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Veterinarian Tips: Cat Dehydration

May 15, 2017

Unlike their canine companions, cats are typically not big drinkers. They don’t gulp or slurp down the contents of their water bowls, but tend to take a more dignified approach to drinking as they neatly lap up their water. Unfortunately, while most cats only require 7 to 10 ounces of water a day, some don’t drink near the amount they need, which could create a serious health condition.

Do your clients who have cats know this? If not, provide them with this information they may find useful.

Cat Dehydration

Body fluids are made up of water and minerals, such as sodium, chloride, and potassium. When the body loses fluids faster than it can replace them, dehydration occurs.

When a cat is suffering from dehydration, the condition may be associated with many different factors, for instance:

  • Illness
  • Activity level of animal
  • Environmental temperature
  • Physical needs
  • Water intake.

Signs of Dehydration

When determining if their cat is dehydrated, advise clients to look for the following:

  • Loss of skin elasticity. Pinch the skin along the cat’s back up into a fold. If the animal is properly hydrated, the skin will spring smoothly into place. If it is dehydrated, the skin will stay up in a fold.
  • Dry mouth. When a cat is properly hydrated, the gums should be wet and look shiny. If it is dehydrated, the gums will be dry and tacky when touched, and its saliva will be thick.
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Urinating less frequently or in smaller amounts than normal

Severely dehydrated animals may show signs of sunken eyeballs and symptoms of shock, such as:

  • Panting
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Rapid pulse.

Client Tips on Ways to Help Their Cat Stay Hydrated

Tip #1. Cats prefer fresh water

When the water level in their bowl drops, instead of topping it off, empty the water out, wash the bowl, and refill it with fresh, cool water.

Tip #2.  Cats are drawn to flowing water!

Cats seem to like fountain-type bowls that offer bubbling water. These systems not only encourage a cat to drink more, but they also help the animal by circulating the water contents through filters. With the proper maintenance, the water provided is always clean, cool, and fresh.

Tip #3. Encourage their curiosity!

Place their water bowl in a new location or put several out in multiple locations. Their natural curiosity will drive them to check out the contents and encourage them to drink!

Tip #4. Entice their senses!

Cats are tempted by smell as well as flavor! Adding a small amount of low-sodium chicken or beef broth to their water bowl may cause them to drink more!

For those hot temperature days when it is of even greater necessity that the animal drinks more, clients can freeze broth into an ice cube tray. Dropping one or iced two broth cubes into their water bowl may also pique their curiosity, prompting them to play with the floating broth cubes as well as persuade them to drink more!

Tip #5. Offer canned food!

Most cats love canned food. An excellent way to provide nutrition, it is also typically made up of nearly 70 to 80 percent water. Adding canned food to the animal’s daily diet will increase its consumption of water.

When talking with clients, while it’s important for them to be aware of ways to encourage their pet to drink more, they also need to know that if the warning signs of dehydration are observed, the animal needs to be promptly seen by the veterinarian.

Contact a Covetrus representative for additional suggestions on keeping a cat healthy at 855.724.3461.


Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook, D. Eldredge, D. Carlson, L. Carlson, J. Giffin, 2008, Wiley Publishing Co.
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