Cat Dehydration

What Is Cat Dehydration?

Cat dehydration (a.k.a. Hypohydration,) is a reduction, or imbalance, of water in the cat's body. This can be through too much water going out, or too little water going in.

A cat's body is composed of as much as 80% water! All that water is vital for the animal to be able to function properly.

Cat DrinkingA cat fed only dry cat food needs to drink far more than a cat fed only canned cat food.

A loss of as little as 5% results in the cat becoming dehydrated.

A reduction of body water also means a reduction of electrolytes (minerals.)

These electrolytes help stabilize the fluid within the cat's body.

When a cat is in an advanced stage of dehydration then the replacement of lost water is not sufficient.

Special fluids are required to replace the lost electrolytes.

A cat not drinking enough will be taking too little water into its body. A cat fed only dry cat food needs to drink far more than a cat fed only canned cat food.

A sick cat will often be losing too much water from its body.

Vomiting, diarrhea,  feline hyperthyroidism, cat distemper, cancer, kidney disorders can all dehydrate a cat.

An overheated cat from too much sun or an over exerted cat can also suffer from dehydration.

Preventing Cat Dehydration.

The way to prevent your cat from becoming dehydrated is to ensure that she has fresh water available at all times.

Some cats may drink more if their water dish is not kept close to their food bowl.

Cat at sink taking a drink
cat at sink taking a drink

In addition you can place water dishes throughout your home.

Try and avoid plastic water dishes, some plastics can become absorbent over time and this may alter the taste of the water and put your cat off drinking. Water dishes should be cleaned daily.

Some cats prefer to drink running water from a faucet.

Movement, such as running from a faucet, breaks the water surface tension and draws in health giving oxygen.

This process is known as aeration and it makes water more attractive to drink for cats than static water.

Another way for your cat to enjoy aerated water is by using a cat fountain.

If you feed your cat dry food, remember that she is not going to obtain much in the way of moisture from it.

Dry food is perfect for leaving out for your cat, but if possible make canned cat food at least part of her daily diet.

Canned cat food has a high content of water, as much as 80%, and is useful for preventing dehydration.

If your cat is getting over an episode of vomiting or diarrhea, both of which can dehydrate a cat, provide ice chips for her to lick. (Best not to risk an ice cube which can be a choke hazard.) Follow this up with small quantities of water, not too much too soon.

If your cat is outside in the heat, not only should she have a supply of fresh water, but also some shade to shelter her from the sun.

Never, ever, leave a pet locked in a vehicle. It may be cool when you park but that can change. Temperatures can rise quickly.

There are many illnesses that can dehydrate a cat.

The best way to prevent cat dehydration through illness is to have your cat examined and treated by a veterinarian as soon as the illness becomes apparent.

Symptoms Of A Dehydrated Cat

Panting could be a sign that your cat is dehydrated. As a general rule cats do not pant very much.

Yes, you will occasionally observe your cat panting after rapid exercise, or if she is highly anxious or fearful about something.

It could also be an indication of a respiratory disorder.

cat drinking from puddle
Cats need water. If necessary they will get it from any possible source. Always leave water out for your cat.

It may, or may not be, dehydration that is causing your cat to pant.

But if there is no obvious cause, such as a too heavy play session, whatever is causing the panting is likely to be something serious and your veterinarian should be consulted.

There are many things that can be the cause of lethargy, increased heart rate and a weakened pulse in a cat, dehydration is one of them.

These are symptoms of an advanced stage, a veterinarian should be contacted immediately.

Mouth and gums dry and tacky. With a normally hydrated cat the gums should be slick and wet.

Lack of skin elasticity. To test for this, gently pinch a piece of skin at the back of your cat's neck and then let go. The skin should quickly return to normal.

If it does not return to normal within 1 to 2 seconds it is a pretty strong indication of  dehydration.

However your cat's skin could appear to have normal elasticity if the condition is not far advanced. Also this test is not very accurate with overweight cats due to layers of fat under the skin.

Gently lift your cat's upper lip and firmly press a finger against your cat's gum. The gum will turn white but should rapidly return to pink when your release the pressure from your finger.

If the gum remains white, or your cat's mouth is dry and tacky, it is a symptom of dehydration.

Sunken eyes. In advanced stages of dehydration your cat's eyes may be noticeably sunken.

How Will A Veterinarian Treat Cat Dehydration?

Your veterinarian will want to treat the cause of the dehydration, replace lost fluids and electrolytes and prevent further losses.

If the dehydration is not too severe and your cat is able to drink, oral fluids may be enough. An intravenous drip may be necessary with a severely dehydrated cat and/or in cases where loss of fluids continues.

In most cases, if your cat is showing symptoms of dehydrating you will need to get her to the vet.

Only if you are sure that the cause of the dehydration is not ongoing, too much exercise for example, can you attempt to re-hydrate your cat with fresh water and electrolytes. If in any doubt consult your veterinarian. Cat dehydration is too serious to take chances with.

See also Is Your Cat Drinking Enough Water?

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