IS MY CAT/DOG DEHYDRATED?
Its summertime and our cats and dogs love to be outdoors. Fresh air and sunlight are among the most exhilarating environmental factors to companion animals. Particularly in climates where the summer season is short and the winter season is long, we, along with our canine and feline friends wish to enjoy the warmer temperatures for as long as we can.
As many conscious animal caretakers know, cats and dogs are at high risk of dehydration. Not only do they have a layer or hair/fur on their skin to keep them warm, but they also have an alternate type of bodily cooling system from humans. True, some dogs and cats have shorter hair and fur than others but because of their sweat glands and skin thickness, their bodies’ methods of cooling is not as simple as drinking water as it is for humans.
Even in seemingly mild temperatures, animals can become dehydrated. There are several key reasons why an animal can easily become dehydrated. One main element to note is diet. If an animal is eating mainly kibble; dry food, there is a very strong likelihood that your animal will become dehydrated easily. This is because dry food, in essence, drains the water from an animal’s gastrointestinal system in order to process. The draining of the body’s water will leave the animal’ hydration stores easily depleted. On a longer term scale, if an animal’s diet lacks moisture and the animal is exposed to warmer temperatures, this can spell disaster. The vital component in this situation is to recognize that water alone DOES NOT HYDRATE dogs and cats. It is imperative to add essential fatty acids to the diet. EFA’s are readily available in the form of omegas 3 & 6.
A main concern with diet-related dehydration is that water is a key component in waste removal from the body’s organs, muscles, joints and cells. Sadly, far too many cat and dog foods are chalked full of inflammatory ingredients which cause much detriment to our animal’s health and longevity. Because water is vital for the purpose of removing the by-products of inflammatory foods, when it is absent in the body, the animal’s health is in grave danger. Most store-bought foods are high in inflammatory ingredients. Some have fewer than others, but any processed food will have ingredients of concern. Some common, notably harmful ingredients include; corn gluten, meat by product (chicken, pork, turkey), ocean fish, brewers rice, modified corn starch, food colouring (all colours), brewer’s yeast to name several. If your cat or dog food lists any of the above in the first six ingredients, PLEASE consider switching food sources. Many consumers fall prey to recommendations from animal care professionals. Do not be fooled. Read ingredients, research them and ask more than one type of animal care practitioner for their opinion. Do not blindly accept what anyone says, especially if the above ingredients are listed toward the beginning of the list.
SYMPTOMS OF DEHYDRATION
Though some signs of dehydration are glaringly obvious, there are several that are lesser so. Here are five lesser known signs that your cat or dog is dehydrated:
- SKIN ELASTICITY– Take a moment to place your hands behind your cat/dog’s shoulder bones. Pull the skin up just slightly. Note the level of elasticity that exists as you do. To measure, gauge how long it takes for your cat/dog’s skin to go back to its original place. The more quickly it returns, the greater the elasticity. The greater the elasticity, the more hydrated the animal.
- LICKING– We would all love to think that every time our cat or dog licks us that they are giving us a kiss. However, there are many reasons why animals lick. It is extremely important that if your cat or dog licks you regularly that you rule out any medical conditions immediately. If there are no medical reasons why your dog or cat is compulsively licking you (as opposed to licking/grooming their own bodies), your animal may be dehydrated. Many people believe that water is an adequate source of hydration. While water is an absolutely necessary aspect of cleansing and hydration, it does not prevent dehydration. As per above, adding essential fatty acids to your cat or dog’s diet will help them to absorb and retain moisture. Perhaps even more simply, if your cat or dog frequently licks you, be sure to immediately check their water bowls to ensure they’re full!
- LOSS OF APETITE– Dogs and cats will lose their apetite if they are excessively dehydrated. This is because their bodies lack enough moisture to create saliva to digest their food.
- VOMITING– Dogs and cats will vomit when they’re severely dehydrated because they lack the oxygen in the bloodstream for their digestive organs to properly function.
- ELEVATED HEART RATE– When cats and dogs are dehydrated there is a noted elevation in their heart rate. Dehydration causes strain on the heart. The amount of blood that circulates through the body decreases when the animal is dehydrated. This means that their hearts will beat more rapidly to compensate for the lack circulation of blood. Accompanying signs of dehydration to an elevated heart rate include; dizziness, nausea, vomiting. Panting and drooling alongside an elevated heart rate in both dogs and cats is a very serious warning sign of severe dehydration. These are also symptoms of regular stress, however if your animal has been outdoors in the heat for hours or has not retained much fluid, their life may depend on a vet visit.
When a dog or cat’s body becomes dehydrated, the volume of fluids in the body is reduced. This reduces the delivery of oxygen to organs and tissues. In the short term, these symptoms may be treated through various means. If an animal is exposed to severe dehydration for a prolonged period of time -anywhere from an hour to days; depending on the age, breed and overall health of the animal)-the body’s organs will begin to shut down. Kidneys can fail and there can be a buildup of toxins in the bloodstream that will be fatal. If you suspect your animal is dehydrated, do not hesitate. Take urgent action- go to your veterinary clinic immediately.
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