Dehydration isn’t just limited to humans. Our feline friends can become dehydrated as well. A responsible pet owner must be prepared to take steps to prevent this condition. In cases where prevention isn’t possible, such as in the case of illness or taking in a stray cat, it’s important to recognize the symptoms and be prepared to provide appropriate treatment.
Dehydration in cats can be caused by many things including illness, shock, heat stroke or a lack of available drinking water. Most of these causes can be easily prevented with a little attention to your cat’s needs. Make sure your cat’s water bowl is kept filled and easily accessible to them. If you’re going to be away from home for several days, purchase a self-waterer or ask a trusted friend, neighbor or family member to come in to refill the water bowl while you’re away. Provide your cat with a cool place to rest on hot days to prevent heat stroke.
Like young children, cats can’t tell you when something isn’t right so it’s important to keep an eye out for the symptoms of dehydration. Things to look for include sunken eyes, dry mouth, lethargy, increased heart rate, reduced skin elasticity, constipation and slow capillary refill time. To check skin elasticity, gently pull up the skin at the back of your cat’s neck. A healthy cat’s skin will return to normal almost immediately. If your cat’s skin is slower to spring back, it’s a good sign of dehydration. The more dehydrated they are, the slower the skin will spring back. To check capillary refill time, lift the upper lip of your feline friend and press your finger against the gum. Count how many seconds it takes for the area to turn back to pink. In a healthy feline, it should only take a couple seconds.
If your cat is starting to become dehydrated, you may be able to treat them at home. Encourage your cat to drink. Mix the water with a tasteless electrolyte solution such as Pedialyte to help replenish needed nutrients. Older felines can sometimes be finicky. Try turning the faucet on low and allowing your cat to drink fresh water from the sink. Pet water fountains can be found in pet supply stores at a fairly inexpensive price.
Once your cat is dehydrated, it is imperative that you take them to the veterinarian for immediate medical attention. The veterinarian will provide your cat with fluids through either subcutaneous (under the skin) or intravenous (IV) injections. It is important that the cause of the dehydration is also remedied. Otherwise, your feline friend may face some serious consequences.