dehydrated cat

How to Help a Dehydrated Cat

A dehydrated cat is a common clinical finding and can be caused by many problems. Dehydration is the result of either fluid loss or any issue that leads to decreased fluid intake. Dehydration is defined as when the “total body water is less than normal.” Before we look at how to treat and prevent dehydration in cats, we will review the causes.

Causes for a Dehydrated Cat

The body relies on both the intake of fluids and the excretion of fluids. Loss of fluids or decreased fluid intake both lead to dehydration.

Causes of dehydration in cats include:

Reduced Fluid Intake

Increased Fluid Losses

Signs of a Dehydrated Cat

The clinical signs of dehydration in cats include lethargy, depression, dry sticky gums, sunken eyes, loss of skin elasticity, and/or increased pulse (heart rate).

How to Tell if Your Cat is Dehydrated

Physical examination findings can help determine if dehydration is present in your cat. A common but inaccurate way to diagnose dehydration is based on skin elasticity. When the skin along the back of the neck is gently lifted, it should immediately return to the normal position. In a dehydrated cat, the skin does not return to normal quickly. The speed of return to a normal position can help determine the severity of the dehydration.

Other clinical signs of dehydration include sticky or dry gums, sunken eyes, and/or lethargy. A more accurate method to determine dehydration is by evaluating blood work for abnormal changes.

What You Can Do for a Dehydrated Cat

The treatment for dehydration in cats will depend on the underlying cause. Treatment for some of the possible causes may include:

The treatment for dehydration is to supplement the body with fluids. It is often not possible for a sick cat to ingest enough water to adequately correct dehydration. Fluids are typically administered as an injection. The most efficient method of rehydration is through intravenous (IV) fluids. This requires hospitalization as well as an intravenous catheter. Fluid replacement is done slowly to allow the body to compensate and slowly replenish tissues starved of fluid.

Some cats can be treated with subcutaneous fluids at home, after an initial diagnosis and treatment. Ask your veterinarian if this is an option and have him/her show you how to administer injectable fluids at home.

If you believe that your cat is dehydrated, please call your family veterinarian or closest emergency clinic. This can be life-threatening, and prompt diagnosis of the underlying cause and treatment is critical to your pet’s health and survival.

How to Prevent a Dehydrated Cat

Below are tips on how to prevent dehydration in cats:

For sick cats, preventing dehydration may be difficult but if promptly treated, it can result in recovery. We hope these tips help you know more about dehydrated cats.

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