Cat Dehydration Symptoms

Cat dehydration symptoms can usually be recognized visually or by performing a few quick tests. Dehydration is a serious issue that can be life-threatening. When certain conditions are present, either environmentally or physically, cats can rapidly lose excessive amounts of water, bodily fluids and important minerals, leading to possible shut down of certain vital organs. When signs are discovered quickly, severe dehydration can be easily prevented.

Causes of Cat Dehydration

Dehydration, also known as hypohydration, happens when water and electrolytes are lost from the body, but not replaced. Electrolytes are made up of a combination of important minerals like sodium, chloride and potassium and are continually replaced by a normally functioning system. When there is a prolonged lack of water, sickness resulting in continued vomiting and diarrhea, fever or other physical ailments, the body may not be able to replace the rapid loss of fluids quickly enough to avoid dehydration. Excessive panting in cats, heatstroke, blood loss, shock and increased urination due to diseases like diabetes and renal failure may also contribute to dehydration.

How to Detect and Prevent Dehydration

When cats become sick, dehydration symptoms can be easily detected or prevented. Look for lethargy, an increase in heart rate, sunken eyes, a dry mouth and possible constipation. Always provide sufficient clean and fresh drinking water. Be sure the cat doesn't become overheated by providing it a cool and sheltered place to relax during hot weather. If fever is involved, monitor the cat closely for these symptoms. There are a couple of tests that you can perform at home to determine the severity of possible dehydration.

Skin Turgor Test

The skin turgor test is one of the best ways to check a cat for dehydration symptoms. The skin of a normal, healthy cat is springy and full, while dehydration causes skin to lose that elasticity. Gently grab the cat's skin near the scruff of the neck. Pull it up as a mother cat would do when carrying a kitten. Let go and count the number of seconds it takes for the skin to return. Longer than 2 seconds may indicate lack of sufficient fluids in the body.

Capillary Refill Time

This is another test that can be performed to indicate symptoms of dehydration in cats. Blood circulates at a regular flow in healthy cats. Cats that are dehydrated, or experiencing shock or heart failure, will display slow blood movement. To test for capillary refill time, press the flat of your finger on the gums under the upper lip. As soon as you remove pressure, you'll see a white mark. The capillaries should refill blood in this spot within 1 to 2 seconds. If the spot remains white for longer than 2 seconds, a serious problem may be at hand.

Treatment of Dehydration

If a cat has been dehydrated for a significant period of time, or refuses to drink sufficient amounts of water, medical treatment will be necessary to return liquids and minerals to the body. Fluid replacement will be administered either by intravenous injection, or subcutaneously. The underlying cause of dehydration should be treated as well.