How to Tell if Your Pet is Dehydrated

Redbarn Team August 01, 20201 comment
How to Tell if Your Pet is Dehydrated

Summer is well underway. Whether you’re soaking up the sun with your pet or maximizing time indoors for play and cuddles, it’s important to make sure your pet is well hydrated. 

Dehydration can affect your pets differently, depending on where you live. Even indoors, high heat with little air conditioning or limited access to adequate amounts of water can put your fur baby at risk. 

Just like humans, your pet can experience dehydration when they’re losing more fluids than they’re retaining. 

Elements of Pet Dehydration

  • Playing or walking in hot weather 
  • Increased activity whether indoors or outdoors 
  • Loss of fluids from vomiting or diarrhea 
  • Underlying illness or pain 
  • Limited access to clean drinking water 

Dehydration is serious–– when you notice your pup or kitty is showing signs of dehydration, it’s time to take action. As a rule of thumb, contact your veterinarian immediately if you start noticing symptoms.

Dehydration Symptoms in Dogs

A little panting from your pooch after playtime or a long walk is definitely a sign they need a fresh bowl of water. However, there are less obvious indicators to look out for when trying to figure out if your dog is dehydrated. 

A quick way to test is by lightly pinching the skin on their back or at the top of their head. 

Well-hydrated skin will bounce back with ease, while dehydrated skin will take a little longer to retract. If your pup is severely dehydrated, their skin will not return back to normal at all. 

Other Indicators: 

  • Dry, sticky gums 
  • Dry nose
  • Thick saliva
  • Lethargy and overall lack of energy
  • Vomiting 

Also, since dogs can’t tell us when they’re thirsty, it’s important to notice if your dog shows any of these signs so you can take action immediately.

Dehydration Symptoms in Cats 

Yes, your precious cat can also become dehydrated. Actually, they are more likely than pups to develop dehydration since they are natural carnivores used to getting their moisture from their prey caught in the wild. 

While they aren’t in the wild any more (but of course, still fierce), they’re likely to not drink enough water, even when necessary. They typically don’t receive enough moisture from their food, especially when feasting on a kibble-dominant diet. We recommend feeding or topping their dry food with wet food.

An easy way to test for dehydration is by gently pinching your cat’s skin, like the skin between their shoulders, and notice if the skin does not retract back or remains loose. This could be a sign of dehydration. 

While this “skin test” is one indicator, it’s important to check for other signs as well. 

Other indicators: 

  • Little to no skin elasticity 
  • Sunken eyes
  • Dry mouth and gums 
  • Lack of energy or activity
  • Increased heart rate 
  • Decreased urination 

Once you’ve identified any of these signs, be sure to consult with your vet for an official diagnosis, especially if this is the first time your cat is experiencing possible dehydration. 

Preventing Dehydration 

Making sure your pet doesn’t become dehydrated is extremely important, especially in the summer months. Dehydration can lead to severe medical issues for your pet and at its worst, could become fatal. 

There are a few preventative measures you can take to ensure your pet stays healthy and hydrated.

  • Make sure their water is clean – Having access to clean water throughout the day is an easy way to encourage your pet to drink. 
  • Try using ice cubes in their water – Ice cubes are a fun way to keep their water tasty and cool. 
  • Make sure water is easy to access – If your cat or pooch can’t find their water source, they’re less likely to drink. Whether it’s a bowl or a water bottle for outings, be sure they always have water available. 
  • Having multiple water sources for multiple pets – More than one pet means making sure there are several sources of water. Some pets are territorial and may not want to share, which could discourage a shy pet from drinking water. Also, if you live in a multi-story home be sure to have water available on each floor.
  • Adding a low-sodium broth to their food – Consider adding some liquid to your pet’s food in the form of a delicious, healthy broth. There are several options out there on the market, so be sure to do your research first. 
  • Topping dry food with wet food – Mixing in some wet food into your pet’s diet is especially beneficial when your pet isn’t getting enough hydration, since wet food has a larger water content than dry food. You may consider feeding a rotational diet that includes incorporating wet food into their diet. 

Treating Dehydration 

Prevention is the best way to address pet dehydration.

When you notice your pet’s symptoms, and you’ve already tried preventative measures at home, it’s best to reach out to your local vet. They will be able to administer care based on their assessment of your pet.