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Health & Wellness

Pedialyte for dogs: Is it safe and how does it work?

It’s not a good option for your pup.

When dehydrated, our bodies lose important fluids and minerals, like sodium, potassium and calcium — especially if that dehydration causes diarrhea and vomiting. Drinking Pedialyte, an electrolyte solution made for people, can help combat dehydration. But can it help dehydrated dogs, too?

Dr. Wendy Mandese, DVM is a clinical assistant professor and course coordinator at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, and is walking us through whether or not Pedialyte is safe for and beneficial to dogs.

Is Pedialyte safe for dogs?

First and foremost, the most important thing to consider is if Pedialyte is even safe for dogs. The answer is, well, not really, says Dr. Mandese. 

“While Pedialyte in small amounts is likely not dangerous for dogs, the electrolytes in the drink are formulated for humans, not animals,” Dr. Mandese points out. “In larger amounts, the high concentration of additives, such as sodium and glucose, could potentially be dangerous, especially in smaller animals.”

If there were ever a situation where you chose to give your dog Pedialyte (although we highly suggest against it!), it would be vital to only use the unflavored variety. Pedialyte comes in all kinds of fun flavors for humans, which can help make it more palatable for children. Those flavors have all kinds of additives that make them unsafe for pups. It would also be important to only give your pup a very small amount of Pedialyte — just make sure to give your vet a call first, especially because your dog’s size and health status plays a role in how harmful Pedialyte might be for them. 

Really, though, the main takeaway is that Pedialyte is not recommended for your dog in any case. It’s too big a safety risk, all for something that is likely not effective. No published studies validate Pedialyte’s effectiveness in dogs. How it works and how safe it is is based on the fact that Pedialyte is made for the needs of children. Dogs don’t need as much sodium as Pedialyte has, for one thing. So, really, Pedialyte will never be a good choice compared to simple water.

How do I know if my dog needs Pedialyte?

Pedialyte is definitely not the recommended course of action for a dehydrated dog — water is what you should give your best friend in this case. But, let’s talk a little bit about dehydration in dogs. How do we know if our dogs are dehydrated?

“Signs of dehydration can include lethargy, tacky gums, sunken eyes and loss of skin elasticity,” Dr. Mandese says. “However, these are all signs of severe dehydration, and ideally, your pet would be evaluated before dehydration has become this severe.”

Your dog may become dehydrated from not having enough access to water, and in particular, not having enough access to water on hot days and/or during and after lots of activity. They also might become dehydrated after some vomiting or diarrhea from anxiety, like if they are boarding somewhere. However, even these causes and any others are reasons to have your dog evaluated by your vet. 

“It is very important to have your veterinarian determine the cause of your dog’s diarrhea and/or vomiting,” Dr. Mandese says. “While viral gastroenteritis (aka the ‘stomach bug’) is common in humans, it is very uncommon in dogs. Viral causes of GI [or gastrointestinal] issues in dogs include serious illnesses such as canine parvovirus (CPV or ‘parvo’) and distemper, which can be life threatening. Other causes include foreign body ingestion, dietary indiscretion or systemic illness. At a minimum, you should call your veterinarian and ask about your dog’s GI signs and discuss a plan that could range from offering a bland diet to an emergency evaluation.”

Whether your dog’s GI signs are minor or more serious and the symptoms of a larger issue — which your vet will determine — the resulting dehydration still isn’t something that Pedialyte would help. 

“Especially when vomiting occurs, oral replacements of any kind are likely to be ineffective and many animals need IV fluids to recover,” Dr. Mandese explains.

In addition to these gastrointestinal issues, Dr. Mandese adds, dehydration can be caused by other conditions like kidney disease, diabetes, hyperthermia and other systemic illnesses. So, a visit to your vet as quickly as possible is always the answer.

RELATED: Why is my dog throwing up yellow

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Does Pedialyte actually work for dogs?

Again, no studies establish that Pedialyte positively affects dogs. It is formulated for the human body, especially children, and there are differences in the nutrients we need versus those that our furry friends need. For example, we need the sodium in Pedialyte when dehydrated, while those amounts of sodium could harm dogs. And the main benefit of Pedialyte, its electrolytes, is a moot point for pups.

“In humans, Pedialyte and other similar drinks are used to replace water and electrolytes when they are lost from causes such as vomiting, diarrhea or heavy exercise,” Dr. Mandese says. “Because dogs don’t lose the same proportion of electrolytes after exercise (they do not sweat), the best thing to offer them is water.”

Can my dog have a bad reaction to Pedialyte?

Unfortunately, yes, dogs can react negatively to Pedialyte. This would probably include increased or continued vomiting. If you give your dog Pedialyte and this happens, contact your vet immediately. Some dogs should especially steer clear of Pedialyte — they include: 

  • Puppies with parvovirus (they need immediate veterinary attention)
  • Dogs with diabetes (Pedialyte’s sugar content is too high)
  • Dogs in congestive heart failure (Pedialyte’s sodium levels could lead to fluid retention and a worsening of the disease)

However, remember that really no dogs should get Pedialyte or would benefit from it, especially compared to the always safe and helpful water.

How can I make sure my dog doesn’t get dehydrated?

Water is really always the answer. Of course, as Dr. Mandese notes, dehydration can be the sign of a more severe issue, and so should always be checked by your vet. But to keep your healthy dog hydrated, it’s as simple as water.

“Dogs should have free access to fresh water at all times,” Dr. Mandese says. “A healthy dog will be able to maintain their hydration with free access to water. Any evidence of dehydration warrants a visit to your veterinarian to determine the cause and treatment options.”

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Photo by Treddy Chen on Unsplash

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