It may have been hard to imagine just a few weeks ago that summer was on its way, but now that spring has officially reached the northern hemisphere, there are signs of the long hot days to come just about everywhere. Since hot weather also means more outdoor activities, and more risk of dehydration and heatstroke, we thought we would take a closer look at what dehydration is, what causes it, and what you can do to prevent it in dogs and cats.
What Is Dehydration?
Simply put, dehydration in pets is the same as in humans: a shortage of water in the body.
Since all animals have a high percentage of water in their bodies at any time, and since it’s critical for so many things, from dissolving minerals to digestion and even blood flow, a shortage of water can be dangerous, or even fatal.
What Causes Dehydration?
There are two main causes of dehydration in pets: insufficient water intake, and increased water loss.
If the weather is hot, then your pet will lose fluids faster, and they will probably need to drink more water than normal. If they don’t have access to water, or they simply don’t drink enough of it, then there’s a risk of insufficient intake leading to dehydration.
If your pet has a disease or illness that causes vomiting or diarrhea, then they may be at risk to lose too much water, which can also lead to dehydration.
Symptoms of Dehydration in Pets
Cats tend to be less active than dogs, so when they become dehydrated, it’s usually more likely to be due to illness than to too much activity in hot weather. Certain diseases including kidney disorders and cancer can cause cats and dogs to be more prone to dehydration too.
Regardless of the cause, however, the signs and symptoms of dehydration in cats and dogs tend to be the same, and if you notice any of the following, it’s a definite red flag:
- Lethargy or depression. If your normally happy, bouncy pet just wants to lie quietly in a corner, then that’s a clear sign that all is not well!
- Sunken eyes and a loss of elasticity in the skin is another clear sign. If the skin doesn’t “snap back” quickly if you gently pinch a large area of it, then that’s another big sign of possible dehydration.
- Loss of appetite, increased panting and dry mouth are three more signs.
- Possible elevated heart rate.
If you notice several of these symptoms, and you suspect that dehydration is the cause, don’t wait. By the time your pet is exhibiting these types of symptoms, they probably need medical attention. Visit your veterinarian as soon as possible, so that they can assess the severity of the problem, and start treatment right away.
Prevention and Treatment of Dehydration
Prevention is always better than cure, and dehydration is no different. Here are a few ways to prevent dehydration:
- The best way to prevent dehydration is to make sure that your pet always has access to lots of clean, cool water. Keep multiple bowls around the house, and pay attention to your pet’s water intake by monitoring them.
- Keep water bowls clean, and if you notice that your pet does not seem to be drinking as much as usual, check his or her mouth for sores or foreign objects, that may be making drinking water uncomfortable or painful.
- When traveling with your pet, make sure that they have a plentiful supply of water, and that you stop frequently for “water breaks.”
If your pet is not drinking water as they should, or they have an illness that includes vomiting or diarrhea, visit your veterinarian as soon as possible. In severe cases of dehydration, IV fluids are required to treat the causes and symptoms, and delaying treatment can have severe consequences.
Hopefully, you won’t need these dehydration tips this summer, and you’ll just enjoy the long, lazy days of sunshine with your pets. If in doubt, however, it’s always best to ask your vet. Better to be safe than sorry!