When it gets hot outside, humans reach for an ice-cold glass of water. Unfortunately for our furry companions, their access to water entirely depends on the care from pet parents. Pets need to hydrate just as much as we do, especially when the temperature starts to rise. Proper hydration keeps pets happy and reduces the risk of a life-threatening medical condition.
Read up on the signs of dehydration as well as some tricks to boost hydration in your pet this summer.
How to tell if your pet is dehydrated
During the hot summer months, pet parents need to keep an eye on their furry friend’s hydration. Rising temperatures increase the rate at which pets lose moisture through their saliva, mucous membranes and paw pads. This means pets need more water than they would in the colder months. Since pets can’t talk to their humans, owners must be able to tell the difference between a well-hydrated cat or dog and one that needs emergency medical care.
Check your pet for these signs of dehydration in the summer.
- Dry, sticky gums: Dehydration makes it difficult to produce saliva and lubricate the gums. As a result, a dehydrated pet will develop dry, sticky gums that are pale pink in color. The gums turn pale because low fluid intake decreases blood flow to various parts of the body. You can also check for dehydration by gently pressing a finger on their gums. Well-hydrated gums will flash white then immediately return to their normal color. Dehydrated gums take longer to turn pink again.
- Low skin elasticity: Dehydrated pets hold less moisture in their skin, making it harder to retain its original shape. To test your pet’s skin elasticity, gently lift the skin near their shoulder blades and let go. If your pet is properly hydrated, the skin will snap back into position right away. But if they’re dehydrated, the skin will take a while to sink back down.
- Digestive upset: A dehydrated pet may experience consistent vomiting and diarrhea. These symptoms should be taken seriously because vomiting and diarrhea can cause pets to lose even more water. Digestive upset usually coincides with a loss of appetite, as well. Your pet may eat less or avoid the food bowl altogether. The lack of nutrients and hydration lead to lethargy and low energy levels.
- Excessive panting: It’s normal for pets (especially dogs) to pant after a rigorous play session. Dogs pant as a way to regulate their body temperature, and some cats have been known to pant after exerting themselves, too. However, hard panting isn’t normal when the pet has been lounging all day. It’s a sign their blood isn’t delivering enough oxygen to cells, which disrupts the functioning of vital organs.
If you notice any of these signs, take your pet to an emergency clinic right away. Dehydration is a serious medical condition that can quickly turn fatal. Vets can reverse dehydration by administering fluids to the cat or dog. The sooner you detect signs of dehydration, the sooner your fur baby can get help.
Tips for adding water to your pet’s diet
Pet parents can prevent dehydration by increasing their dog’s and cat’s water intake. Besides drinking more water, pets can stay hydrated by eating the right foods. The following tips can help you sneak in some extra moisture and help your pet thrive on scorching-hot days.
- Add broth to dry kibble: Pets on a dry food diet have a harder time staying hydrated. Try pouring a little bit of water or broth on dry kibble to give it some moisture. Pets love chicken, beef and bone broth, and warming it up slightly can enhance its aroma.
- Switch to a drinking fountain: Pets are more likely to drink from a fountain than a water bowl. Their instincts tell them running water is safe to drink, whereas still water is more likely to contain bacteria. Plug in a water fountain designed for pets, or let water trickle from the sink when your pet feels thirsty.
- Make pet-friendly popsicles: A frozen treat can hydrate your pet, cool them off and make them happy all in one go! Homemade popsicles are a healthy alternative to commercial treats, and the delicious flavors encourage your fur baby to increase their fluid intake. Look for recipes that use pet-safe ingredients like blueberries, strawberries and watermelon.
Parents should regularly check their pets for signs of dehydration during the hot months. The warning signs can easily slip past, letting pets grow increasingly dehydrated until it’s too late. Help your pet stay hydrated this summer by increasing fluids through food and water. A hydrated pet is a happy pet!