Summer has arrived in the northern hemisphere, and with summer comes sunshine, outdoor activities, and heat. The warmth is a relief to those of us who have endured months of cold, snow, and slush, especially those with pets that need outdoor exercise. However, with the heat comes a greater need to keep our pets hydrated and cool.
Just like us, our pets need water to function. Water regulates temperature, improves cognitive function, and lubricates the joints. It’s no exaggeration to say that water is necessary for every critical bodily function, and the same goes for our pets. Just like dehydration can be incredibly dangerous for humans, extended periods of dehydration can lead to the risk of organ failure or even death in our pets.
Our pets are often kept outdoors or in hot vehicles for long periods. How can you be sure they’re healthy and getting enough water when the days get hotter?
How to detect dehydration in your pets
Your pets can get dehydrated for a few reasons, with hot weather being a primary concern. If you come home on a hot day and your cat is acting strange, how do you tell if she’s dehydrated? If your dog is out in your backyard on a hot day or you are out on a run, how can you be sure he’s staying hydrated and cool? Here are some of the main signs of dehydration in cats.
It can be a concern if your cat is less active than usual. Lethargy is also a primary sign of dehydration in dogs. It’s worrying not only because it’s a sign of dehydration but because your pet will feel less thirsty having been inactive. If your pet feels less thirsty, it will drink less, leading to worse dehydration. While it’s not a sure sign on its own, if your pet acts lethargic, it’s often the first sign something is wrong.
A healthy animal's eyes will be bright and shiny. When dehydrated, your pet's eyes will appear dull and shrunken into their sockets.
Dry gums and mouth
When dehydrated, your pet's mouth will dry out quickly. A healthy animal's mouth is pink, damp, and shiny. If your pet's gums become tacky or their saliva thicker than usual, it likely means they’re dehydrated.
When a pet is dehydrated, it may feel nauseous and not want to eat. If your pet begins vomiting while you’re concerned she’s dehydrated, take her to the vet right away. Gastrointestinal issues are a sign of dehydration in both cats and dogs.
Like in people, you can tell by their skin when a pet is dehydrated. In dogs, you can check their noses. A healthy dog's nose should be damp and cool. When dehydrated, its nose will be dry, just like its gums.
In cats, you can do a tent test. Gently pinch a section of skin between your cat's shoulder blades, and lift it away for a moment. When you let go, it should return to normal quickly. If the skin doesn’t bounce back, your cat is dehydrated.
Panting and sweating
It’s common for dogs to pant after exertion, but if they’re panting while not moving around, it’s a sure sign that they’re too hot and possibly dehydrated. In cats, panting is more of a concern. There’s no case where a cat panting doesn’t indicate either extremely hot or has some other underlying condition.
How to protect against pet dehydration
The best way to protect your pets from dehydration is to prepare for the heat by ensuring they have access to what they need to manage their temperature and drink enough water. Here are some recommendations to avoid your pet ever becoming dehydrated.
Fresh water at all times
The first and most important is ensuring that your pets have access to clean water at all times. Pets will seek out water if thirsty, more so in the heat. Ensuring they have safe, clean water to drink means not only that they’ll drink but that they’ll not be at risk of picking up water-borne contamination. Make sure their water bowls are clean and free of bacteria.
For cats, this means ensuring they have water bowls set out where they’re comfortable drinking. Cats are picky drinkers, and you may have to experiment with quiet places to drink from. If your cat struggles to get water at the best of times, invest in a circulating water fountain for them. Cats much prefer drinking from moving water.
For dogs, find ways to ensure that there’s water on hand outdoors and at home. If your dogs spend most of their time outside, set out clean bowls of water for them in your yard where they rest. You can put ice cubes in water bowls on hot days to help your dog regulate temperature.
Try training your dog to drink from a bottle of water while out on a run, or carry bowls from your pet to drink from to avoid wasting plastic. Your dog will use the most water when exercising and likely need to drink.
Other sources of water
Supplement your pet's diet with canned food or fresh vegetables where appropriate. This tactic will add another source of moisture to your pet's diet, especially if they’re unlikely to drink on their own. Cats and dogs that eat only dry food will require more water from other sources than those that eat canned food.
Odd drinking methods
Your pets, especially cats, can be picky about where and how they drink. If your cat decides it wants to drink from a dripping faucet, it may just be best to let them, so long as the water isn’t contaminated.
Though a dog’s coat will help to cool it down, excess fur in the summer will contribute to overheating. Get the grooming your dog needs to be comfortable in the summer heat.
Be mindful of your furry friends, and ensure a safe and fun summer by keeping them hydrated. However, if your pet shows signs of dehydration, they need to see a veterinarian immediately. Dehydration is a serious health concern for your pets and will need to be treated with IV fluids to restore water and electrolytes in your pet to avoid organ failure.
Sudden health concerns for your pet can be stressful, especially considering treatment costs to ensure your pet's health. Wagmo pet preventive care plans can help with vet visits and preventative care costs. Wagmo pet wellness plans also cover grooming costs to help cool your furry friend.
Contact Wagmo today to choose the best of three pet wellness plans to suit your needs and your budget.