A cat typically loses water through respiration, sweating, and waste removal. Normally, when a cat eats and drinks, she replaces the water she's lost through these activities and remains hydrated. However, there are several situations in which cats are unable to replace lost fluids, which results in dehydration.
A sick cat who isn't eating or drinking enough may become dehydrated, for instance. Excessive vomiting, diarrhea, panting, and fever may also lead to cat dehydration. Heatstroke, shock, and blood loss are other conditions that can lead to an issue. Additionally, kitties who have chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and renal failure are at risk of becoming dehydrated.
Loss of skin elasticity, lethargy, loss of appetite, sunken eyes, increased heart rate, depression, dry, tacky gums, panting, and dry mouth are all signs of cat dehydration. There are also a couple of easy tests you can do at home to determine if your cat is dehydrated.
Skin Elasticity Test: This test is very simple, and one I used with Jewel everyday to ensure she didn't become dehydrated during her struggle with chronic renal failure.
Normally, a cat's skin is springy, but when he becomes dehydrated, his skin loses elasticity. Gently pull up on your kitty's skin near his scruff, the way a mother cat would when she wants to carry her kitten. Let go of the skin, and count the number of seconds it takes for the skin to lay flat again. When your furry friend is hydrated, the skin will return to normal within two seconds of release. If it takes longer than two seconds for the skin to lay flat again, it is an indication that your kitty is dehydrated. The longer it takes for the skin to return to normal, the worse the dehydration is. If your kitty's skin remains in a tent when you let go of it and does not return to normal, you should consult a veterinarian immediately as this is a sign of severe dehydration.
In most cases, dehydration in cats is due to another condition. Thus, if you suspect that your companion is dehydrated, you should take him to a veterinarian. The veterinarian will give your kitty subcutaneous (under the skin) or intravenous fluids to hydrate him. If necessary, the vet will also run tests on your companion to determine the underlying cause of the dehydration. Once the underlying cause has been determined, your vet will start treatment for that condition as well.
Photo Credit: Linda Tanner via Flickr.
Ensure that your companion always has a supply of fresh, clean water to drink. Feeding wet food in addition to, or instead of, dry food will also help your cat stay hydrated. While dry food contains less than 20% moisture, wet food contains at least 65%.
Cats need to drink one ounce of water per pound she weighs daily to stay properly hydrated. That means if your kitty weighs 10 pounds, she needs to drink 10 ounces of water daily to stay hydrated. Please check out our article, "Eight Ways to Get Your Cat to Drink More Water," for helpful tips on keeping your companion hydrated.
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