You know the feeling – On a warm day, after a long walk or run in the park, all you want is a long, cool drink. You can open the fridge and grab a bottle of whatever’s available and quench that thirst. Don’t you think your four-footed friend would like to do the same too? It’s tempting to pour a generous portion of icy cool beverage into the water bowl and let them slurp away. But the burning question is can dogs drink Gatorade or any other energy or sports drinks?
Is soda safe? Would you let them sip from your beer mug? What about milk, coffee, and tea? As a responsible and caring pet parent, you must get the right information to keep your canine companions safe, healthy, and comfortable.
Can Dogs drink Gatorade? Know Your Dog’s Hydration Needs First
Why is water so important to dogs and can dogs drink Gatorade as a replacement for water?
- Hydration is the very basis of life on earth and the primary component of healthy cells in living beings
- Dogs can only survive for about 3-4 days without water
- It helps to ensure that all other functions are in order
- Water leaves the body through panting, urination, stools, and dogs cannot replenish water resources as quickly as humans
- Dehydration can be fatal
- Water helps to maintain optimum body temperature
- Though they don’t sweat all over the body, they can lose water by sweating from certain areas, such as between the paws
- Water helps to move waste matter and toxins from the body
- It promotes digestion, breaks down the food to speed up absorption
- Promotes general health of all the systems
When we talk about water, we could also include other liquids or foods with high water content. Apart from plain water, you can also give your dog its water quota through home-cooked foods or canned wet foods.
If you’re feeding dry kibble daily, it’s important to ensure that there’s a regular supply of fresh, clean water available throughout the day.
Before we get into the realm of special beverages, it’s important to know just how much water the average dog requires.
Most of us assume that their water needs are based on their size and activity level. While this is the thumb rule, experts and vets opine that dogs and cats may also need water according to how their bodies cool down.
Dogs don’t lose electrolytes the way humans do when we sweat. They pant to cool down, which doesn’t result in as much electrolyte loss as sweating. Electrolyte replacement drinks are not an immediate requirement for thirsty and tired dogs.
Another aspect to remember is that dogs tend to be messy when they drink, and whether it’s from the bowl or a faucet, their drinking behavior is all over the place.
That makes it hard to evaluate how much they’ve taken in. It’s also difficult to tell at a glance whether your dog is getting dehydrated, especially if they’re panting hard and they look like they have a big wide smile on their face!
But when you calculate according to weight, you can estimate about an ounce of fluid per pound of bodyweight, which would be a little more than a cup of water a day.
When she’s pregnant or lactating, your doggy may need more, and puppies who get their hydration from mother’s milk may not need much until they are weaned. At this point, they would need at least half a cup every two hours.
How To Tell If Your Dog is Dehydrated and Can Dogs Drink Gatorade?
Several factors could cause canine dehydration. If your dog doesn’t get access to sufficient amounts of clean water or simply doesn’t drink enough, it can result in dehydration.
If you’re out of the house for extended periods during the day, you need to make sure that your pets have access to plenty of clean drinking water.
Attacks of diarrhea, vomiting, fever, heat-stroke can cause sudden dehydration. Dehydration can also be the symptom of an underlying disease or condition such as kidney disease, diabetes, or certain cancers.
Senior dogs, puppies, nursing mother dogs, and some toy dog breeds tend to drink less water as a rule, and they risk getting dehydrated very quickly.
A quick, reliable test of dehydration in dogs is the pinch test. Grab a bit of their coat and pinch it upwards and release. If it settles back smoothly immediately, the doggy is sufficiently hydrated.
When the skin doesn’t bounce back into place immediately and loses its elasticity, it signals dangerous levels of dehydration.
Observe whether your dog pants a lot and is lethargic and listless. A dry nose, dry and sticky mouth and gums, sunken and dry eyes, thick ropy saliva, continuous panting, and loss of appetite can be other signals of dangerous dehydration.
While water is the best remedy, in many cases, it may not work as quickly as you’d like to replace lost electrolytes and minerals.
In such cases, a fortified drink such as Gatorade diluted and in small quantities which have added electrolytes and minerals or other oral rehydration therapy drink designed for dogs would be the right option.
Can Your Dog Have Other Drinks, and Can Dogs Drink Gatorade?
As a pet parent, you’re probably someone who stays in sync with what’s new in the market for your pets. Like us humans, dogs are also adventurous eaters and drinkers.
You could even say they are gourmands rather than gourmets when ingesting anything that looks, smells, or tastes interesting. While this can get them into a lot of trouble, it’s important to remember that they enjoy new food and drink experiences.
However, some flavors of Gatorade, such as lime and lemon, have a tart and sharp taste due to their high citric acid content. Your dog may avoid these drinks if they have a citrusy flavor and smell.
As newborn puppies, they live exclusively on mother’s milk for the first month or two of life. As they’re weaned, their ability to process other milk gets reduced, and most dogs become lactose intolerant, though they will lap it up if it’s given. Their calcium and protein requirements should be met in their food rather than milk.
