Hot weather, illness and various other factors can cause your beloved furbaby to become dehydrated. Dehydration happens when your pet’s body becomes deficient of fluids. This can be caused by a lack of water intake, an increase in loss of fluids, or a combination of the two.
When an animals is sick, he will often stop eating and drinking. The lack of drinking is incredibly dangerous, as dehydration can set in fast, and can lead to death or serious health complications much faster than starvation can.
It’s also critical to remember that the smaller your furbaby, the faster dehydration happens - and the more urgent the situation will become.
What can cause my pet to become dehydrated?
- Not drinking water due to illness
- Continuous vomiting
- Continuous diarrhoea
- Physically being unable to take in water, due to issues in the mouth or digestive tract
- Fluid loss due to burn wounds
- Kidney disease
- Endocrine (hormone-related)diseases
- Not having access to water - i.e, being left without water (or insufficient amounts of water) for prolonged periods of time, especially in hot weather
What are the signs of dehydration in my pet?
- Lethargy – lying around; having no energy
- Not eating
- Dry and sticky gums
- Sunken eyes
- If the skin is lifted into a tent position, it stays in that position when you let go (normally, when the skin is lifted like that, it will flatten back to normal quite quickly)
- Urine has become darker (concentrated) and has a stronger smell than usual
- Not urinating at all
- Thirst: in the initial stages of dehydration, your animal may be very thirsty, but if he’s very sick or the dehydration is severe, thirst often goes away and your pet will not drink , making the situation worse.
What should I do if I suspect my pet is dehydrated?
The best thing to do is to get your pet to your vet as soon as possible. Your vet will perform a clinical examination and possibly some tests to determine the cause of dehydration. In most cases, your pet will be hospitalised and placed on a drip to rehydrate them. They will also be treated for the cause of the dehydration.
Is there anything I can or should do at home?
Getting your pet to the vet is critical, but if for some reason you’re unable, you should try to rehydrate them as much as possible until you’re able to get professional medical help.
Try offering him some fresh water. If he won’t drink on his own, you’ll need to syringe-feed him some water. Bear in mind that if your pet has been vomiting or experiencing diarrhoea, he’ll have lost a lot of electrolytes, which need to be replaced. You can get electrolyte mixtures from your vet, but if you’re in a jam, you can use Rehydrate or even Energade.
It’s important to remember that dehydrated animals often need a large volume of fluids relative to their body weight in order to recover. If they continue to lose fluids (i.e, through vomiting or diarrhoea), it can be difficult to rehydrate them adequately, and they may require a drip. The cause of the dehydration also needs to be treated in order to ensure a successful outcome.
If the dehydration isn’t too severe - for example, your pet couldn’t get to his water on a very hot day - it may be sufficient to let him rehydrate himself. In these kinds of scenarios, animals will typically drink of their own accord. As soon as your pet appears lethargic or will not drink water on his own, it’s a sign that he needs medical attention and you should get to your vet as soon as possible.
How to prevent dehydration in your pet
As with all ailments, prevention is always preferable to cure. So make sure there is always plenty of fresh water available for your pet, and enough shade - especially on hot, sunny days. Heat stroke and dehydration can set in quickly - pets’ bodies are much smaller than ours, and they can succumb to the heat much faster than us.
Also be sure to feed your pets a good diet, stay up to date with their relevant vaccines, and try to prevent disease as much as you can. All of these things will help you to keep your pet happy, healthy and hydrated!
Disclaimer: Always consult your vet for professional advice. The Zuki.co.za blog is provided as an educational tool and should not be used to diagnose illness or treat an animal.