Treating a Dehydrated Cat

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

Cats always keep to themselves even when they are ill. This makes it hard for pet owners to determine whether their cat is sick or not. It pays to observe your cat (or strays!) especially during hotter seasons when they are at risk of being dehydrated.

Hypohydration or cat dehydration is a life-threatening condition wherein a cat loses an excessive level of water as well as electrolytes in his body. Animals are made up of 60% water. If the water level in cats fall to 5% below normal, the animal will start showing signs of dehydration.

Causes of Dehydration in Cats

An underlying condition could also cause dehydration in cats. If a cat is sick, it will abstain from eating or drinking and this will cause dehydration. Diabetic cats and those afflicted with renal failure will urinate more often, causing dehydration. Cats suffering from heatstroke, shock, or fever could also become dehydrated.

Symptoms of Dehydration in Cats

The most common sign of dehydration in cats is diarrhea and vomiting. Other symptoms include tacky or dry gums, lethargy, pool capillary refill time, constipation, and sunken eyes.

To determine whether a cat is dehydrated or not, you can conduct a skin turgor test or a capillary refill test.

To do a skin turgor test, grasp the scruff of the cat’s neck and gently pull it up. The skin of a hydrated cat will spring back to normal immediately. On the other hand, the skin of a dehydrated cat will retract slower. The speed at which the skin retracts will indicate the severity of a cat’s dehydration.

To do a capillary refill time, gently lift the upper lip of your cat and press a finger on his gum. Remove your hand and you will see a white mark where you placed your finger. Using a watch, see how many seconds it took for the white mark to disappear. A healthy, hydrated cat will take around one to two seconds for the white mark to turn pink. If it took longer than two seconds for your cat’s gum to turn pink, he is dehydrated.

How to Treat Dehydrated Cats

If you suspect that your cat is dehydrated, take him to a vet where he will be given fluids through IV. This will reverse his condition. You will also be asked to increase your cat’s fluid intake at home using a syringe. You will be given needles and syringe and administer fluids from the back of your cat’s neck. This is an extremely useful treatment especially for diabetic cats who are dehydrated.

Cats also need fresh, clean water to drink at all times. Part of the reason why cats may refuse to drink is their water bowl is dirty. Put your cat in a cool, sheltered area where he has access to the outdoors. If your cat is sick, always look out for symptoms of dehydration.

If your cat is accustomed to eating dry food, give him wet food when he is diagnosed with dehydration. This will help increase water level in his body. If you have multiple cats, don’t let them share a water bowl. There are cats that prefer running water instead of water from a bowl. Buy a small water fountain to serve as his water container.