dehydrated cat

How to Assist Your Dehydrated Cat

It is essential that a cat maintains at least 60 percent of its composition in water and electrolytes to maintain regular body function. But, just like newborn babies, cats need to offer water to keep this balance. They will thus get easily dehydrated. Dehydration occurs when cat losses excessive fluids including water and electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and chloride. This is usually a symptom of illness in cats is likely to exacerbate the illness though due to lack of adequate water intake.

Cats with the highest risk for dehydration include diabetic cats, elderly cats, kittens and mother cats nursing a litter of kittens. A dehydrated cat is at highly exposed to several medical problems including kidney problems, urinary crystals, and even death.

Take seriously any loss of fluids beyond ten percent in cats as it is severe and requires immediate attention. Dehydration at fifteen percent is life-threatening as a cat’s organs fail promptly hence requiring rapid treatment by a vet. Dehydration affects circulation, digestion, and toxin removal in a dog’s body. 

How do I tell my cat is dehydrated?

For a dehydrated cat, it will show certain symptoms which you need to watch out. This most common sign of dehydration is skin tenting. To check your cat’s skin elasticity (turgor), gently pull up the skin over your cat’s neck or shoulders.

For a well-hydrated cat, the skin should snap back into place when released. But for a dehydrated cat, the pinch of skin stays up (the “tent”). This is a sign that your feline has severe dehydration and you need to see a veterinarian at once. Other telltale signs to watch out for include: 

  1. Thick or decreased saliva in the mouth 
  2. Lethargy 
  3. Constant tiredness
  4. Dry mouth 
  5. Sunken eyes 
  6. Constipation
  7. Dry, tacky gums
  8. Listlessness
  9. Refusal to eat
  10. Loss of appetite
  11. Elevated heart rate and panting
  12. Polyuria (frequent urination)

A dry nose – If your cat’s nose is usually cool and moist, then suddenly becomes warm and dry, that means your cat is dehydrated. 

Poor capillary refill times (the time it takes for blood to fill the lips after they have been pressed). You can check this by pressing on the gums with a finger.  Normal gums will turn whitish then turn back quickly into pink. A dehydrated cat’s gum will stay whitish or takes longer than normal.

 What causes dehydration?

Cats derive adequate water from eating live prey making them susceptible to low thirst drive. Cats are also lazy drinkers who need enticing to drink water. Dehydration in cats is attributed to several other factors apart from consuming inadequate water for their bodies. These factors encompass:

  1. A sickness that decreases appetite  
  2. Trauma
  3. Hyperthyroidism 
  4. Fever
  5. Heatstroke 
  6. Diabetes 
  7. Blood loss 
  8. Prolonged vomiting or diarrhea
  9. Unclean or inaccessible water
  10. Lack of fluid intake
  11. Lack of moist food
  12. Kidney problems
  13. Excessive drooling
  14. Large wounds or burns
  15. Constipation
  16. Increased urination

What do I do when my cat is dehydrated?

In situations where dehydration is mild, palliative care is given at home. Home treatment entails:

  1. Offer small amounts of water to a dehydrated cat in a gradual pace. If your cat ingests too much water, it is likely to trigger vomiting which may aggravate the dehydration or irritate the digestive tract. 
  2. Give your cat ice scraps as this enables the cat to consume small amounts of refreshing water at regulated levels. 
  3. To replace your cat’s lost electrolytes to restore balance in their bodies. For electrolytes, you can purchase fluids or oral serums in some veterinary clinics or pet shops.
  4. Make homemade moist foods that contain a lot of water to rehydrate your cat. Gourmet meals will also boost your cat’s appetite as the dehydration causes loss of appetite which may lead to malnutrition.  
  5. You can also make homemade dehydration serum and give it to your cat in small doses through a syringe or other methods.

Medical Course of Treatment

For severe cases of dehydration and where the home remedies aren’t successful, you will need to take your cat for treatment at the veterinarian immediately. The veterinarian will make inquiries to determine the cause of dehydration, your feline will then be put on Sub-q or IV fluids for a few minutes or under hospital watch for 1-2 days.

The vet will test the level of dehydration by the cat’s blood protein level and packed cell volume. Another test done is by checking the urine concentration. If both tests imply that dehydration is present, the vet will have to administer aggressive treatment. Your veterinarian will also administer treatment for the underlying problem that caused your cat to become dehydrated.

Ways to Keep Your Cat Hydrated

 Placing multiple water bowls throughout the house, refilling water bowls regularly and investing in the use of cat fountains. Also, let your cat drink directly from the tap once in a while. Run the tap and let them drink till they are full. This provides adequate sources for your cat to take up enough water anywhere throughout the day. 

 Flavor your cat’s water with tuna or chicken broth. Open a can of tuna in water and give the cat the water to drink. Boil chicken breast and puree it with water to make a gruel to drink. You can also offer clam juice mixed with water. You could also attempt giving your cat Whiskas milk that is lactose-free. These methods are meant to appeal to the cat to hydrate more without their conscious knowledge.

 Try changing the size or shape of your bowls. At times, the size or shape of feeding bowls discourages cats from drink water due to the usual round bowls or very deep ones. Serve water in a wide bowl as cats with sensitive whiskers prefer this to prevent their whiskers from touching the bowl. You could also simply get your cat a new water bowl or change where you place their water bowl(s).

Caution:  Do not attempt to treat your cat from home if they are suffering from more than mild dehydration. Consult a vet promptly so that he/she can get treatment and the underlying problem can be resolved. 

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