Gatorade is one of the most time-tested, popular hydration beverages on the market today. The beverage, which comes in many fruity flavors, increases endurance and quenches thirst to make athletic performance and exercise more effective. It is a staple for athletes and avid gym enthusiasts who need to pick themselves up and replenish key nutrients after they sweat through strenuous workouts. Some people just love the taste of Gatorade and drink it even if they are not competing athletically or working out.
Many people also swear by Gatorade as an essential element of recovery from the flu, vomiting, and diarrhea. All those conditions devour the body’s water content and leave sufferers feeling parched. Dehydrated bodies do not perform well. Lose enough water and you are left fatigued and achy at best, or constipated and seriously ill at worst. While we know Gatorade is a great thirst quencher and energy booster for people, is it safe for our dogs to drink as well? We all have trouble resisting their puppy dog eyes when they linger at the dinner table or follow us to the refrigerator in hopes of a treat. It would seem it could not hurt to let them lap up a bowl of Gatorade after their daily walks and runs.
Most foods we eat can be enjoyed by our dogs, too. They will gladly nosh on what’s left of the burgers, sandwiches, pizza slices and more we leave behind. Gatorade may be fine as well, but certainly in moderation and never as a solution to a serious medical problem. There are many reasons why people may give Gatorade to their dogs.
- It breaks the monotony of water.
- My dog vomited.
- My dog’s energy is low.
- We are out running and I only have my Gatorade to give my dog.
- I want to give my dog a treat.
Here are some things to consider about the Gatorade your dog may be drinking.
Pros of Gatorade
Gatorade attacks the underlying problem thirst signals we have: loss of essential electrolytes like sodium and potassium. Gatorade’s thirst quencher formulation contains 160mg of sodium and 45mg of potassium per 8 ounce serving. While high sodium content in foods is unhealthy, the body needs some sodium for proper fluid balance and organ functioning. Potassium is readily available from fortified orange juice, bananas, carrots, prunes and fish. This mineral is responsible for regulating electrical activity in the heart. Sweat and exertion deplete these electrolytes and Gatorade replenishes them.
Because it is a beverage, Gatorade processes faster than food and begins working in our bodies almost immediately. The headache, dizziness and slight confusion which often accompany thirst and mild dehydration begin to abate within minutes of sipping Gatorade. Then, we can continue on with what we were doing and wait to have a real meal later.
Sometimes it is more convenient to sip a beverage than stop to eat or prepare a meal. Gatorade is a handy substitute for a piece of fruit or meal when a full stomach or interruption to eat is undesirable. It comes in small 16-oz containers as well as larger portions, all of which are easily transportable.
Cons of Gatorade
According to the doctors of Med-Health.net, Gatorade has all sorts of fillers and additives our bodies do not need. Unnatural, low-nutrient elements make it tasteful and satisfying. When dogs drink Gatorade, they consume not just water but all its elements.
Sucrose syrup and high fructose corn syrup provides the beverage’s sweetness and 21 grams of carbohydrates per serving. High fructose corn syrup is a high-calorie filler, preservative, and sweetener with little nutritional value. Some cities like New York actually enacted legislation to limit the availability of large-size sodas, fruit juices and beverages due to the high fructose corn syrup content of these drinks. Too much of it leads to weight gain, obesity, and diabetes.
While Gatorade boasts many palatable flavors such as orange and fruit punch, it contains no actual fruit juice. Sodium citrate boosts the flavor and citric acid acts as a preservative. It makes no sense to put these artificial ingredients from Gatorade into the body if you or your dog do not need the benefits the beverage actually provides.
Gatorade is not free. Prices vary from state to state according to product size, but it is a brand name beverage with comparable brand name costs.
So, Can Dogs Drink Gatorade?
The best drink for dogs is W-A-T-E-R. Dogs are not as complicated as people, who need variety for our palate and even to associate certain drinks to distinct moments in our days and lives. Dogs wake up bright and energetic without their morning cup of joe many of us can not live without. They do not need to see a wine list at dinner. We do not need to feel like we are cheating our dogs out of the spice of life if we just give them water.
Overall, Gatorade is fine for dogs to consume in small quantities for a short period of time, as a treat or as a homemade solution after a minor episode of vomiting or diarrhea. How much dogs drink can depend on how active and how large or small they are.
But the sports drink is by no means a replacement for water or medical treatment of an illness. The water, electrolytes, unnatural ingredients and sugar in Gatorade are not enough to substitute for appropriate canine medications only a veterinarian can prescribe. It can even make serious problems worse if it temporarily stops or masks your dog’s symptoms and gives you false assurance your dog is feeling fine.
As a matter of fact, other beverages exist to specifically tackle fluid loss due to illness in people. Pedialyte is most often recommended for children after diarrhea or vomiting. We should never substitute Gatorade for Pedialyte with sick children. Ailing adults who do not need a flavorful coercion such as Pedialyte may make a simple solution of a mix of water, a pinch of salt and a few teaspoons of sugar. If people must have more appropriate solutions to rehydration than Gatorade, then dogs should too.
Pedigree outlines a simple test you can perform to check if your dog is dehydrated: pinch him between the shoulder blades with your thumb and forefinger. If the skin bounces right back, your dog is most likely well-hydrated. But if the skin stays still or eases back into place slowly, dehydration might be the cause. Your dog may be at risk for serious complications such as shock, seizure, heat stroke and stopped bowel movements.
The bottom line is – dogs rely on us to address their pain, discomfort, and illness. You should always be concerned and consult your veterinarian if:
- your dog has more than one episode of vomiting in a short period of time,
- your dog visits the water bowl but will not drink from it,
- your dog keeps drinking an unusually high amount of water over a period of days,
- or your dog is lethargic and stops being active.
Do not give your dog Gatorade in these circumstances. Make an appointment with your vet to address what your dog may be trying to tell you. After a medical professional has evaluated your dog and prescribed any necessary medications, follow the at-home treatment plan to the tee. You can also help your dog recover with:
- a bland food diet including rice and well-cooked meat,
- a mixture of their regular dog food and tuna or halibut, as fish, is high in potassium,
- regular, set feeding times to regulate and stabilize your dog’s system,
- and providing several water stations throughout the house for your dog to access conveniently.
What If My Dog Just Loves Gatorade?
So…your dog just has an affinity for the sports drink. Maybe you are such a great athlete and inspiring exercise your dog just has to imitate you, down to what you drink. If dogs beg for Gatorade, it is fine to pour a bit into a cup to give them a few sips. This should not be harmful and might even be fun for all involved.
But if you find yourself pouring bowl after bowl of Gatorade every day, just know dogs who drink Gatorade are at increased risk for weight gain and obesity. They are also cutting down their water intake with a beverage high in artificial content. And, of course, Gatorade costs much more than water, which is free and always readily available.