If you’re a Harry Potter fan you’ve probably heard of the Elixir of Life (a potion made from the Philosopher’s Stone that extends the life of the drinker.) In our universe we don’t have a Philosopher’s Stone, but we do have our own, easily accessible elixir – water.
Water is essential for all beings because it assists in lubricating joints, transporting nutrients through the bloodstream, regulating body temperature through respiration, flushing waste materials out of the body by way of urine, and cushioning the brain and spinal cord, and the list goes on. For all of these reasons and more, it’s important we make sure our cats (and all pets!) have access to plenty of fresh, clean water.
What is dehydration?
Dehydration means that a cat has either used or lost more fluids than her body needs, without replacing them through drinking. It is not just water that is lost, but also electrolytes like sodium, potassium and chloride, which are important for normal body function. This decrease in fluids and electrolytes negatively affects circulation, digestion, and toxin removal from the body. If it is severe enough, it can result in organ failure and death.
Why do cats get dehydrated?
Causes of dehydration include (but are not limited to):
- Diabetes – diabetes often causes increased urination, which may lead to dehydration
- Feeling nauseous or lethargic to move around because of illnesses
- Blood loss
- Lack of access to fresh water
Since cats do not have much of an urge to drink water, it is very easy for them to become dehydrated quickly, especially if they are fed dry food. Many cats may simply not like their water source. In this case, make sure their bowl is clean and the water is refreshed daily, or try a fountain.
How do I know my cat is dehydrated?
Some of the symptoms of dehydration include:
- Lethargy – your cat has less energy than usual and is not as active
- Loss of appetite – not eating the usual amount of food or refusing meals
- Sunken, dry eyes – eyes are sunken into the sockets and are dull, not shiny
- Dry, tacky gums – gums appear dry and feel sticky
- Poor skin elasticity – “skin tenting” may occur
- Slow capillary refill time – low blood flow to tissue
There are two simple tests you can do to test for the last two symptoms on the list. The first is the skin tent test - f you take a pinch of skin over the cat's shoulders and pull up gently, the skin should snap back into place when released. As the cat gets more dehydrated, the skin goes back in place more and more slowly. If the pinch of skin stays up (the "tent"), it is a sign of severe dehydration.
The second is simply touching your cat’s gums. In a normal cat the gums should be slick, wet and glistening. You can test for capillary refill time by pressing lightly on the gums with your finger. The pressed are will turn whitish but should return to pink in a few seconds on a well-hydrated cat.
If you suspect that your cat is dehydrated you should seek veterinary care. Severe dehydration can be life threatening, and it can also be a sign of an underlying medical issue. Typically cats will need fluid replenishment subcutaneously or through an IV.
How can I prevent dehydration in my cat?
Did you know that 80% of your cat’s body is water? In order to maintain this ratio they need one ounce of water per one pound of body weight. Lola weighs nine pounds, so she needs nine ounces per day. At 13 pounds, Lexy requires 13 ounces. They love their Catit Flower Fountain, and I make sure there is at least one extra bowl of water in the kitchen that I clean and refill daily.
Here are some steps you can take to prevent dehydration:
- Some cats are picky about how they obtain their water. Some cats only like glass bowls, some like running water rather than standing water, some like tap water, and others prefer bottled. Know your cat’s preference.
- Make sure that you clean your cat's water bowl every day to discourage bacteria from growing on its surface.
- Does your cat have whisker stress? A shallow bowl will help their whiskers from being disturbed while they're drinking, such as this one.
- For cats that love running water, you may consider a drinking fountain. This can minimize the need for you to run a faucet constantly and have your cat sitting in your sink all the time. (Lexy loved drinking form the faucet. Ever since we got our fountain she has foregone the faucet.)
- Feed your cat canned foods as much as possible. They contain up to 80% moisture and can help to compensate for moisture intake.
- If your cat goes outside, make sure she has access to a cool place in hot weather and shelter in cold weather, with plenty of clean, fresh water at all times.
- Taking your cat to the veterinarian routinely for exams and any recommended testing such as blood work can help you catch and begin treating any underlying problems such as diabetes or kidney disease early, before they result in dehydration.
These tips, along with a watchful eye, can help avoid your cat becoming dehydrated.
Do your cats prefer to drink from a fountain or a bowl?
Flickr: Pippy & Timmy, April Killingsworth
Deposit Photos: nndemidchick
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