Dehydration in Pets: Causes, Symptoms, How to Avoid Dehydration

Dehydration in Pets

High temperatures become a real challenge for some people and pets alike.

Lack of water leads to dehydration – dehydration. Dehydration in pets is often not perceived as a severe deviation from the norm, yet it is very dangerous and in some cases can be fatal.

To cope with heat peaks and to cool down the body, the sebaceous glands evaporate large amounts of moisture, which must be replenished. An animal’s body is 65% water and the blood is all of 80%. Water balance ensures healthy metabolism, thermoregulation and a constant body temperature. Moreover, the young body, due to its incomplete physical development, needs much more water to cope with these functions.

Animals deprived of water die in a very short time. A well-fed dog can withstand starvation if supplied with water for up to 100 days, but without water it dies after 10 days. Loss of only 10% of water causes severe pathological changes, and loss of 15-20% of water results in death.

Water enters the body by drinking and with feed and is absorbed in the intestine unchanged. The need for water varies depending on the composition of the feed, the physiological condition of the animal, environmental conditions, etc. For example: when feeding dry food, has increased physical activity or stays in hot weather the water requirement is higher.

Causes of dehydration in animals

Any living creature is capable of experiencing thirst, which means it is overflowing. A pet’s body will never be oversaturated with water and will always experience a slight deficiency. If the process of excretion is uninterrupted and water is not replenished, dehydration will occur.

Dehydration can occur in any animal, regardless of age, sex and breed, but according to veterinarians, the risk group includes decorative breeds, animals living in regions with a hot climate, individuals suffering from chronic diseases accompanied by diarrhea, vomiting and lack of appetite.

Factors triggering a lack of fluid in the body are:

  • heat, sunstroke, overheating;
  • skin burns;
  • attacks of vomiting, diarrhea;
  • hematomas, injuries, internal hemorrhages and bleeding;
  • chronic illnesses;
  • metabolic disorders, diabetes mellitus;
  • renal failure;
  • predominance of dry food in the diet and insufficient fluid intake;
  • refusal of water and food for more than a day.

Often dehydration occurs in animals during pregnancy and childbirth, so the owner should provide his pet, whose body is weakened, a sufficient amount of fluids – purified water.

Be attentive to the animal and be sure to give them water if you notice such symptoms. It is unacceptable for animals to die from dehydration when it can be easily prevented. Especially in hot weather it is advisable to keep pets inside and, more importantly, not to leave them in cars.

Other conditions can also cause dehydration. For instance, the animal simply does not have access to water. For example, the dog fell into a deep hole where there is not even condensation, or you locked the cat in a room without water.

Or during a summer walk decided to exercise with the dog. The options can be different: running with the dog, riding a bicycle and the dog by your side, or you in the car and the dog on a leash.

In the situations described, the animal will quickly consume fluids due to exercise and high temperatures. If there is no water, dehydration will come quickly.

Or the animal cannot drink. This can happen when the cat is sick – the animal stops drinking, and the owner does not pay attention, because water is always available.

In this case, the sick animal is in a depressed state, does not feel thirsty, does not go to the bowl of water, there may also be high fever, profuse salivation, nasal discharge, which will increase fluid loss.

Ascites or dropsy can also be the cause. If ascites develop rapidly, there can be significant fluid loss due to fluid accumulating in the abdominal cavity.

There may be other causes of dehydration, we have listed the most common.

How to detect dehydration

The signs of dehydration in animals should be kept in mind. Outwardly dehydration is characterized by general weakness, decreased skin elasticity, dryness of visible mucous membranes (oral cavity, nose, conjunctiva), sunken eyeballs. With progression of dehydration develops a state of shock (hypovolemic shock) and if the loss of fluid is not replenished in time, death occurs.

Dehydration should not be confused with blood loss – it is not the same, there is a fundamental difference between these two concepts, as during dehydration the animal’s body loses only water and electrolytes, and during blood loss blood cells (red blood cells) and plasma proteins are lost, which are so necessary for normal vital activity of the animal’s body.

There are several degrees of dehydration, but at home it is difficult for owners to determine the degree of dehydration on their own.

The following symptoms should alert you:

  1. an early sign of dehydration in dogs is lethargy, poor mood, and oppression,
  2. your dog may have less or no appetite and/or refuse to drink for one or more days,
  3. if you notice repeated vomiting or liquid stools for several hours, up to one day, fever and increased volume of urination.

These symptoms are common to many diseases, so if your pet has any of the above symptoms, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.

What to do if your pet is dehydrated

First aid in case of dehydration is not difficult to provide, the main thing is that it should be timely. The dog should be placed in a cool place and offered a drink. The animal may refuse to drink, so it should be persuaded to drink from the hands.

The animal should always be seen by a veterinarian, as the effects of dehydration may become apparent over time. It is possible that the dog will need to be left in the clinic for some time to use infusion therapy to fully restore the water balance.

Before coming to the clinic you can try to force-feed water from a spoon, syringe or syringe and try to give food, but only if the pet is not vomiting, if vomiting is present, you should not give anything ingested, as this will provoke new vomiting attacks and make the situation worse.

Particular care should be taken in the heat:

  • older animals and puppies under six months of age;
  • animals with a weak heart;
  • “short-nosed” breeds that have difficulty breathing;
  • dogs that are overweight.
  • animals that have suffered from heat stress or shock in the past.

What the doctor will do

When examining the animal, the doctor will pay attention to the condition of the mucous membranes, skin and the general condition of the animal, and if clinical signs of dehydration are detected, he will assess its degree.

As additional diagnostic tests, the first step should be blood tests (general clinical and biochemical), which will show the condition of the body’s internal systems, blood composition and the ratio of its elements and help the doctor in making a diagnosis of the underlying disease that has caused the dehydration of the dog’s body. However, not always these studies can give all the necessary data to make a diagnosis, in which case a number of other diagnostic studies are carried out. For example: Ultrasound, radiography, etc.

In parallel, the doctor will begin to compensate for fluid loss by intravenous or subcutaneous infusion of solutions (infusion therapy). The volume of solutions administered and the method of their administration depend on the degree of dehydration.

Vigilance is the motto of any pet owner, not just in the heat. And in moments of temperature cataclysms, you should be especially attentive to observe the behavior of the pet. You should also remember that if he seems to be “not feeling well”, it is advisable to quickly show him to the veterinarian.

Autumn Jolley
Autumn Jolley
Rate author
PowerofthePaw