Hydration Strategies

Hydration Strategies

UPDATE – February 5, 2015

Our research team has completed 2 years of data collection working with Customs & Border Protection checkpoint dogs at Sarita, TX and tracking dogs at the Canine Training Center in El, Paso, TX. Data is being analyzed and prepared for publication. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to learn more about the study.

Study Objectives

To determine the effect of pre-hydration with water v. oral electrolyte solution v. subcutaneous fluids on detection dogs working in a hot and humid working environment.

To determine the impact of these protocols, we monitored the following parameters:

1. Body weight and total body water
2. Core temperature and heart rate
3. Blood electrolytes, kidney values, and lactate
4. Urine specific gravity and microalbuminemia
5. Activity (based on an omni-directional accelerometer), behavior, and search performance

View Photo Gallary

Click on image below to get an inside look at the July 2014 data collection trip in El Paso, TX. Photos taken by study technician Tracy Darling and shared with the permission of the Customs & Border Protection.

2014 DOD Hydration Study BritStudy Details

One of the most common hazards for working dogs is dehydration. When high drive dogs are focused on the task at hand,they often do not drink adequately. This is caused by their highly active state and often extremely hot work environments. Dogs that become dehydrated are less heat tolerant and may become less efficient at scent detection. For these reasons, this study is focused on providing scientifically validated hydration strategies for working dogs.

With funding from the Department of the Army, through the Special Operations Command, this study was launched to evaluate 3 commonly used pre-hydration strategies:

1) Oral water
2) Oral electrolyte solution (Hydrolyte™)
3) Subcutaneous electrolyte solution

Year 1 was conducted with Customs and Border Protection, focusing on the Border Patrol canines working at the hot and humid Sarita, TX, checkpoint. Sarita has average July temperatures of 95°F and an average humidity of 84%.

Six dogs were evaluated following random assignment to each of the 3 hydration strategies, one strategy per working day. A normal work day for the dogs in this study consist of screening vehicles for drugs and concealed humans.

In contrast, year 2 was conducted with Customs and Border Protection tracking dogs working in the desert near El Paso, TX where temperatures often exceed 105°F but the humidity is much lower.

The data obtained from this study will provide critical information that can be used to better safeguard working and performance dogs.


Data from this study has been presented at the following:
2014 Canine S&T Workshop, Raleigh, North Carolina
2015 International Working Dog Conference, La Grand-Motte, France


To the following collaborators for their contributions:

El Paso Canine Training Station staff, agents, and their dogs
Sarita, Texas checkpoint Border Patrol agents and their dogs
AVMA Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams for support of Tracy Darling as part of our research team
Washington State University Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association for support of Kasey Schmidt as part of our research team


This study was funded by a two year grant provided by the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).

Show More