If you’ve ever been active outside on a hot day, you know that seemingly unquenchable thirst that comes from a combination of sweating and insufficient water intake. Whether running, playing sports, hiking or otherwise taking in the great outdoors, staying hydrated is a theme that’s been preached to us by our moms, coaches, and doctors since before we could say “ultra-marathon”.
When it comes to your canine companions, however, hydration may not be quite the same cup of tea…errr…Gatorade. While all living beings, from humans to cats to mice to dogs, need to stay hydrated in order to live, it turns out that the individual requirements can differ greatly between species. If you plan on taking Fido along on your next warm, weekend hiking adventure, or want to be prepared in case your dog suffers from dehydration at a later date, read on. We break down electrolyte drinks such as Gatorade, as well as other specifics to doggy water needs.
When it comes to keeping hydrated, one of the major components to human gain, loss, and maintenance of proper water and fluid levels has to do with differences in how dogs and people sweat. When a human is overheated, sweating is the body’s way of assisting in cooling your internal temperature. Water will bead up on the skin’s surface and evaporate, creating a biologically efficient method for cooling core temperature in a hurry. In fact, some people suffer from disorders where they don’t sweat, often leading to life-threatening overheating.
Fido, on the other hand, doesn’t cool down in quite the same way as people do. Dogs do perspire slightly on the pads of their feet, but this is nowhere near the levels of moisture loss as experienced by people when they sweat. Instead, dogs cool off via panting, gulping in big quantities of cooler air into their lungs and expelling warm air/exhaust in a constant cycle. Both sweating and panting cause loss of moisture through evaporation, but there’s a critical difference in that dogs don’t lose the same amount of salts through panting as humans do through sweat. Dogs, therefore, still need adequate amounts of water when they get hot, but not quite as much extras as humans.
Given the different needs of dogs and humans when it comes to hydration, it only makes sense that they wouldn’t quite consume the same types of hydration. As a general rule of thumb, dogs need only water to keep hydrated after a long, warm day of activity outside. Human electrolyte or sports drinks, such as Gatorade, are designed with the needs of people in mind. Salts and minerals that humans use up in their activity are included in these drinks. Giving these to dogs on occasion isn’t harmful, but regular usage can lead to a buildup of excess sodium, salt, or other unnecessary elements. Excess salt can lead to water retention, swelling, and heart rate and blood pressure issues.
For sick dogs, dogs that have diarrhea or have been vomiting or unable to keep food down, electrolyte drinks can be extremely helpful in supporting your pet’s system until they are back to feeling like themselves. If your dog is in need of liquids or replacement for essential nutrients, choose electrolyte drinks designed for infants, such as Pedialyte, which have few added ingredients and are more suitable for your pet’s unique digestive and bodily systems.
Dogs have evolved over many years to function properly off of readily available foods and liquids. Whether on a daily basis or after a hard day’s run, water is typically all your pet needs to get by. Gatorade and other similar electrolyte drinks aren’t harmful to your pet if given on an occasional basis. In addition, electrolyte drinks can be helpful to older, sick, or weak dogs in need of salt and essential minerals to replace something that may be lacking given their condition. So the next time you and your pooch decide to make a day of it on the trails, skip the Gatorade and pack out with regular tap water instead to help keep your dog in optimal, hydrated condition.