Dehydration in cats can become serious if not taken care of promptly. There are at least three causes of dehydration, which includes illness, prolonged vomiting and nonstop diarrhea. Illness usually comes in the form of upper respiratory infection, which, if severe enough, can cause a cat to stop eating and drinking. A cat normally uses its heightened sense of smell to eat and drink. However, with a severe upper respiratory infection, there is so much mucous that it blocks off the sense of smell, and if a cat cannot smell anything, it will not eat or drink anything, thus dehydration sets in.
The second cause of dehydration is vomiting, which usually is a result of the type of food a cat eats or in older cats, may be something more sinister, such as cancer. Some cats’ systems are highly delicate and need a specific cat food brand that a veterinarian can recommend, once other causes, such as a more serious illness, have been eliminated.
As far as the diarrhea issues in cats are concerned, Giardiasis and Coccidiosis, are both intestinal parasites that can cause diarrhea in cats. Both of these intestinal parasites are easily treated with the correct medications prescribed by the veterinarian. However, if these remain untreated, they do get worse and can cause damage to a cat, via dehydration and organs shutting down as a result.
One more illness that can cause vomiting and diarrhea combined, which results in dehydration in cats, is IBD, or Inflammatory Bowel Disease, usually caused by food allergies, sensitivity to certain foods, or bacteria in the intestinal tract. IBD can be managed under veterinary care with the correct food and medications prescribed to treat it.
Symptoms of dehydration include loss of skin elasticity, for example, pinching the skin up in a fold, and if it remains in that fold and doesn’t go down, the cat is dehydrated. Another symptom is dry mouth and gums. If the mouth and gums feel dry and tacky to the touch, and has thick saliva that has the consistency of mucous, it is time to bring the cat to the veterinarian.
The veterinarian will then do a thorough examination, along with x-rays, possibly a cat scan, to eliminate more sinister causes and administer fluid replacement so that no more fluid is lost. In less severe cases, fresh water should always be available once the cat is home from the veterinary visit. However, if the cat will not drink the water on his own free will, then put an electrolyte solution, such as Pedialyte, into a syringe and give it to him orally.
Upon the veterinarian’s recommendations and based on the cat’s body weight, the electrolyte solution should be 2 ml to 4 ml per pound. These usually work within a couple of days. However, in more severe cases, the cat has to spend the night at the hospital to have subcutaneous fluids administered by the veterinary staff until the cat is stabilized and shows enough improvement to go home the next day.