Water: The Most Essential Forgotten Nutrient
Water is a building block of the body that carries nutrients, removes wastes, and enables thermoregulation. It acts as a lubricant for joints and a shock absorber for bodies in motion. Dehydration related to heat stress is one of the most common preventable causes of death in dogs. Dogs lose water when they dissipate heat and therefore require water to maintain performance when exercising. Many common canine health problems also result in a loss of not only water but also electrolytes. Water is essential for the biochemistry that makes life possible and yet, remains one of the most overlooked nutrients.
Why? Water is boring.
We and our canine best friends can get by on water alone, there is a mechanism in the body that facilitates the absorption of water when given with electrolytes or sugars. This can address a physiological need produced by the water loss of exercise-related heat dissipation or diseases that cause water and electrolyte loss. Not only that, but oral electrolyte solutions can make water taste better, so that you and your dog drink more of it. Better hydration means better health.
Dogs are not little humans
Although dogs are also warm-blooded mammals who capitalize on evaporative cooling to thermoregulate when hitting the trail on a hot day, they do not have the same physiology as we humans. We lose a lot of water and sodium when we sweat, but dogs—when panting to cool off—only lose water. Recent studies show that oral electrolyte solutions increase water intake and promote recovery in exercising and working dogs. You have your favorite electrolyte drink for rehydrating, but it was not made for dogs and is too high in sodium for their canine needs.
The whitepaper “The Basics of Canine Hydration: What Healthy Dogs Need and Why” provides an overview of key species differences in water regulation and physiology. It provides an updated look at the current science of hydration across multiple fields including canine sports medicine, nutrition, internal medicine, and critical care. Dog research, understandably, does not attract as much funding as human research; however, data from the available studies is reviewed. The article will help you better understand the theoretical basis of the benefits of oral electrolyte solutions for dogs.