Dehydration in Dogs and Cats

Has Your Dog Stopped Drinking? (Jose Alfredo Gomez Soberano Photo)
Has Your Dog Stopped Drinking? (Jose Alfredo Gomez Soberano Photo)

Is My Dog Dehydrated?

Is your dog dehydrated? Dehydration is fairly common in a sick dog or cat. And unfortunately, it’s a condition that can make a sick pet even sicker. Ultimately, a pet can die from dehydration, so it’s a condition that pet owners must know how to recognize, prevent and treat.

How Did My Pet Get Dehydrated?

When a cat, dog or other pet is sick, it’s not uncommon for the pet to stop eating and/or drinking. Cats in particular are prone to dehydration when they stop eating, as many cats who eat wet cat food get a good percentage of their fluid from their food.

In addition, pets who are vomiting or suffering from diarrhea are even more prone to dehydration, since they have a reduced water intake, in addition to the fact that they’re actively losing fluids.

What Are the Symptoms of Dehydration in Pets?

So how can you determine if a dog or cat is dehydrated?

  • Pinch the pet’s skin. At the scruff of the neck, pinch the skin into a “tent.” In a well-hydrated pet, the skin should immediately flatten out. But in a dehydrated dog, cat or other pet’s skin will remain in the “tent” once you release the skin, sometimes taking as long as a few seconds to flatten out. This is a symptom of dehydration and the longer it takes the skin to flatten out, the more dehydrated the animal is.
  • Examine the pet’s gums. In a normal, healthy animal, the gums will be pink, wet and slick. In a dehydrated pet, the gums will be dry, sticky and often pale.

What Should I Do if My Dog or Cat Gets Dehydrated?

A dehydrated pet needs fluids and lots of them. Often, the only effective way to treat dehydration in a pet is to give a subcutaneous fluid injection. The fluid is injected under the skin, and the body absorbs the fluid. This is especially effective for treating dehydration in a pet with vomiting or diarrhea, as the fluids can be provided in a manner that bypasses the digestive system.

Pet owners can slow the progression of dehydration in a few ways:

  • For dogs and cats, mix the pet’s water with unflavored Pedialyte in a 50-50 mix.
  • For dogs, offer low-sodium chicken or beef broth or place a cube of bullion in water to give it a more appealing taste.
  • For cats, offer clam juice. Cats may also drink the water from a can of tuna, mixed with a bit of water.

In sum, a pet who is not eating or drinking and who is showing signs of dehydration will need veterinary attention, particularly if the pet is still refusing to eat and drink.

But the above-mentioned techniques are sure to help slow the progression of dehydration so the pet is in better condition when he or she arrives at the veterinary clinic.

Dehydration can turn fatal, as the dehydrated body’s organs will begin to shut down. In addition, dehydration will also cause the pet’s underlying illness to worsen. In the end, dehydration is a problem that’s better treated sooner rather than later, so in some cases, you may want to consider taking your pet to the veterinary clinic emergency room, as dehydration is absolutely a life-threatening condition.

One great way to track a pet’s condition when they’re ill involves starting a pet log. Read this article to learn more about how to start a pet log for your dog, cat, bird or other pet.

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Mia Carter is a professional journalist and animal lover. Her furry family members include 6 dogs and 12 cats. She is also a feral cat colony caretaker. Carter specializes in pet training and special needs pet care. All of her animals have special needs such as paralysis, blindness, deafness and FIV, just to name a few. She also serves as a pet foster parent and she actively rehabilitates and rescues local strays and feral kittens.

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