Running With Your Dog: Tips For Hydration

Life-giving water is the single most important nutrient for humans and dogs alike. If you’re an athlete, you’re already keenly aware of this; your canine running companion is, too. Staying hydrated is imperative when you’re running with your dog, and so is recognizing when she’s thirsty. If your dog is ready to start running with you, realize that she depends on you for breaks; learn the signs of dehydration and other medical emergencies before you go, and listen carefully to what your dog is telling you.

1. How often should my dog drink?

Before, during, and after a run: whenever you take a drink of water, you should also give your dog an opportunity to drink. Know your run; if it’s a quick 5K, you may not routinely take along bottled water, and most likely your dog will be okay waiting ‘til you get home, too. Longer distances demand you bring it; consider a collapsible portable dog bowl, designed for travel, if your workout buddy won’t drink from a water bottle. And avoid puddles, which harbor toxins and contaminants she should not ingest.

2. How much should my dog drink?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, but here is a simple way to calculate: your dog needs about ½ to 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight. So if she’s a 65-pound Lab, for example, she needs 36 to 65 ounces of water every day. Use common sense: if you’re running with her on a hot day, she’ll need more.

3. How to get your dog to drink water

You can lead a dog to water, but some dogs are reluctant or unwilling to drink it. Here are three ways to encourage your dog to drink more water:

  • Drop a treat in the water bowl and say the word “drink” when she goes for it; she’ll soon associate the word with the action.
  • Drop ice cubes into her water bowl; “fishing” for the cubes will oblige her to drink some water.
  • Add a little beef bouillon to the water—this one works like a charm.

Eventually you can phase out the treat, or only use it only on occasion. And for extra fun, play a game with the hose or a sprinkler—some dogs like to “catch” the water; the yield is small, but something is better than nothing in a pinch. Also try giving your dog a water bottle with the lid only partially closed—attempting to get the water out is a joyous challenge, and she’ll drink some of it in the process.

Whoa there, little doggie: slow down! If she chugs after a run it’s all likely to come back up. Help her take in water a little at a time, even when she is very hot and thirsty.

What Are The Signs Of Dehydration In Dogs?

The signs of dehydration in a dog are easy to spot when you know what to look for. Keep in mind, a dry nose might mean your dog is thirsty, but her nose fluctuates between wet and dry during the course of any day, so it could mean nothing. Conversely, a dog with a wet sniffer can be dehydrated. There are better benchmarks:

  • Pinch her: grasp the skin on the back of her neck with two fingers. If it snaps back into place, she’s properly hydrated. If it stays wrinkled, she needs water, stat.
  • Stick your fingers in her mouth: run them over her gums—if they’re slimy, she’s hydrated.
  • Poke her gums: check the capillary refill in them. First find the base refill time. Choose a moment when you know she is hydrated; press your fingers firmly against her gums until the tissue goes white, and then time how long it takes for them to become pink again. This is the baseline against which you can now measure for dehydration. If it takes longer than this for color to return to her gums, your dog needs a drink.

Sunken eyes, loss of appetite, lethargy, and depression can also be signs of serious dehydration in your dog; if you observe these symptoms seek the help of a veterinarian immediately.

Better Safe Than Sorry: Enjoy Running With Your Dog

By all means, run with your dog—she’s the best personal trainer you’ll ever have. But keep her safe to prolong her running life, and use common sense:

  • Check the weather: if it’s in the 80s and humid, it’s probably too hot for most dogs.
  • Check the pavement: press your palm against it for five seconds. If it’s too hot for you to touch, it’s also too hot for your dog’s pads.
  • Time your run wisely; choose mornings or evenings when it’s cooler.
  • Choose shady running routes.
  • Take frequent water breaks.

Stay home if it’s too hot to trot. But when the conditions are right, hit the road or trail: you’ll discover there are few moments in life more rewarding than running with your dog.

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