Hydration is one of the most important aspects of pet ownership that if not maintained can cause life-threatening health concerns.
Water makes up 70-80% of a dog or cat’s body mass, so it’s a key nutrient in maintaining normal cellular function. A loss of only 10% of bodily fluids can lead to a variety of clinical signs of illness that necessitate an examination and treatment with a veterinarian.
Promoting hydration and combating dehydration is an ongoing process for pet owners. This article aims to put a practical spin on how owners can best maintain their canine or feline companion’s hydration so preventative illness can be avoided.
How Does Dehydration Occur?
Lack of liquid consumption and loss of body fluids reduces the overall volume of a pet’s blood and leads to dehydration.
All body parts suffer when there’s not enough fluid to permit proper movement of blood through the arteries and veins, and lymph in the lymphatic vessels. Thick blood and lymphatic fluid inefficiently peruse and drain organs, muscles, and other tissues which results in poor oxygenation and nutrient delivery, reduced toxin removal, and deficient white blood cell activity in all body systems.
Large bowel diarrhea (AKA colitis) and insensible water loss (evaporation through the lungs, nose, paw pads, etc.) are two significant ways that fluid loss leads to dehydration. A variety of conditions including cancer, infection, immune system disorders, glandular problems (kidney and liver disease, pancreatitis, etc.), toxicity, and others can cause nausea, vomiting, and decreased fluid and food consumption.
When your pet doesn’t consume enough moisture by drinking water or eating moist meals, then dehydration and a variety of health conditions can occur.
Clinical Signs of Dehydration
Dehydration is a diagnosis often seen in conjunction with other ailments, so it’s crucial for owners to be aware of potential for dehydration in the face of any illness.
Clinical signs of pet dehydration include (but aren’t exclusive to):
Lethargic behavior – Pets act less energetic or more fatigued and show exercise intolerance when less water is present in the body.
Decreased appetite – Dehydration reduces blood flow to the digestive tract, so less involuntary muscular contraction occurs in the stomach and intestines and causes slowing down of the digestive tract and decreased appetite.
Reduced urine and bowel movement volume and frequency – Reduced water consumption or increased water loss lessens the volume and frequency of urine and feces, as moisture is preserved in the vital organs (heart, lungs, and brain) in attempt to permit their essential functions in maintaining the basic functions of life.
Water seeking behavior – Dehydration will cause your pet to seek water, which could have him striving to drink from both familiar and unfamiliar places. A familiar and good place would be his water bowl. Unfamiliar and potentially harmful places include the toilet bowl, plant dishes, puddles on the ground, slow-moving streams, lakes, oceans, etc. as all sites can harbor toxins, infectious organisms (bacteria, parasites, molds, etc.), or other dangerous substances.
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