Can I Give My Dog Gatorade?
There could be horror novels written about the things that dogs will willfully (even eagerly) eat, but oftentimes their owners—their loving human parents—are mortified to discover that their beloved pets have eaten something they consider less than healthy. Though our ancestors were content to feed their dogs just about anything they could eat without dying, times have changed. We are aware now more than ever of the impact that nutrition has on our own health and the health of our dogs, and many of us are extremely cautious with the food and drink we offer our pets. When our pets are healthy, it’s easy to rely on foods specifically formulated for their health. But what happens when they’re sick and in need of easy calories?
When we are dealing with dehydration or stomach problems, many of us turn to sports drinks like Gatorade. But is this a good idea for our canine companions? Can dogs have Gatorade?
The answer is yes, but only in situations where they need the calories and electrolytes. Gatorade is not at all poisonous to dogs, but if you want to give it to them only for pleasure, it would be better to stick with water. Your dog should drink sports beverages only under special circumstances, such as when they are dealing with prolonged vomiting, diarrhea, or heatstroke, refusing to eat solid foods, or recovering from illness or injury. Gatorade should be used for the purpose of hydrating your dog and replenishing their depleted electrolytes. It should not be used as a treat or a beverage consumed on a daily basis.
So, why would you ever want to give your dog Gatorade? This sports drink and others like it are designed to help athletes recover from intense or prolonged exercise, which can leave them dehydrated, depleted, and low on important electrolytes. Like exercise, certain illnesses or injuries can leave your dog’s body low on fluid and out of balance. In addition to the water and electrolytes, Gatorade provides a quick, easy source of energy to keep the body going in times of stress.
When your dog is having difficulty with solid foods, Gatorade can be an excellent way to get some calories into their fatigued bodies with minimal difficulty. The calories in Gatorade are almost pure sugar, which means that there is little difficulty in digestion and absorption. While sugar, in most circumstances, is nutritionally empty junk food, it can provide much-needed calories when your dog is refusing solids and running on fumes. Your dog’s immune system needs energy to fight off whatever bug is ailing them, after all. Plus, if your dog is having trouble eating solid foods, it’s unlikely they will be able to take in enough liquid calories to result in unhealthy weight gain.
The electrolytes in Gatorade are crucial to staying as healthy as possible, too. Prolonged vomiting or diarrhea, as well as other conditions that result in dehydration, often deplete the body’s electrolyte supplies. Sports drinks are formulated to replace many of the electrolytes lost during exercise, which will help keep your dog’s body in balance. Electrolyte imbalances can cause a wide variety of problems, ranging from simple dizziness and fatigue all the way to labored breathing, lethargy, heart problems, and even seizures. If your dog is demonstrating any of these symptoms, take them to the vet’s office immediately—they probably need more than a little Gatorade to get healthy again.
Things to Keep in Mind
Though Gatorade may be helpful to dogs struggling with dehydration, it is not a good idea to give your healthy dog sports drinks on a regular basis. These beverages are very high in empty liquid calories in the form of sugar, which means it is very easy for them to consume too much, gain weight, and wind up overweight or obese. Obese dogs are much more likely to suffer from cancer, diabetes, and arthritis. In addition, dogs who get a taste for sugar tend to get ‘spoiled’. If you get your dog used to Gatorade, they might start rejecting water!
Another reason you should refrain from giving your healthy dog Gatorade is the same reason why it is helpful to sick dogs: electrolytes. Sports drinks contain a lot of sodium, which, over the long term, may throw your dog’s sodium levels out of whack. Too much sodium in the blood is a condition called hypernatremia, which can cause extreme thirst, confusion, stumbling, vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures. Left untreated, it can be fatal.
In the end, it is only a good idea to give your dog Gatorade if they are ill or injured and in desperate need of the easy calories and electrolytes. Your healthy dog should not drink sports drinks regularly, as doing so may contribute to weight gain and increase their risk of hypernatremia. If you decide to give your sick dog Gatorade, dilute it with water and monitor them carefully. If their symptoms worsen, take them to see the vet.