July has been designated as National Pet Hydration Awareness Month since it generally records the highest temperatures of the year. Proper hydration for our pets is critical and dehydration has serious and immediate health risks in dogs and cats. Did you know pets are comprised of a higher percentage of water than humans? In general, human composition is 55 to 60 percent water. Dogs and cat are closer to 80 percent water. Therefore, it is actually easier for our pets to be come dehydrated.
The warm weather poses an increased risk to pets as well. The amount of water pets need to consume follows a simple formula – one ounce of water per pound body weight. A ten-pound pet needs to intake 10 ounces of water. This fluid may be from actual water or in consumed foods.
Most pets don’t get enough water, especially during extreme temperatures in summer. This produces a subclinical dehydration on a regular basis which slowly damages their body. This is one thought as to why so many cats develop kidney failure as they age.
As a pet owner you should follow these guidelines to encourage water consumption:
• Offer fresh water at all times.
• Have multiple bowls available in the areas where your pet is the most.
• Some pets prefer a water fountain that keeps water running and fresh, cats in particular.
• Put ice cubes in the water dish to entice drinking. Which one of us generally prefers room temperature water for drinking?
• Add water to their food at mealtime to increase daily water intake.
We also need to think about activities, especially dogs, during this time. While walking and playing during hot weather, offer frequent water breaks. If walking, stop frequently and offer water. Often dehydration will precede overheating or heatstroke. Active, energetic dogs fail to recognize the risk of dehydration and heatstroke if we do stop and offer them water.
Some common signs of dehydration are:
• Sunken eyes
• Loss of appetite (results in less fluid intake)
• Dry mouth
• Vomiting or Diarrhea (these increase the level of dehydration)
• Loss of skin elasticity
If you think your pet is dehydrated, check the mouth. Generally the gums should be moist and not dry or tacky feeling. Also, you may check the elasticity of the skin by gently grabbing a fold of skin behind the neck and releasing the skin. The skin should pop back in place immediately. If it is delayed you pet may be dehydrated and you should seek medical help. These are crude tests which require your pet to be at least 5 to 6 percent dehydrated before symptoms are observed. Important fact: death can occur around ten to twelve percent dehydration.
Stay cool and stay hydrated everyone!