Some irresponsible pet parents may find it amusing to get their dogs drunk on alcohol or wine. The truth is that dogs can suffer lifelong disability due to ethanol toxicity that causes lung impairment, heart damage, and motor impairment. Grapes and hops, ingredients found in alcoholic drinks, are themselves toxic for dogs.
Other no-no’s for your pet include coffee, tea, and caffeinated drinks. Fresh juices in small quantities can be given occasionally.
Still, if they’re packaged products, they may contain excessive sugars, preservatives, artificial colors, flavor enhancers, and a host of other additives that will certainly not be beneficial.
Relatively safer drinks would include:
- Fresh vegetable juices or extracts made from spinach, kale, beetroot, celery, and carrot are safe, but ensure that you steam or boil them before you juice them.
- Fresh coconut water has minerals and electrolytes and is safe for your dog to drink.
- If your dog isn’t allergic to nuts, you can give nut milk made from almonds, soy, or coconut.
- Dogs can also replenish their water content with beef or chicken broth without salt or other additives.
- Probiotics are the new buzzword in diets for humans, so your dog may be able to tolerate probiotic drinks such as kefir. This is a fermented drink made from goat’s milk or coconut milk.
As a rule, it’s wise to avoid anything with added sugar, preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, caffeine, cow’s milk, soda, and citrus.
Today, there are special drinks formulated for dogs, and they have fancy names such as “Dog Beer,” “Dog Tea,” herbal drinks, alcohol-free wine, prosecco, and more.
While these products are undoubtedly interesting before you let your dog quaff them, ensure that they don’t contain harmful ingredients and have been thoroughly tested before they’re up there on the supermarket shelves.
A Brief Product Overview
Before we examine the pros and cons of allowing your dog to drink Gatorade, let’s get to know exactly what it is.
Gatorade is a branded, non-carbonated sports drink manufactured under an American brand of the same name. The drink was originally formulated for the Florida Gators to replace the water and electrolytes they lost after strenuous sports. The company also makes other beverages and food products.
Electrolytes are essential minerals present in your body, and they include sodium, potassium, magnesium, and chloride in their natural form.
They can be lost due to excessive heat and sweating, diseases such as diarrhea, or bouts of vomiting where huge amounts of water are lost, and the body suffers dehydration.
Electrolytes serve an important function in our body. They balance the pH levels in the body and maintain the equality of acid and alkali.
Electrolytes help move nutrients into the cells so that health and growth happen. They also help to regulate neural functions and facilitate muscle function.
Gatorade is also designed specifically to replace essential carbohydrates expended or lost when we exercise. In Gatorade, the carbs are available in simple sugars that are very quickly absorbed, such as dextrose.
Today, the brand is owned by the food and beverage giant PepsiCo.
The original product was formulated based on the traditional ORT (oral rehydration therapy) and was a mixture of salt, sugar, and water with citrus flavoring and coloring.
This is now known as Gatorade G and comes in other flavors and colors such as grape, lime and lemon, and fruit punch.
There are different products under the Gatorade label, such as Thirst Quencher, Gatorade AM, X-Factor, Fierce, G2, Flow, G-Zero, Frost, Zero with Protein, and more. You can also get cucumber and lime flavor.
Studies have shown that a 20z bottle of regular Gatorade contains 8 teaspoons of sugar. This is intended to replace the carbohydrates lost during exercise.
Can Dogs Drink Gatorade, and Is it Recommended For Everyone?
Energy drinks and sports beverages are very popular with kids of all ages. It is also popular with athletes and sportspersons. It was originally designed as a suitable product for strenuous and long-duration vigorous activities. That is why it contains mainly electrolytes and sugar.
Studies conducted at UCLA Berkeley report that consuming sugary drinks in childhood contributes to obesity in adulthood and chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
For most ordinary people, drinks that contain high amounts of sugar and sodium are not strictly necessary, and the high-calorie intake can be harmful.
The lower-calorie versions of Gatorade, such as the G and G2 series, contain artificial sweeteners that can lead to weight gain when consumed regularly.
Sports drinks may also contain chemical preservatives, dyes, and flavoring agents. Some studies have flagged links between such products and hyperactivity and risk of cancer through the excessive consumption of drinks that contain these chemical agents. Tooth decay is another risk with highly sweetened drinks.
Gatorade can replace electrolytes but not in cases where they’re lost due to diarrhea because the high sugar content can worsen the condition.
There is certainly a need to replace lost minerals and electrolytes if you exercise heavily and sweat a lot. Athletes can benefit hugely from instant replenishment of sugars, sodium, and potassium, whether adults or children.
But unless you’ve been exercising continuously and strenuously for more than an hour, you wouldn’t require the replenishment immediately. For anything less than an hour, plain water would do just as well.
The main takeaway from all this research is that Gatorade is great as an occasional drink for non-athletic people. It is not of much nutritional value, and the high sugar and sodium levels can be harmful in the long run.
Keeping these factors in mind, we can conclude that Gatorade, designed for human metabolism, would not be the regular drink of choice for your canine companion. However, it’s not deemed unsafe or toxic for them.
Understanding Dog Physiology and Metabolism
It’s essential to understand dog physiology and metabolism before we get into the question of sports drinks and safety.
