Water makes up 80% of your pet’s body, and it is necessary for all biological processes. As such, a lack of water in the body -- or dehydration -- can result in some serious health consequences. Find out what you need to know about dehydration in dogs and cats.
Water is essential to all living beings. It makes up 80% of your cat or dog’s body and plays a part in each of their biological processes, including digestion, waste removal, and circulation. When a dog or cat loses more fluid than they are taking in, it can result in dehydration.
Dehydration causes a decrease in the volume of circulating blood, which hinders oxygen delivery to critical organs and tissues. Dehydration also interrupts waste removal and disturbs the balance of the body’s electrolytes, which are important for many body functions. Without proper rehydration, a pet’s health can quickly diminish and their life will be at risk.
Dehydration occurs when fluid levels drop below normal, either as a result of reduced fluid intake or loss of fluids.
Reduced fluid intake can be due to:
Fluid loss can be due to:
Pregnant, elderly, and very young pets are at the greatest risk for dehydration, as are pets suffering from the health conditions listed above.
The symptoms that appear in pets suffering from dehydration include:
- Loss of appetite
- Sunken eyes
- Dry mouth
- Decreased skin elasticity. If you gently lift the skin on the back of your pet’s neck or shoulder blades, it should return to normal position when you let go. If it doesn’t or if it takes a while to return to a normal position, your pet may be lacking fluids.
If you suspect that your pet is suffering from dehydration, take them to the veterinarian immediately.
The goal of treatment is to restore normal fluid levels, correct electrolyte abnormalities, and identify and treat any underlying medical issues.
Fluids are administered intravenously (directly into the bloodstream with an IV) or subcutaneously (infused under the skin). This is typically done slowly and under close moderation, so the pet will need to be hospitalized.
Your veterinarian will also perform certain diagnostic tests to try to determine the underlying cause of the dehydration. If it was the result of a medical condition, that condition will be treated.
Dehydration can almost always be corrected with prompt treatment. It is also important to identify the underlying cause so that you can prevent future incidences.
- Make cool, fresh water available for your pet at all times
- Bring water along with you when you go on walks or outings
- If your pet stays in a crate when you leave the house, purchase a bowl or water bottle that can hook onto the side of the crate
- Keep a close eye on your pet when temperatures rise
- Monitor your pet’s water intake. A healthy dog should drink about 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight every day. Cats should drink about the same amount of water in millimeters as the number of kilocalories they eat per day. If your cat eats wet food, they will get most (but not all) of their required daily water from it. Ask your veterinarian to help you calculate your cat’s water needs based on their specific food.
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