Dehydration in Cats: How Can You Tell If a Cat Is Dehydrated?

Dehydration in cats can lead to organ failure.

Dehydration means that a cat has either used or lost more fluids than her body needs to perform basic metabolic functions, without replacing them through drinking. Dehydration also results in electrolyte loss. 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.

Ways a Cat May Lose Too Many Fluids

Reasons a Cat May Not Take in Enough Fluid

Why Is It Important to Know If Your Cat Is Dehydrated?

Cats that are dehydrated begin to feel lethargic. Then they don't want to eat and drink or move around, so they become more dehydrated. In this way, dehydration can start a vicious cycle, and if it is untreated, it can lead to organ failure.

When a cat's dehydration is caused by an underlying illness, it is important to know that your cat is sick so that appropriate treatment can be started.

Treatment of Dehydration in Cats

The cornerstone of the treatment of dehydration in cats is fluid replacement. This can be done orally if the pet is not vomiting and has no underlying disease process complicating things. If the cat will not take fluid in orally or can't keep it down because of vomiting, fluids may need to be given another way. The two most common parenteral (delivered in a way other than through the GI tract) ways of giving fluids are subcutaneously (deposited under the skin) and intravenously (injected directly into a vein).

The second goal of treatment should be directed at resolving the underlying cause of the dehydration. If this was overheating or increased exercise, the treatment might simply be to ensure that there is clean, fresh water available for your cat at all times. If a bout of vomiting caused the dehydration, your veterinarian may treat your cat with anti-emetics or other medications.

If a chronic condition such as kidney disease is causing your cat to consistently be at risk for dehydration, you may need to replace fluids on a regular basis. Subcutaneous fluids may need to be given routinely. You can learn to do this at home.

How to Tell If Your Cat Is Dehydrated

There are some basic ways to tell at home if your cat might be dehydrated:

These signs of dehydration are more non-specific and can occur during a variety of illnesses:

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Preventing Dehydration in Cats

The skin tent test can help determine if a cat is dehydrated.

Dehydration in cats can rapidly lead to greater illness. Understanding cats' low thirst drive, knowing how to identify the signs of dehydration, and calling the veterinarian quickly if your cat is ill or seems dehydrated will go a long way toward helping your cat feel better much more quickly.

You May Also Like These Articles:

Should You Get Your Cat a Water Fountain?

How Do Cats Sweat?

Giving Your Cat Clean and Fresh Water

Subcutaneous Fluid Therapy: Giving Your Cat Fluids at Home

Kidney Disease in Cats

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