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Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook

DEHYDRATION
Dehydration is excess loss of body fluids. Usually it involves loss of both water and electrolytes (which are minerals such as sodium, chloride, potassium). During illness, dehydration may be due to an inadequate fluid intake. Fever increases the loss of water. This becomes significant if the cat does not drink enough to offset it. Other common causes of dehydration are prolonged vomiting and diarrhea.

One sign of dehydration is loss of skin elasticity. When the skin along the back is picked up into a fold, it should spring back into place. In dehydration, the skin stays up in a ridge. Another sign is dryness of the mouth. The gums, which should be wet and glistening, are dry and tacky to the touch. The saliva is thick and tenacious. Late signs are sunken eyeballs and circulatory collapse (shock).

Treatment: A cat that is noticeably dehydrated should receive prompt veterinary attention. Treatment is directed at replacing fluids and preventing further losses.

In mild cases without vomiting, fluids can be given by mouth. If the cat won't drink, give an electrolyte solution by bottle or syringe into the cheek pouch (see DRUGS AND MEDICATIONS). Balanced electrolyte solutions for treating dehydration in children are available at drugstores. Ringer's lactate with 5 percent Dextrose in water and a solution called Pedialyte are suitable for cats. They are given at the rate of two to four millileters per pound body weight per hour, depending on the severity of the dehydration (or as directed by your veterinarian).

The treatment of dehydration in infant kittens is discussed in PEDIATRICS: CommonFeeding Problems.


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