Though both dogs and humans are omnivorous, canine digestive systems are not the same as human systems:
- Their saliva doesn’t contain the digestive enzyme amylase.
- Their stomachs produce 100 times the amount of acid compared to humans. This helps to quickly digest meat proteins, bones, and gristle.
- Their digestive tracts are the smallest and shortest of any other living mammal.
- Digestion is completed in 8 hours.
- If they need to take nutritional supplements, these must be delivered through a protein-based delivery system. Otherwise, they will simply be excreted.
Sweating mechanisms also differ in dogs and humans. Humans sweat all over the skin, and perspiration creates a cooling effect through evaporation. Dogs perspire only on the pads of their feet, and it doesn’t contribute much to the cooling-off effect on the body. Instead, they cool by gasping, panting, and taking in large amounts of cool air into the lungs.
This is a constant cycle where hot air is expelled, and cool air is taken in. That is why dogs cannot lose the same amount of electrolytes and salts through sweating as humans do. However, water helps to cool and rehydrate the dog’s overheated and dehydrated system, just as it does for humans.
The whole family has to be educated on the important aspects of dog digestion and what is safe and unsafe for your doggy friend. Parents and children are often tempted to feed dogs at the table during family meals.
Kids often slip things they hate to eat under the table to a waiting dog that’s ever willing to swallow anything that’s offered. However, these practices can seriously harm your pet and cause immediate and long-term reactions.
Can Dogs Drink Gatorade Safely?
A thorough understanding of your pet’s internal systems and how they’re different from yours can help your dog live a longer, healthier, and more joyful life.
Just keep in mind that Gatorade was “born in a lab.” This could mean that it is designed to solve a specific issue – dehydration – and that it is not a natural product.
So when you’re faced with the question, Can my dog drink Gatorade, the answer isn’t a straight, black and white yes or no.
It would be a nuanced yes, with several caveats and conditions. Pet parents often think that what’s good for them would also be good for their dog. But this is a misconception and not the right way to approach canine health.
Fortified drinks are usually given only to traveling/racing dogs such as greyhounds, working dogs, nursing female dogs, or dogs that suffer from severe dehydration.
When you consider giving your pooch a drink of Gatorade, know that:
- Gatorade, when introduced in small quantities, is perfectly safe for your dog
- In general, vets would not recommend sports drinks for young puppies.
- The main reason vets may advise Gatorade is when your dog suffers from diarrhea.
- This is to quickly replace lost electrolytes and ensure rehydration.
- Many pet parents think that their dog’s level of activity could be a reason for them to drink Gatorade. However, artificial drinks are no substitute for water.
- It’s not a big deal to allow your furry friend to have a sip or two of Gatorade. But when you make this a regular habit and substitute it for water, problems can start.
- Dog’s body size and weight are much less than that of humans. The ingredients in human packaged foods and drinks are added according to our body requirements and not that of a dog’s
- Several chemical ingredients and additives are present in Gatorade, such as monopotassium phosphate and sugars such as dextrose and sucrose.
- Dogs’ digestive systems cannot process large amounts of salts and chemicals. Their organs are smaller than ours and may take longer to process additives.
- Excess consumption of salts and sugars leads to a build-up of these elements and can cause swelling, cramps, water retention, heart rate, and blood pressure spikes.
- Older and weaker dogs can benefit from carefully measured servings of Gatorade till they recover. More frequent use can damage the kidneys, cause kidney stones and frequent infections.
How Can Dogs Drink Gatorade Safely?
Discuss it with your vet before you offer doggy a drink of Gatorade or any other drink that’s designed for humans.
If you do feel that Gatorade is a good option, you can dilute it in the ratio of 1:1 or 1:2. You can also freeze this mixture and drop a cube occasionally into their water bowl.
Never fully fill up the bowl with the drink because it can cause tummy upsets and vomiting.
Another tip is to introduce it very gradually and never give more than a quarter of a cupful at a time.
Avoid giving Gatorade daily, and if possible, don’t drink it when your dog is around!
Find a flavor that your dog likes by experimenting with different ones. You can give grape flavor safely because it is an artificial flavor, and the drink doesn’t have any natural grape content.
If your dog is recovering from surgery or has recently whelped, Gatorade can be a good appetite restorative and quickly replace lost electrolytes. It is a good booster but not a cure-all for every health condition.
Before you give your dog a sip of Gatorade, make sure you have all the information about their health status, dietary restrictions, age, and food habits. Like self-medication in humans, it can be harmful when not monitored carefully by trained professionals.
Whenever you give doggy a drink of Gatorade, make sure that you watch them carefully for an hour or two. If you notice any unusual behavior or negative effects, call your vet immediately.
Whenever you give your dog any food or drink other than its regular natural and familiar diet, it’s wise to check the labels for harmful ingredients and additives, chemical flavorings, and coloring.
In conclusion, it’s safe to say that Gatorade is safe for your dog to drink. But that comes with a big caveat: Gatorade in moderation, preferably diluted, and introduced in very small quantities, and only after clearing its use with your vet.