dog drinking from bowl in summer heat

Can Dogs Get Seizures from Dehydration?

Posted by Nicole Wanner, D.V.M. on

dog drinking from bowl in summer heat

It's important to be on the lookout for signs of illness in our furry friends, especially during the hot summer months - the risk of dehydration is higher in warm weather.

Unfortunately, this condition can lead to severe or fatal health problems if left untreated. Call the nearest emergency veterinarian immediately if you have concerns about your dog's health or safety.

In this article, we'll answer the question, "Can dehydration cause seizures in dogs?" We'll delve into the dehydration process, common causes, prevention tactics, and more.

What is Dehydration in Dogs?

Like humans and other animals, dogs require a minimum amount of water each day (1). Dehydration occurs when your dog's water intake is inadequate, or they lose more water than they take in.

It may sound like you need to measure your dog's water intake, but don't worry. Healthy dogs will drink enough water on their own. All you have to do is provide your dog with constant, unlimited access to clean drinking water.

Provide more water than you think your dog will need, and bring extra water on outings. Control your dog's activity during hot or humid weather and take frequent water breaks to prevent heatstroke.

Dog sitting near beach in summer

The Dehydration Process in Dogs

Dogs lose water in several ways, including urination, defecation, panting, sweating, and breathing. These types of water loss are normal in healthy dogs. However, dehydration can occur if a dog can't replenish the lost water by drinking.

It can also happen if an underlying disease makes your dog lose more water than usual. Conditions that prevent your dog from retaining the water they drink, such as kidney disease, can also lead to dehydration.

Dehydration in dogs should be taken seriously. If your dog shows signs of dehydration, offer them small amounts of cool or room-temperature water and call your local emergency vet hospital.

But why is severe dehydration life-threatening? Losing too much water causes poor blood circulation and reduced cardiac output. As a result, organs like the heart, kidneys, and liver begin to shut down.

What Causes Dehydration in Dogs?

A variety of factors can lead to dehydration in dogs of all ages (2).

Common potential causes of dehydration in dogs include:

  • Excessive heat/heatstroke
  • Increased athletic activity
  • Persistent vomiting and/or diarrhea (12-24 hours)
  • Repeated seizures or a single seizure lasting over 5 minutes (status epilepticus)
  • Kidney disease
  • Cushing's disease
  • Diabetes
  • Foreign body obstruction (eating toys, clothing, etc.)
  • Parvovirus
  • Intestinal parasites (worms)

Parvovirus and intestinal parasites are generally seen in puppies. Puppies are especially prone to dehydration due to their small size and high activity level. Ensure your puppy receives vaccinations and dewormers appropriate for their age to prevent infectious diseases.

dog drinking from a water bottle in summer

How Long Does It Take a Dog to Become Dehydrated?

The time it takes for a dog to become dehydrated varies significantly depending on the circumstances. Your dog's size, breed, age, and overall health are key factors.

Signs of Dehydration in Dogs

Knowing how to spot dehydration can save your dog's life.

Signs of dehydration in dogs can include:

  • Dry nose
  • Excessive panting
  • Thick, stringy saliva/drool
  • Lack of energy (lethargy)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dry, sticky, dull gums
  • Sunken eyes
  • Decreased skin elasticity (skin pinch test)

To perform the skin pinch test, gently pull up the loose skin on the back of your dog's neck or back. The skin should spring back into place immediately. If it doesn't, your dog may be dehydrated.

In severe cases of dehydration, these signs progressively worsen, and symptoms of shock will appear. Signs of shock include rapid heart rate, weak pulse, seizures, and collapse.

What Can Trigger a Seizure in a Dog?

Various factors can trigger seizures in dogs, including underlying health conditions such as epilepsy, brain tumors, or liver disease (3). Toxins and medication overdoses can also potentially lead to a seizure.

Shock and extreme changes in blood sugar, blood pressure, and hydration status can also cause seizures. But, most seizures occur due to epilepsy, a condition characterized by recurrent seizures in otherwise healthy dogs.

Severe dehydration can potentially trigger a seizure. On the flip side, repeated or prolonged seizures can also result in dehydration due to increased body temperature. If your dog shows signs of dehydration, experiences multiple seizures in 24 hours, or has one seizure lasting more than five minutes, immediately take them to an emergency veterinarian.

Should Dogs Drink Water After a Seizure?

After a seizure, keeping your dog calm and comfortable is helpful. Some dogs return to normal right after the event, while others appear more disoriented.

Your dog may be at an increased risk of choking immediately after the seizure, especially if their behavior is abnormal. However, withholding water for too long can lead to dehydration.

Watch your dog closely after a seizure. Start with small amounts of water, monitor their eating and drinking for signs of choking, and contact your veterinarian if your dog's behavior remains abnormal for an extended period.

dog panting in the summer heat

How Can I Hydrate My Dog at Home?

If your dog is mildly dehydrated, you can try to hydrate them at home by providing plenty of fresh, clean water. Never force your dog to drink water, as this action puts them at risk of choking. Moderate to severe dehydration is a medical emergency that requires immediate veterinary attention.

Similarly, prolonged or repeated seizures are an emergency and cannot be treated at home.

When Should I See a Vet?

If your dog is showing signs of dehydration or has had a seizure, it's essential to seek veterinary attention. Your vet can provide treatment and investigate underlying causes to prevent future episodes.

Conclusion

So, can dehydration cause seizures in dogs? While dehydration can be medically dangerous in dogs, it's not a common cause of seizures. As always, if you're concerned about your dog's well-being, reach out to your veterinarian.

References

  1. https://www.vin.com/apputil/content/defaultadv1.aspx?id=5709752&pid=11372&
  2. https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/hydration
  3. https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/riney-canine-health-center/canine-health-information/managing-seizures

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AUTHOR

Dr. Nicole Wanner graduated from the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine in 2018. Currently, she is an academic research veterinarian studying CBD and DNA. Her research has been published in trusted international research journals. Dr. Wanner is passionate about pet wellness and has professional interests in genetics, behavior, and healthy aging. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and reading sci-fi novels. She shares her home with her husband Evan and their two mischievous rescue cats, Sylvie and Nemo.


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