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Vet Talks: Dehydration In Pets

Posted 2020-10-20

Photo of Dr. Aline Dias holding a dog, Chaya

Water is essential to all of us, humans, and pets, and we directly depend on proper daily water intake to maintain appropriate health and replace fluids that are routinely lost through urine, feces, respiration, and transpiration. Water is an essential element that allows the cells in the body to absorb nutrients. It makes up 80 percent of the body and is necessary for all biological processes, including circulation, digestion, lubricating joints, cushioning internal organs, regulating body temperature, and waste removal.

Dehydration happens when there’s an imbalance of water and minerals in the body, due to reduced water intake or increased fluid loss, which can cause serious complications. Factors like diarrhea, vomiting, hot weather, or higher activity levels can result in a fluid loss in pets and consequently to dehydration.

 

 

 

Signs of Dehydration

Some signs of dehydration in pets can include:

  • Sunken eyes
  • Dry mouth, gums, and nose
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Panting
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Slow capillary refill time. You can press a finger against your pet’s gums until they turn white. When you remove your finger, the gums should regain color immediately. If they don’t, your pet could be dehydrated.

dehydration-in-pets-cat-drinking-water-from-bowl

Skin Tenting

Another important sign of dehydration is decreased skin elasticity. Reduced elasticity in your pet’s skin can also be called a ‘skin tent’, and it can be measured generally on the dorsum of the neck or on the lateral thorax of the pet.  If you gently pull up the skin at the back of your pet’s neck and it doesn’t immediately return to its normal position, your pet might be dehydrated.  If the animal is well hydrated, the skin should spring back when you release it. As the skin loses moisture, it will move back into place more slowly. In severe cases of dehydration, the skin does not spring back at all.

The skin tent is more difficult to see depending on factors like age, body condition, and breed. That means that older animals, obese animals, animals with thick or long-hair coats, and breeds with excessive skin folds like Sharpei and Basset Hounds, are more difficult to access for dehydration through this method.

Regardless, only a veterinarian can provide a proper approach, diagnosis, and treatment for dehydration cases, and if you suspect that your pet is dehydrated, you need to take them to an appointment as soon as possible.

There is still no specific marker to assess dehydration, but there are ways a professional can estimate through physical examination. Combining the history and laboratory measurements helps the veterinarian in quantifying the extent of dehydration most accurately as well. They may have to administer intravenous or subcutaneous fluids to attenuate the dehydration condition and they will also investigate the underlying cause of it.

Pets who have underlying conditions like cancer, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, and kidney disorders, for instance, are more prone to dehydration just like elderly and nursing pets as well.

dehydration-in-pets-cat-eating-wet-food

How To Prevent Dehydration In Your Pet

  • It’s important to keep in mind that dry food has something between 7 to 12% of water, while canned food can measure up to 80 percent water. To include wet food in your pet’s regimen is a good idea, especially if she has any underlying conditions that can leave them prone to dehydration.
  • Pets who only eat dry food should always have easy access to clean, drinking water to supplement their intake and maintain proper hydration. You can place multiple water bowls around the house for easier access.
  • Change the water frequently to ensure freshness and don’t forget to wash the water bowl every day to avoid any bacteria forming.
  • If it’s too hot outside, choose to take your pet for a walk early morning and in the evening and always bring some extra water with you.
  • Monitor your little one’s water intake and report any changes in this behavior to your veterinarian.

Along with plenty of water, it’s important to ensure that your cat has a properly balanced diet. NHV Multi Essentials helps ensure your kitty (of any age) is getting an extra dose of minerals and vitamins for extra energy, vitality, and health. You can also check out our personalized nutritional plan for a convenient, healthy, and balanced to meet your cat’s specific needs.


Dr. Aline Dias is a veterinarian who graduated from the Federal University of Pelotas, Brazil. She worked for five years with research in Bacteriology and Virology fields, but she found her true passion in Feline Medicine. As soon as Dr. Aline immigrated to Canada, she adopted two kittens: Chilli and Keke. Dr. Aline is now a permanent full-time crazy cat lady and when she’s not working at NHV she spends her time spoiling her fur babies or going for walks at the beach.

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