What is dehydration and why is it so serious? Dehydration in any animal is serious but with cats it is even more concern because cats are not big drinkers. Cats in the wild depend on majority of their fluid intake from prey and just are not instinctively big drinkers. Domesticated cats tend to have the same instinct and behavior. Because of this, they are more prone to serious dehydration than other animals.
Why dehydration is deadly is because the cat often does not show there is a problem until it is very serious. Cats may lose ten percent or more of their internal fluids before the symptoms become obvious. There are cases were the fluid loss is more and unrecoverable because the vital organs have shut down.
There are many reasons why your cat can become dehydrated. Some due to stress such as heat exposure, moving or riding in a vehicle and another is the food we feed them. Dry food is usually twelve percent or less in moisture and canned cat food is around eighty percent so it is obvious that a cat fed only dry food requires a higher water intake. Other reasons are due to food poisoning causing excessive vomiting and diarrhea. Then there are the classical clinical reasons like kidney failure, diabetes, cancer, and hyperthyroidism to mention a few.
Dehydration is so serious that it is deadly and not paying attention to some of the general symptoms can lead to death of your cat. Here is a list of the more common symptoms a cat will show when severely dehydrated:
Exhaustion or lethargic more than normal
Eyes seem sunken into the sockets
Thick sticky saliva
Loss of appetite
Elevated heart rate
Loss of skin elasticity
Excessive vomiting and or diarrhea
Here are two simple tests you can do at home for dehydration. First, check for skin elasticity by grasping your cat by the fur on the back of its neck above the shoulders and gently pull it. If the skin snaps back instantly, then your cat is not dehydrated but if the skin takes several seconds or more to flatten down to the neck there is a problem. The second test is to press your fingernail into the cat's gums by lifting the upper lip. There is a white spot were the nail has depressed into the gum and count how many seconds before the gums return to normal color. A hydrated cat should take only a second or two to return the color.
If your cat has the signs and symptoms of dehydration, you should go to your veterinarian so they can give the cat water and electrolytes with an IV bag. Forcing water down its throat is not a good idea but we should always make sure that plenty of fresh water is available daily in a clean bowl.
Clinical diseases will cause dehydration so taking your cat to the veterinarian to find out what caused the problem is the proper thing to do. Early treatment on the diseases will extend your cat's lifespan. Also, pay attention to diet as mentioned earlier the dry cat food cat be the cause of the problem and long-term feeding of dry food causes stress to the kidneys and liver.
Older cats, kittens, and cats with clinical ailments are more prone to dehydration and you should watch their intake of water and output of urine daily.