Is Pedialyte good for dogs? That depends. As a former veterinary technician, I often get asked about which home remedies can be given to our dogs. Many times, prompt home treatment can help avoid a costly vet visit, saving you money and getting your dog back to normal faster than waiting for an appointment. That said, using home remedies in place of veterinary care can have its drawbacks.
Is Pedialyte Safe For Dogs?
This is a more complicated question that it seems. A better question might be “is Pedialyte safe for dogs?” The quick answer is yes, unflavored Pedialyte is safe to give a dog, although some dogs will not drink it on their own.
The real question is why do you think your dog needs Pedialyte? Are they dehydrated? WHY are they dehydrated?
Most of the time, people get concerned about dehydration when their dog has a bout of vomiting and/or diarrhea.
In some situations, Pedialyte can certainly help a sick dog. But I have seen the use of Pedialyte in dogs go awry. I’m going to advise that if you think your dog needs Pedialyte, you should really get a veterinarian to take a look at things before you start in on home treatments.
What is Pedialyte?
Pedialyte is an oral rehydration solution, made up from a combination of liquid, salts and sugars that combat the effects of dehydration. It comes in flavored and unflavored versions. I definitely recommend getting the unflavored version for use in animals.
Dehydration in Dogs is No Joke
Dehydration is no joke in humans or animals. Not only does dehydration mean that an animal doesn’t have enough fluids in their body, it also means that their balance of salts, called electrolytes, is off as well.
Without the proper levels of sodium, potassium and magnesium in their bodies, nothing works as it should. Improper electrolyte balance can cause a dog to appear weak and lethargic, and leads to heart arrhythmias, kidney damage and even neurological deterioration.
How Dehydration is Treated in Dogs
The primary treatment for a dehydrated dog is hospitalization with fluid therapy, and close attention to monitoring any electrolyte imbalance. For mild dehydration, often some fluids given under the skin (sub Q) is all that is needed. If your dog is vomiting up fluids, then Pedialyte isn’t going to help the situation.
Only in the very earliest stages of dehydration would Pedialyte be helpful or appropriate, and only if the primary reason for the dehydration is known and being treated. The problem is, by the time your dog is showing signs of dehydration, things have already gone too far to safely give them Pedialyte as a treatment.
If your dog is showing signs of dehydration, go to your vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment. Once they have assessed your dog, your vet can advise you if you are still in the safe zone for using Pedialyte. Or they can recommend more aggressive treatments.
Signs of Dehydration in Dogs
- Loss of appetite
- Sunken appearance of the eyes
- Loss of skin elasticity
- Dry nose and gums
Should I Give My Dog Pedialyte?
If your dog is vomiting and/or has diarrhea, you could certainly try giving them unflavored Pedialyte to prevent any dehydration. It may or may not help, but probably won’t hurt. If your dog has had vomiting/diarrhea for more than a day, get a vet check. Read “Home Treatment Goes Wrong” below.
Vomiting and diarrhea are probably one of the most common reasons for people to make urgent vet appointments. It is also normal for many of us to wait a bit on these symptoms before heading to the vet. Honestly, if I brought my fur kids to the vet every time they had a single bout of digestive troubles, I’d be bringing someone in every week!
That said, sometimes vomiting and diarrhea signal a serious, life threatening problem.
This is a rough guideline to help you judge when you need to see a vet either immediately or urgently (appointment within 12-24 hours) for digestive symptoms. This is not a comprehensive list. When in doubt, go to the vet!
When to Go to the Vet for Vomiting/Diarrhea
- Go ASAP if your dog is trying to vomit but nothing is coming up. This is an emergency!
- Go ASAP if your dog can not hold down any water or food (vomits immediately after or within a few minutes of eating/drinking).
- Go ASAP if your dog is passing black, tarry-looking stools.
- Go to the vet urgently if your dog can not hold down any food for a 24 hour period, even if they are able to keep water down.
- Go to the vet urgently if you dog is eating/drinking but then vomiting within a few hours of eating/drinking.
- Go to the vet urgently if your dog has had watery stools (but not black, tarry stools) for more than 3 days with no other symptoms.
