Causes and concern of dehydration in cats!

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Kritika Manchanda
In the summer heat keeping yourself hydrated is of utmost importance. The same holds true for your pet as well. Dehydration is not just low levels of water in the body, it means imbalance of water and electrolytes (minerals). In the summer heat keeping yourself hydrated is of utmost importance. The same holds true for your pet as well. Dehydration is not just low levels of water in the body, it means imbalance of water and electrolytes (minerals). 
 
Water makes up 80 percent of cat’s body and is needed for all body functions like digestion, excretion, circulation. Water is the magic elixir of nature that helps keep your cat healthy. Felines depend on fluid intake not just to maintain overall health but also to replace fluids lost through excretion, respiration, and feces. An adequate water intake will help flush out toxins from their body.
 
Water intake linked to diet
Usually cats drink 1–2 cups of water a day. It might increase if a large part of their diet consists of dry food. Your cat’s water intake is directly linked to the kind of diet she takes. Dried cat food contains only 10 percent water whilst tinned or pouched food contains around 80 percent water. It is therefore obvious that a cat fed on a diet of dried food will need to consume more water than one fed on tinned food.
 
Causes 
Dehydration occurs when fluid levels drop lower than usual. This can be due to less water intake or increased fluid loss. Overheating in summer, vomiting, diarrhoea, and increased activity in harsh weather, can result in fluid loss in cats. If your car is affected by diabetes or renal diseases, you need to be extra cautious. These two diseases cause frequent urination which may cause dehydration.
 
Symptoms 
Lookout for these signs and symptoms:

  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Loss of appetite
  • Panting l Lethargy
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sunken eyes
  • Poor skin elasticity
  • Poor capillary refill time

 
Tests you can do at home
Determining skin’s elasticity and capillary refill time can be easily done at home. Here’s how you can find out whether your cat is dehydrated or not.

  •  To check skin elasticity, hold some skin at the base of her neck and then release. If the skin doesn’t spring back immediately, it shows poor skin elasticity and your cat is in a dehydrated state.
  •  To check capillary refill time, press a finger against her gums. Once you remove the finger, you’ll see a white spot. Time how long does it take for this white spot to turn back pink. It shouldn’t take more than two seconds. If it takes longer, it is a sign of dehydration.

Many cats prefer drinking running water as opposed to drinking water from the bowl. As a pet parent you would know her preference. But make sure that you provide clean and fresh drinking water 3 – 4 times a day.
 
Who’s at risk?
Cats who’re most at risk of dehydration are the ones with kidney disorder, cancer, diabetes, and hyperthyroidism. Elderly and nursing cats are also more susceptible to dehydration.
 
Treatment 
If you notice any of the symptoms and do the mentioned two tests and the result is positive, then take your pet to the vet at the earliest. There might be chances that dehydration is he underlying cause of some infection or illness. Once the vet examines the pet, she will prescribe intravenous or subcutaneous fluids and run some additional tests, if needed to determine the underlying cause.
 
Some useful tips

  •  Stainless steel or ceramic water bowls are better than plastic ones. Plastic is a porous material and absorbs all odours. Since cats are very sensitive, they might not like drinking from plastic bowls.
  •  The bowl should be wide enough for the cat to fit her entire mouth.
  •  Cats are super finicky about cleanliness. Make sure to clean her water bowl with liquid detergent every day.
  •  Try placing water bowls at different locations in the house. You’ll soon find out which one is her favourite.
  •  If yours is a multiple cat household, having separate water and food bowls is a golden rule. Cats don’t like their bowls or toys smelling of other cats.
  •  If your cat is recovering from a bout of diarrhea or vomiting, you should give her an ice cube to lick at regular intervals. Gradually provide small amount of water to avoid over-hydrating.
  •  If your cat is not fond of drinking water from the bowl, you can think of getting a small water fountain for her. Water is constantly purified which ensures more cleanliness, and then running water will encourage her to drink more water. Consuming adequate amount of water is essential for good health. But cats can also suffer from various health problems if they drink too much water. Clean water at all times and clean bowls will encourage her to drink water.
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