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How To Recognize & Care For a Dehydrated Cat

How To Recognize & Care For a Dehydrated Cat

Cats tend to hide their illnesses, so it can be hard to tell if something is bothering them. It can be especially difficult to tell when a cat is dehydrated, which is why it's so important for pet owners to be familiar with the signs of a dehydrated cat. The sooner the issue is noticed, the easier it should be to treat.

What Is Dehydration?

Dehydration occurs when the body loses an excessive amount of fluid. It can cause serious complications for cats and even result in death. Water makes up 80 percent of your cat's body, and it's essential for normal body function.

Dehydration isn't just an imbalance of water within the body. It also causes an imbalance of electrolytes in the body. Electrolytes play an important role within the body as they are critical for the normal function of all cells. An imbalance of essential electrolytes can disrupt the function of a cat's organs and systems.

It's important to be familiar with dehydrated cat symptoms, so you can quickly take action before lasting damage is done.

Signs of Dehydration in Cats

One of the most common signs of dehydration in cats is the loss of skin elasticity, also known as skin tenting. You can test your cat's skin elasticity by pinching the skin above your cat's shoulders and gently pulling it up. A hydrated cat's skin will quickly snap back into place when released. As a cat becomes dehydrated, the skin will go back into place more slowly. A severely dehydrated cat's skin may even stay up and look like a tent. 

If the pinch of skin stays up, this is a sign of severe dehydration. Cats that display signs of skin tenting should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Other symptoms of dehydration in cats include:

• Lethargy
• Loss of appetite
• Dry, tacky gums
• Sunken eyes
• Dry mouth
• Depression
• Panting
• Elevated heart rate
• Less urination

Causes of Dehydration in Cats

There are various causes of dehydration in cats, and in many cases, it’s a symptom of another disease or condition. Heat stroke, diabetes, kidney disease, fever, and other health issues can all lead to dehydration in cats. Other causes include decreased water intake, overheating in hot weather, increased activity, and increased fluid loss due to vomiting or cat diarrhea.

Caring For a Dehydrated Cat

Dehydration can range in severity from mild to very severe. If your cat is having persistent vomiting and/or diarrhea, you should contact your veterinarian immediately. Your vet may need to administer subcutaneous or intravenous fluids to replace lost fluids. He or she will also determine the underlying cause of dehydration, which may result in further treatment.

Mild cases of dehydration can generally be treated at home. Replacing water and electrolytes is essential for rehydrating a cat. Make sure your cat has constant access to fresh, clean water. If your cat isn't drinking enough water, try some of these tips!

• Some cats prefer running water, so you can encourage your cat to drink by using a water fountain.

• Try putting juice from canned tuna or salmon into the water for a different flavor.

• Offer your cat an ice cube or put ice cubes into his water bowl. Some cats are fascinated with ice cubes, so this may encourage them to drink.

• Switch to wet food if your cat is currently eating dry food. A can of wet cat food is about 70-80% water, so this will help increase water intake.

• Some cats are finicky, so changing up the water source might help. Try offering bottled or filtered water.

• Cleaning the water bowl and changing out the water on a regular basis may also help, as some cats are sensitive to the smell of old water.

Because dehydration causes an electrolyte imbalance, it's important to replace lost electrolytes, as well. You can correct an imbalance of electrolytes by giving your cat an oral electrolyte supplement to help maintain positive fluid levels and support hydration.

Preventing Dehydration in Cats

There are a few steps you can take to help prevent dehydration in cats. It’s important to ensure your cat always has access to clean, fresh water, and you should change the water frequently. Keeping your cat inside on hot days, being familiar with the signs of dehydration, and monitoring your cat’s water intake will also help prevent dehydration.

HydrADE: Electrolytes for Cats

At Thomas Labs®, we understand that dehydration can be a serious issue, which is why we offer HydrADE from Thomas Pet for cats who need quick hydration. This supplement is specifically formulated to help maintain positive fluid levels during episodes of dehydration in cats. It helps support normal hydration and encourages water consumption. Plus, it contains the three essential components of a complete electrolyte solution for cats—amino acids, dextrose, and electrolytes.

Having a dehydrated cat can be a scary experience. Being familiar with the signs of dehydration in cats and taking quick action are key steps for protecting your cat's health!


The materials and information provided on this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of your veterinarian or other pet healthcare professional. Consult your own veterinarian if you have medical questions concerning diagnosis, treatment, therapy, or medical attention.

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