Dehydration is a problem that can affect almost any cat, but it can be hard to spot. Unless you’re monitoring your cat all day to see how much water they drink, you might miss that they’re low on fluids. Even then, undiagnosed infections or diseases can lead to dehydration, no matter how much water your cat laps up.
Cat dehydration can cause a litany of problems for your furry friend, including increased heart rate, urinary stones and more. While there are plenty of ways to treat dehydration, it’s better to stop the problem from occurring in the first place, or at least catch it as soon as you can.
If you’re worried about your cat’s health, it’s important to be observant. Watch for changes in their behavior, in addition to these six major signs of dehydration.
1. Loss of appetite
There are many reasons your cat might be eating less. They might have eaten too many treats throughout the day or not gotten enough exercise. However, the cause could be something more serious like dehydration. If your cat is refusing to eat, you might want to try giving them canned food, which is typically more enticing and can help with the dehydration.
2. Little to no energy
Cats tend to lose energy as they get older, but if you notice a drastic change in their energy levels from one day to the next, they might be dehydrated. Without water, your cat’s organs have to work that much harder to function properly, meaning the body has less energy to play or move. Reduced energy levels can also occur with a number of other kitty ailments, including hyperthyroidism, kidney disease and diabetes (many of which also cause dehydration!).
3. Changes in their eyes
There are several physical changes that a cat might experience when they are dehydrated. Check your cat’s eyes and see if they appear sunken, dry or dull. If a cat is dehydrated, they might also have trouble focusing their eyes.
4. Skin tenting
Dehydration can also affect your kitty’s skin. When the skin is well-hydrated, it is flexible and capable of snapping back into place. When it’s not, it can take a while to return. In severe cases, the skin of dehydrated cats will stay up in a “tent” shape when pulled. Pinch a loose section of skin near your cat’s shoulders and pull it away from their body, then release. If the skin tents, your cat needs fluids immediately.
Cats who drink less will use the litter box less frequently. Without enough water, your cat’s poop can harden in their colon, causing constipation. Check your cat’s litter box from time to time to see if they’ve urinated or defecated. If your cat hasn’t gone to the bathroom within a day or two, then they might be dehydrated.
6. Dry gums
Dry and sticky gums are another thing to check for if you’re worried that your cat is dehydrated. Cats’ gums should always be moist and slippery and have a light pink color. To check your cat’s gums, slide your finger along their gum tissue and see if it feels wet. If their gums are dry and a bit tacky, then it might be time for a vet visit.
How to help a dehydrated cat
If your cat is experiencing symptoms of dehydration, then there are several things you can do to make them feel better. The best thing to do, of course, would be to visit your pet’s veterinarian.
Depending on the severity of your pet’s symptoms, your vet might administer fluids to your kitty either subcutaneously (under the skin) or intravenously. If the problem persists, your vet might recommend running a few tests to determine the underlying cause of your kitty’s dehydration and solve the problem at its source.
Preventing dehydration in cats
There are many ways you can keep your cat from getting dehydrated at home. If your cat is water-averse, the solution might be as simple as switching to a wet food product instead of dry food. If your cat is used to dry food, you could add a bit of warm water to their kibble. You can also entice your cat to drink more by adding tuna juice or chicken broth to their water, or by using a water fountain instead of a standard water bowl.
Unfortunately, dehydration isn’t always preventable. If your cat has a fever from an infection, they might get dehydrated without you realizing. If they have an underlying condition like diabetes, dehydration might just be an unfortunate side effect.
Regardless of the cause, dehydration in your cat is something that should never be ignored. It could cause serious issues down the line for your furry friend and is detrimental to their overall quality of life. Paying attention to the signs of dehydration and getting prompt care will ensure that your kitty lives a long and healthy life.