When cats and dogs experience an excessive loss of fluids from their bodies, they can become dehydrated. The drop in fluid volume triggers an electrolyte imbalance that can rapidly progress to a life threatening condition.
Electrolytes are naturally occurring chemicals that regulate the body’s organs and systems. For the heart (including blood pressure), lungs, kidneys, brain and all the major organs of the body to function properly, electrolytes must be in balance. When electrolyte concentrations drop, immediate medical intervention is warranted to prevent organ failure that could lead to death.
In general, dehydration is triggered by an underlying medical condition or adverse environmental circumstance:
– Vomiting and/or diarrhea
– High fever
– Excessive urination
– Blood loss/shock
– Prolonged exposure to high temperatures
– Intense physical activity during hot summer days
– Water deprivation
While cats and dogs diagnosed with diabetes or kidney disease are considered to be at greater risk for dehydration, any animal is susceptible. Don’t underestimate the effect of vomiting, especially on small dogs and cats. Because of their petite size, a significant fluid loss for their bodies will not necessarily appear large enough to be of concern.
Because the effects of dehydration can be rapid, it’s important that you be able to recognize the most common signs and symptoms of dehydration:
– Withdrawal particularly in cats
– Excessive licking
– Dry, tacky gums
– Skin tenting…gently pinch the skin over the shoulder area and release it. When an animal is dehydrated, the skin will remain tented upward.
– Refusal to eat
While dehydration can occur any time of year, Summer heat increases the risk! Keep your pets inside during the hottest time of day, restrict exercise to times when the temperature drops into the mid 70s, and make sure they have access to plenty of clean, cold water. If your pet is exhibiting any of the signs or symptoms associated with dehydration, seek immediate medical attention. When it comes to dehydration, “waiting to see how things go” can have catastrophic consequences. During your next visit with your Veterinarian, ask them for pointers on getting your pets…particularly your cats…to increase their daily fluid intake. As always, be especially tuned in to changes in behavior…if something seems off, take the safe approach and have your pet checked by your Veterinarian. Give us a call at (732) 671-3110.