- Go to the vet urgently if you know your dog ate something they shouldn’t and now they are vomiting!
Home Treatment Goes Wrong
While you can certainly try to treat an upset stomach at home for a few days with a bland diet and Pedialyte if the symptoms are mild, waiting to seek veterinary care when the symptoms are serious is a really, really bad idea. I won’t sugar coat it. I have seen dogs die from waiting too long to get veterinary care for vomiting and diarrhea.
One case I remember well, and will share with you as an example (all identifiers have been changed to protect privacy). Cody was a 2 year old lab mix with no known health problems. The owner brought Cody in for an upset stomach that was not getting better with home treatment.
Case Study: Cody the Lab Mix
When I checked them into the room I immediately saw that Cody was severely dehydrated. He was weak and could barely walk. His eyes had sunken deep within his skull. His gums were tacky and very pale (anemic). His temperature was elevated at 101.4. He was also 25 pounds lighter than he had been at his previous visit 8 months earlier.
Upon taking a history, I was told that Cody had been vomiting food and water for 5 days. At first, he would eat and then vomit within a few hours. The owner tried treating with a rice and meat bland diet and was giving unflavored Pedialyte to combat dehydration.
By day 3, Cody no longer ate or drank anything on his own. His owner kept trying to force feed him, and used a syringe to make him drink the Pedialyte. Cody could not hold down any of this food, and likely very little of the fluids. He was passing a little yellow diarrhea, but hadn’t had a real bowel movement since before he was sick.
I pressed Cody’s owner for a few more details. It turns out that the owner suspected that Cody had gotten into some garbage the weekend before the symptoms started. They had not brought him in right away because there were major financial constraints. The owner could not afford diagnostics, hospitalization or any extensive treatments.
Veterinarian Joins the Conversation
I gave all this information to the veterinarian and he joined me in the room. Unfortunately, his physical exam confirmed my unvoiced fears.
Cody was extremely sick. He was severely dehydrated, anemic and was showing signs that he was becoming septic (had an infection throughout his entire body). The vet believed he could feel something that didn’t belong somewhere in the intestinal tract. With the history of garbage eating, he suspected Cody had a foreign body blocking his small intestines.
Cody needed immediate hospitalization, exploratory surgery to remove the object and any damaged tissues, and extensive care if there was any chance at recovery. The veterinarian was honest about Cody’s chances, though. Too much time had passed for a good outcome to be likely, even with expensive and extensive treatment. With immediate care, Cody had less than a 25% chance of pulling through.
No Options Left for Cody
It was a moot point, however. Cody’s owner could not afford any of the treatment options. He ended up declining all treatment, and took Cody home to think about things. The next day, he asked us to euthanize Cody for him. Even to afford this he had to borrow money from his employer.
Cody’s Owner Was Not a Bad Owner!
Cody’s owner loved him dearly! He did the best he could in dire circumstances. He read a lot of articles online when Cody was first sick, and did everything he could to treat him at home.
He didn’t understand that the symptoms were much more serious than just an upset stomach. He didn’t know that the window to treat a foreign body was limited. And he didn’t know that Cody HAD a foreign body.
Also, given his financial situation, he had very few options he could afford. By the time he brought Cody into the clinic, it was already too late to save him.
Pedialyte For Dogs- Conclusion
For minor stomach problems, you can certainly give your dog unflavored Pedialyte if you want to. Pedialyte is safe for use in dogs. However, be sure you know what you are treating for. It is easy to think the problems is one thing, when it is something completely different.
If your dog is sick for more than a day or two, get a veterinarian’s opinion. Don’t mess around. Better to spend the money and be told things are heading in the right direction than to find yourself in the situation Cody’s owner found himself.
Again, this isn’t about being a good owner vs being a bad one. The sooner you know what you are up against, the better chance you have of finding a solution before your options run out.
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Jen Clifford has a B.A. in Biology from Reed College. She was a field biologist for several years, and then spent 10 years working in veterinary medicine as a receptionist and technician. Jen is currently a freelance writer living in the Pacific Northwest with her tribe of pets. She is a passionate animal lover who is dedicated to helping people find solutions to their pet-related challenges.
You can find more of her work at her website https://MyWickedTribe.com.