Water Please...

Photo by Jennifer Petrone

Photo by Jennifer Petrone

The Importance of Hydrating Your Pets in Hot Weather

Your dog or cat should always have a bowl of fresh water next to their food. Keep this topped up and change the water regularly. Your pet will probably be able to tell if the water has been standing around for too long, so changing the water will keep them happy and hydrated. Perhaps every time you get yourself a drink at home, you could check up on your pets water levels so they are never left high and dry. It seems like common sense but pet dehydration occurs more commonly than you think.

If your pet doesn't drink enough water, it could lead to serious health complications in the future, including chronic kidney failure, heatstroke and shock. Dehydration is serious because it not only involves a loss of water, but also electrolytes, including essential minerals such as sodium, chloride and potassium.

Unfortunately, your pet cannot say 'I'm thirsty', but their behavior may well be saying the same thing. Be attentive if your pet demonstrates loss of appetite, irritability, or fatigue, as these are tell-tale signs of dehydration. More extreme signs include your pet's skin losing its natural elasticity; the skin should always spring back smoothly into place when gently pinched into a fold, however in a dehydrated cat, the skin stays up in a ridge. You can also check for dryness of the nose, mouth, gums and eyes.

Dogs or cats that only eat dry food can get particularly thirsty. The dry kibbles can dry their mouth out, which means they are often looking for a gulp of fresh water to wash down their meal. Smaller or older pets are also more prone to dehydration, and need special attention. Dogs are perhaps slightly more prone to overheating and dehydration than cats, as they overheat easily. Dogs do not have sweat glands to cool them off like humans do, so they pant to stay cool. However, a dangling tongue also leads to dehydration if they don't drink enough water to keep their mouth wet.

Some cat owners may have noticed that their cat prefers to drink running water, rather than stagnant water from a bowl. Cats are often seen perching on the edge of the sink to lap up the water from the tap, whilst other cats prefer the automatic feline water fountains that are on the market. There are various theories as to why cats like drinking running water: the water is cooler; they prefer the taste; or the water is fresher. Whatever the reason, if your cat has the taste for running water then it is better to indulge their needs to keep them hydrated.

If you suspect your dog or cat is suffering from dehydration, take them to your local vets immediately. They will be able to assess your pet's health and rehydrate them where necessary. A trip to the vets doesn't need to dry out your bank balance, however, if you have quality pet insurance. Whilst veterinary care can be expensive, pet insurance will give you the peace of mind that your animal is protected.

By Josie K Anderson