Healthy Beginnings

Chronic Dehydration: Part 18 – Don’t Forget Your Best Friends

  • May 1, 2014
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  • By JeanAnn Fitzgerald
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  • Categories: Water

dog drinking waterEveryday you lovingly set out your pet’s food and fill up its water bowl. Animals are in touch with their bodies and recognize when they are thirsty. So how could your pet possibly get dehydrated when water is always available?

Our pet food choice could be part of the problem. Wet foods are heavy and packed into metal cans, which adds weight for shipping costs and shelf price. Without water, dry pet food weighs less in paper bags making shipping costs lower, and therefore sale prices more consumer palatable. Dry foods require no refrigeration after opening, whereas wet foods do. Mountainview Veterinary Hospital’s Dr. David Lowell explains one cause of pet dehydration is the lower cost and convenience of these dry pet foods.

A dog or cat’s natural food would be fresh and wet. That water would facilitate digestion and food movement through the bowels. By eating dry food, the animal has to pull water out of its body tissues to assist these processes. Some animals actually prefer their food to be dry and crunchy, which exercises their jaws and cleans teeth. They don’t like their food to be of “mushy” puppy or kitten consistency. Dr. Lowell recommends adding as much water to the kibble as the animal will tolerate to facilitate digestion and avoid dehydration.

A dog’s sense of smell may be up to one hundred thousand to one million times more sensitive than your own. Your cat’s sense of smell is about fourteen times as strong as yours. If you think your chlorinated tap water is sometimes too obnoxious to drink, imagine what your canine or feline thinks of it! It is this aversion to chlorinated tap water that can deter your pet from drinking as much water as they need, resulting in an under-hydrated animal. Some pet owners report to Dr. Lowell that their pet’s water consumption increased dramatically once they provided some sort of filtered (carbon, reverse osmosis, distilled) water.

An animal may shun its water dish any time it is under stress. This could happen when you bring that puppy or kitten home for the first time. Being deprived of its mother and litter mates in a new environment with unfamiliar humans can interrupt the youngster’s eating and drinking routine. If there are strangers visiting the house, that cat is not likely to come out from under the bed, or exit that closet to eat or drink for the duration of their visit. Perhaps the human to which the pet is attached goes away to college, dies, or moves out in a divorce. Animals are sensitive and avoid eating and drinking routines for days, weeks, or even months, however long the stress continues.

An under-hydrated animal can easily slide into acute or chronic dehydration with a long hike in the summer sun, or being housed outside with inadequate shade. Canines and felines have no sweat glands in their skin. When their bodies heat up, the only means they have to get relief is to pant, which pushes that internal heat out of their bodies. This also allows wet saliva to fall from their mouths. Then, each pant outward expels not only the heat, but more of that precious water from the trachea and lungs.

Dr. Lowell estimates that 75 percent to 80 percent of the dehydrated animals he treats also suffer from some sort of medical condition such as allergies, frequent vomiting, chronic kidney disease, low blood volume and pancreatitis. (These conditions were discussed in previous dehydration articles which suggested that dehydration could have been the instigating factor for them.)

Dehydration symptoms in your pet are the same as for yourself:

  • Gums and undersides of eyelids will be pale or red instead of a healthy pink.
  • When a pinch of hide between the shoulder blades is pulled 1” to 2” upward and then released, it will take longer than three seconds to completely flatten out again.
  • After gently pushing on a gum for two seconds, it takes longer than two seconds for the resultant pale spot to return to normal color.
  • Blood test indicators

Mild signs of dehydration can be treated with home care. One recipe suggests one quart of filtered water, one tablespoon of sugar and one teaspoon of salt. When ina bind, even a commercial water and electrolyte drink for humans would help.

You can recognize more severe dehydration because of the vomiting, inability to walk, rapid heartbeat and lethargy. If you suspect your pet’s symptoms are severe, take it to a veterinarian immediately. The vet can supply intravenous electrolyte and water replacement to save your pet’s health, and even its life.