happy and comfortable, and get all of their needs met. Show them their water bowl and keep taking them back to it regularly until they show the initiative to seek it out and drink on their own, and offer a puppy-suitable milk substitute to if you need to encourage them to drink or to begin reinforcing their memory of where to go for a drink.

Juvenile dogs in their first year

During their first year of life, puppies are highly active in between long periods of sleep, and will also face their first summer and hot weather, as well as beginning to exercise in earnest. Pups can dehydrate quickly on hot days and it can take them a while to learn to go and drink water regularly, so make sure your pup remembers their bowl if it is hot, if they are panting a lot, or if they are exercising vigorously.

Take water with you when out on walks, and try to ensure that your puppy is offered a drink regularly, whether at home or out and about. Your pup will need to drink more during the summer, so accommodate for this and ensure that they never run out of water.

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