Dehydration in Cats: Is My Cat Drinking Enough?

It is said that cat owners should drink about two to two and a half liters of water a day. We don’t always manage it so that we sometimes suffer from headaches and bad moods in the evening. But how much liquid do our cats actually need to drink in order not to suffer from a lack of water? And how do I know if my cat has drunk enough or is dehydrated? We provide you with all the important facts and tips about dehydration in cats.

How Much Should My Cat Drink?

You can calculate the amount of water your fur nose needs to be based on the following factors:

  • Weight (on average cats drink 45 milliliters per kilogram of body weight)
  • Water content in the feed
  • Ambient temperature
  • The activity of the cat

How do I Know if My Cat is Dehydrated?

Many cats are outdoors and take in water during their daily walks, for example from puddles, bathing pools, paddling pools, or other water containers. In this case, they like to leave the drinking bowl untouched, so that they only absorb liquid at home in the case of wet feeding. This is why we often have no way of knowing how much water our cat actually consumed.

As a cat owner, how can you then estimate the water balance of your own cat? There is a simple trick for this that works even without prior veterinary knowledge:

Water is absorbed by all cells in the body, including the skin. If there is a lot of water in the body and the cells are full, the skin tightens. If the cat is dehydrated and the cells are empty, the skin will appear saggy and wrinkled.

You can take advantage of this fact by carefully pulling up a crease on the neck of your cat and then suddenly letting it go. If the skin passes quickly, your cat will not become dehydrated. However, if the skin spreads very slowly, this is a sign of a lack of water.

You can also make the same observation on the eyes of your velvet paw. In dehydrated cats, the eyeballs fall back into the eye socket.

What is Dehydration?

The word dehydration is understood by medical professionals to mean a reduction in the water content in the body. So there is a lack of water. Since this can be caused by many different causes, it is not a disease in its own right, but a symptom (signs of disease).

The water balance plays a central role for all living things. Because water gives the body cells the necessary shape and also serves as a coolant on hot days. In addition, it also contains important minerals such as sodium.

As an electrolyte, sodium is the main component of table salt and is necessary for the transmission of nervous stimuli and the activity of the heart and muscles. Normally, sodium is retained in the body by the kidneys, while water is excreted in the form of urine. A disorder of kidney function can lead to a disturbed water and electrolyte balance.

Depending on how it develops, dehydration can consequently be accompanied by a change in the electrolyte balance, which is why water loss is divided into three forms:

Isotonic dehydration: The word “iso” is derived from Greek and means “equal”. “Tonus” in turn means “pressure”. With this form of dehydration, the water and sodium levels in the cat remain balanced.

Hypertonic dehydration: If there is only a drop in the amount of fluid, there is comparatively too much sodium in the body. A well-known cause for this form is water urinary dysfunction (diabetes insipidus), in which the excretion of water in the urine is increased.

Hypotonic dehydration: The loss of salt is greater than the loss of water. It can lead to water retention in the tissue, such as brain edema.

Note: The terms dehydration and dehydration, which are often used interchangeably, are not entirely correct. In chemistry, dehydration means the removal of hydrogen or the corresponding chemical reaction.

The Causes of a Lack of Water

Most cats are dehydrated due to a lack of drinking water. The less you drink, the less fluid there is in the body. This can often be observed, especially in hot summer months.

There are other causes of dehydration in cats. These include, for example, the following symptoms or underlying diseases:

  • Vomiting (vomiting) and diarrhea (diarrhea) as a result of infectious diseases or poisoning
    severe kidney damage
  • Adrenal insufficiency (Addison’s disease)
  • Burns
  • Treatment with water medicines (diuretics)
  • Urinary dysentery (diabetes insipidus)

What Can Happen if My Cat is Dehydrated?

A water shortage is often underestimated, and not just on hot summer days. Because even in cold temperatures cats can have a disturbed water balance. Depending on the cause, serious symptoms can occur. A visit to the vet is unavoidable, especially if there is massive water loss!

Dehydrated cats can have the following serious side effects:

  • decreased general well-being up to unconsciousness
  • decreased or absent urination
  • Uremia: symptoms of poisoning due to the lack of excretion of urinary substances (e.g. urea, uric acid, or creatinine)
  • low blood pressure (hypotension)

A particularly severe lack of water can also lead to desiccants, a dehydrated body. This condition can be life-threatening for the cat.

How Can You Treat Dehydration in Cats?

If your cat shows signs of a severe lack of water, the vet can give your furry friend a gentle supply of water with the help of fluid therapy. The liquid (infusion) can be given under the skin or into the veins.

The composition of the infusion depends on the type of dehydration:

  • Isotonic dehydration: Isotonic infusion solutions such as Ringer’s solution
  • Hypertonic dehydration: isotonic infusion solution plus five percent sugar solution
  • Hypotonic dehydration: Isotonic solution for infusion plus sodium

Preventing Water Shortages in Cats

Cats fed dry food are more likely to suffer from a lack of water. For balanced water and electrolyte balance, it is, therefore, advisable to offer the cat wet food. Some types of food are even adapted to higher fluid content. It is also advisable to clean the water bowl daily and to set up several bowls or drinking fountains with fresh water in the house.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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