Dehydration in cats occurs when a cat’s body loses more fluids than it takes in.
This fluid imbalance can happen for a variety of reasons, including diarrhea, vomiting, fever, sweating, and not drinking enough liquids.
When a cat’s body is dehydrated, it means that it does not have enough fluid to function properly.
Electrolytes are substances that help balance the feline body’s fluids and are essential for proper body function. They can be lost through dehydration, leading to imbalances in the body.
Dehydration can lead to a decrease in blood volume, which can affect the functioning of the organs and tissues.
In severe cases, dehydration can be life-threatening.
- Dry mouth and gums: The mouth and gums of a dehydrated animal may feel dry to the touch.
- Decreased skin elasticity (the skin doesn’t snap back when pinched)
- Sticky mouth: When a cat is dehydrated, their body doesn’t have enough water, which can cause their mouth to feel sticky
- Decreased urine production: Dehydrated animals may produce less urine than normal or may have difficulty producing urine at all.
- Dry nose and eyes: The nose and eyes of a dehydrated animal may be dry and may not produce tears when the animal is crying or when the eyes are irritated.
- Lethargy: Dehydrated animals may be less active than normal and may seem tired or sluggish.
- Loss of appetite: Dehydrated animals may lose their appetite and may not want to eat or drink.
- Sunken eyes: The eyes of a dehydrated animal may appear sunken, which can be a sign of dehydration.
- Weakness: Dehydrated animals may be weaker than normal and may have difficulty standing or walking.
- Constipation: Dehydration can contribute to constipation because a lack of water in the body can cause the feces to become hard and difficult to pass. Constipation is a condition in which a cat has difficulty passing feces or has infrequent bowel movements.
- Rapid Breathing: Dehydration can cause rapid breathing because the body may try to compensate for the lack of fluids by increasing the breathing rate in an attempt to bring more oxygen to the body’s cells.
- Check the gums: Gently press on your pet’s gums with your finger. If the gums feel dry or sticky and do not return to their normal color quickly, this may be a sign of dehydration.
- Check the eyes: Look at your pet’s eyes. If the eyes appear sunken, this may be a sign of dehydration.
- Check the skin: Gently lift the skin on the back of your pet’s neck. If the skin does not snap back into place quickly, this may be a sign of dehydration.
- Check the mouth: Open your pet’s mouth and look at the tongue and roof of the mouth. A dehydrated animal may have a dry mouth and tongue.
- Check the urine: Check the urine output of your pet. A dehydrated animal may produce less urine than normal or may have difficulty producing urine at all.
- Check the pulse: You can check your pet’s pulse by feeling the pulse on the inside of the hind leg near the groin. A dehydrated animal may have a weak or rapid pulse.
- Check the capillary refill time: Press your finger against your pet’s gums and then release. The gums should turn pale and then return to their normal color within 2 seconds. If it takes longer than 2 seconds for the gums to return to their normal color, this may be a sign of dehydration.
It is important to treat dehydration as soon as possible to prevent further complications. This may involve giving your cat electrolyte containing fluids orally or intravenously, depending on the severity of the dehydration. It is important to speak with a veterinarian before giving your pet any fluids, as the proper treatment will depend on the specific needs of your pet.
In addition to treating dehydration, it is important to prevent dehydration by ensuring that your cat has access to plenty of clean water at all times.
Some cats may prefer to have their water bowl next to their food, while others may prefer to have them separated. It’s generally a good idea to observe your cat’s behavior and see what they prefer. If you notice that your cat is not drinking enough water, try placing the water bowl in a different location to see if that helps. If that doesn’t work, try turning on the faucet. Most cats can’t resist a slow bathtub drip.
Be sure to always monitor your cat for signs of dehydration and seek medical attention if necessary.
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KOZAT, S. (2020). Metabolic acid-base disorders and fluid therapy in cats and dogs. Academic Studies in Health Sciences-II, 391.
Sugimoto, K., Kawase, N., Aoki, T., & Fujii, Y. (2019). Effects of dehydration on echocardiographic diastolic parameters in healthy cats. Journal of veterinary science, 20(3).
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