4 Signs of Dehydration in Cats

January 26, 2016

dehydration bartBy Langley Cornwell

When it comes to humans, dehydration can come from something as simple as a hot day without enough liquid refreshments. For example, a person might sweat so much that they become dehydrated because they lose water and electrolytes through their sweat. As we sweat, our pores open and release some of our body heat. Additionally, sweat covers our skin and helps to reduce body temperature. Cats get can get overheated too, but they have different methods of cooling down than humans do. Because cats only sweat through their paws, this is an unlikely method by which they might become dehydrated. However, it’s important to realize that cats can become dehydrated for a number of reasons, and to know the symptoms .

Signs of Dehydration

It can be difficult to tell at first glance when a cat is dehydrated. Since they are covered in fur and don’t sweat through anywhere but their paws, you can’t just glance at them and see that they are pale or not sweating when they should be. However, their behavior can be an indication of significant dehydration. In fact, dehydration in cats is often a symptom of another health issue but can oftentimes be overlooked. It’s vital to be aware of the signs of dehydration in cats, because if not caught early it can exacerbate the severity of other health complications.

Here are the major signs of dehydration in cats:

Lack of Energy

When cats become dehydrated, they act in much the same way that humans do. They become listless and don’t seem to want to do much of anything. If your cat tends to normally laze about, this behavior may not seem significant to you, but keep an eye on things; if he seems lazier than usual, pay attention. You can test your suspicions by trying to play with your cat in a way he or she normally responds to. If there is no response, your cat probably isn’t feeling well, and dehydration could be the cause.

Dry Gums

As a cat’s body struggles to hold on to any bit of liquid he has in his system, some liquid is taken from the gums. A dehydrated cat may have completely dry gums, or their gums may feel tacky to the touch, rather than moist. Because of this, your cat may “smack” its lips, much the way you would bite your lip or lick your lips when you feel thirsty. If your cat will let you, try sliding your fingers under the top lip to feel whether or not the gums are dry or tacky.

Refusal to Eat

There are several reasons your cat might not want to eat when he is dehydrated.dehydration teresa For one thing, mammals salivate when they are near food. Have you heard that expression “lip-smacking good?” Salivating is the body’s way of preparing the digestive system and its juices to manage the food that is about to be ingested. Your cat isn’t able to do this because he doesn’t have the fluid to salivate with. On top of that, the listless feeling he has is the same one you have when you don’t feel well, so he simply doesn’t want to eat. If your cat is refusing his food, then you know something is wrong and a visit to the vet is in order.

Tented Skin

The best way to test the skin for dehydration is to see if it “tents.” Using your thumb and index finger, gently pull together the skin between your cat’s shoulder blades. If it stays where it is or “tents” rather than quickly going down, your cat is dehydrated.

Offer your cat some cool water. If he doesn’t want to drink water, try offering the juice from a can of tuna. If your cat refuses either of these, see your veterinarian. In fact, since dehydration is usually a sign of some other illness or disease, it’s best to visit the vet anyhow, but an emergency visit is warranted if your cat is dehydrated and refuses all types of liquids.

Top photo by Bart Everson/Flickr
Bottom photo by Teresa Boardman/Flickr

Read more articles by Langley Cornwell

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