Hydration, Hydration, Hydration

In these hot summer months, dehydration is more common than not for us and our furry friends. Colorado’s dry climate and high altitude can pose extra challenges in staying adequately hydrated. Water is necessary for life, one the most important physical needs of our pet. Throughout the toasty month of July, we aim to raise awareness and ensure that your pet is properly hydrated.

Dehydration is also closely linked with problems such as heat stroke. This is when the body temperature is elevated past the healthy range. It’s often caused by extremely hot days and not enough water, and should be prevented in similar ways as dehydration. Learn about this condition for your pet here

The Importance of Hydration for Pets

Water is essential for all living beings, and our pets are no exception. Hydration plays a crucial role in maintaining optimal health and ensuring the proper functioning of various bodily systems. Just like humans, pets require an adequate intake of water to support digestion, regulate body temperature, lubricate joints, and facilitate organ function. And while humans are made up of about 60% water, both dogs and cats are made up of 80% water!

Dehydration can be caused by many factors, most often not getting enough water or food intake. It can also occur from increased panting, illness and fever, diarrhea, or injury. Underlying problems such as kidney disease can also contribute to dehydration. 

Mild dehydration is quite common, but more severe cases can result in major complications including death. Keep clean, fresh water easily available for your pet and look out for the signs of dehydration to keep their water levels normal. 

Signs of Dehydration

Dehydration happens when your pet isn’t taking in enough fluids and their internal water level is too low. To compensate, the body draws water out of its cells and loses important electrolytes. Electrolytes are more than just some minerals in sports drinks, they are essential to living beings to maintain the cells’ electrical charges. That’s how the muscles move and fluids in the body stay balanced. Without enough electrolytes, we (and our pets) can experience headaches, nausea, fatigue, muscle weakness, muscle spasms, abnormal heart rhythms, changes in blood pressure, confusion, numbness, and even seizures. 

In order for dehydrated pets to recover well, caretakers must notice signs and seek early intervention as soon as possible. Keep an eye out for dry, tacky gums, sunken eyes, less skin elasticity, lethargy, excessive panting, and decreased appetite. Like humans, they may also seem confused or disoriented with less energy than usual. 

If you suspect your dog or cat is dehydrated, check their skin elasticity and gum color. When you gently pinch the loose skin at your pet’s scruff, it should instantly spring back to its original position. When they are dehydrated, it will take two seconds or longer to return to its original position and may appear saggy or loose. In addition to looking at skin elasticity, check the color of your pet’s gums by gently pressing down on them with a finger and quickly removing it. Your pet’s gums will normally be white from this pressure, then immediately change back to their normal pink or red hue. If the gums stay white, or change back to pink slowly, this is a telltale sign of dehydration. 

When your pet is dehydrated, move them into a cool area, like the shade or indoors, as soon as possible. Bring them water for them to slowly drink. Taking in fluids too quickly during dehydration can cause vomiting, making them lose even more fluids. If your pet is severely dehydrated, call the nearest emergency veterinarian for a quality recovery. Even if your furry friend’s dehydration isn’t so bad, it’s most important that they have the medical support they need rather than facing potentially irreversible damage at home. 

Encouraging Water Intake

In general, your pet needs at least one ounce of water for each pound of body weight, every day. They should be able to access their water bowl at all times to get clean, fresh water. If you take a car ride, trip, or leave the house with your pet for more than a short walk, bring water along with you for them to drink. Hydration is especially important after exercise, when your furry friend has lost more water and urgently needs more to replenish their system. 

If your furry friend is reluctant to drink enough water, try adding a few ounces to their dry or wet food during meals. You can also make some special treats for the summer called “ pup-sicles”. These are frozen treats made with any liquid safe for your pet and a few hours in the freezer. Our favorite pup-sicles recipes are Greek yogurt with peanut butter, watermelon, carrot, cantaloupe, and bone broth. These are a great way to encourage your pup or kitty to get more fluids during the summer, and they will adore the extra snack. 

It’s also important to avoid bringing your pet outside when the sun is most intense, throughout the late morning and early afternoon. Dogs should have access to shade during quick potty breaks, and walks are best in the early mornings or evenings. 

Overall, stay aware of any changes in your pet or their behavior so they can get the help they need. Dehydration is extremely common, but you can help your dog or cat get back to being a happy, hydrated fur baby. In case of emergency, visit https://vettriage.com/harmony/ to virtually connect with a veterinarian and receive further instructions. 

As pet owners in Colorado, it is our responsibility to ensure our furry companions stay hydrated and healthy. By understanding the importance of pet hydration, recognizing the signs of dehydration, and taking proactive measures, we can safeguard our pets from potential health risks. Remember, water is an essential component of their overall well-being, and by prioritizing their hydration needs, we can help them thrive in our beautiful Colorado environment. Stay vigilant, provide access to fresh water, and consult with your veterinarian for personalized guidance to ensure your beloved pets lead a hydrated and happy life.