Dehydration & Pets

By Cate Burnette

 

When Texas summers get as hot as they normally do, all pet parents need to watch out for our dogs and cats becoming dehydrated from a lack of body water. Dehydration occurs when the total body water is less than normal and involves loss of both water and electrolytes (minerals such as sodium, chloride and potassium).

When there is not enough body water, fluid shifts out of the body cells to compensate, leaving the cells deficient in necessary water. This leads to dehydration. The severity of the dehydration is based on the magnitude of these body water shifts. Pets normally lose fluid through breathing, panting, urinating and defecating and those fluids must be restored regularly to maintain optimum health.

 

Causes and Symptoms of Dehydration

There are a number of ways your dog or cat can become dehydrated. Your pet may not be eating or drinking enough to take in appropriate amounts of water. Dehydration can cause the loss of appetite and, in a frustrating cycle, your animal loses even more body water when she won’t eat or drink. Illnesses that cause bouts of frequent vomiting or diarrhea and/or high fevers can result in your pet becoming dehydrated. Any dog or cat that is overheated may also be suffering from dehydration.

So what are some of the symptoms that you need to watch for?

There are basically 3 levels of clinical dehydration, with the final levels being the most serious.

Beginning Signs

  • Excessive panting and warm skin
  • Dry mouth, nose and gums
  • Visibly tired, less animated
  • Sunken eyes, lack of moisture

Intermediate Signs

  • Loss of skin elasticity – If a gentle pinch of shoulder or neck skin doesn’t immediately pop back into place, your pet is probably dehydrated. As the tissue under the skin loses moisture, the skin moves back more slowly. In extreme cases, the skin doesn’t pop back at all.
  • Delayed Capillary Refill Time (CRT) – Place your thumb or index finger firmly against your pet’s gums so that they whiten. Remove your finger and count how many seconds it takes for the gums to become pink. Any time longer than 2 seconds is a sign of dehydration and/or other illness.
  • Rectal temperature greater than 105º F

Final Signs

  • Your pet is wobbly and unsteady on her feet
  • You notice hind end weakness

 

How to Prevent Dehydration

Maintaining a constant body fluid level is as important in animals as it is in humans. The Humane Society of the United States issues these tips for keeping your pet hydrated in even the warmest weather.

  • Leave several bowls of water around the house so that your cats and dogs get enough to drink.
  • If you notice your pet hasn’t had a drink in a while, start by allowing her to have a few sips of water every few minutes. Overdrinking can easily lead to nausea and vomiting and losing even more fluids that she needs.
  • After strenuous exercise, monitor the amount of water your dog drinks and don’t allow overdrinking.
  • Take a collapsible bowl and plenty of cool water with you when you’re exercising or playing outside with your pet. Allow plenty of down time (especially on hot days) and find a place for shade so your pet can cool down.
  • If your dog or cat is outside for any length of time, ensure there are bowls of clean, cool water available for drinking.

 

What can I do if I suspect my pet is dehydrated?

  • Give an electrolyte (such as Gatorade®) mixed with water if your pet is showing the early signs of dehydration. While water helps in replenishing a lot of nutrients, electrolytes can do the job more quickly.
  • Animals who have gone a long time without drinking water may have a hard time holding it down. Allow your dog or cat to lick ice. She’ll rehydrate herself as the ice melts.

 

  • If your pet refuses to drink for any extended period of time, see your veterinarian immediately!

 

Veterinary Treatment of Dehydration

The veterinary care for moderately and severely dehydrated pets revolves around the administration of supplemental fluids. Typically, fluids are given either subcutaneously (SQ) under the first layer of skin or intravenously (IV) through a vein. The latter requires hospitalization and the insertion of an intravenous catheter. Your vet can determine the amount of fluids to be given and the route of administration in the best interests of your pet.

 

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catebCate Burnette is a semi-retired registered veterinary technician with clinical experience in small and large animal medicine. With 30-plus years of journalism experience, she went back to school after 9/11 to work with her first love: animals. The pet parent of four cats, three dogs and one ex-racehorse, Cate is a certified rescue volunteer with the American Humane Association’s Red Star Emergency Services and served with the group in New Orleans doing animal search and rescue after Hurricane Katrina. She is also a horse safety and horse management expert, and has volunteered with US Pony Clubs as a district commissioner and horse management judge.

 

Cuts & Scrapes On Your Pet

By Cate Burnette

Minor Injuries You Can Care For At Home

When a pet sustains an injury, concerned pet parents often have a lot of the same questions as human parents, such as, “How bad is this, really? What should I do to treat this? Is this an injury requiring immediate professional medical care, or can it be dealt with at home?” That’s why it’s good to have a little understanding of what the difference is between a major and a minor injury in your furry companion.

What is the difference between a major trauma and a minor injury?

Major traumas include bite wounds, puncture wounds, burns, scalds, snake bites of any kind, deep lacerations and broken bones. These injuries should NEVER be treated at home and your pet needs to see your local veterinarian or emergency clinic immediately. A deep cut can get infected and require stitching and even small burns or scalds can send an animal into shock. Snake bites – both poisonous and non-poisonous – can cause pain and extreme inflammation and, of course, broken bones necessitate professional care to set and lessen pain.

Minor injuries are issues like torn nails, bruises, skin scrapes, insect bites or stings (without allergic reaction), and/or minor intestinal problems such as occasional constipation or diarrhea. You can treat most of these matters at home and contact your vet if you have any concerns.

Home Treatments for Minor Injuries

As concerned pet parents, you know that your veterinarian needs to be called for traumatic wounds, ongoing illnesses and sudden, acute disease symptoms. However, for any inconsequential injuries, there are treatments you can do at home with items from your medicine cabinet and kitchen to help your pet heal quickly and pain free.  

 

  • Bumps, Bruises, Twists, and Sprains – Tenderness, swelling, limping and mild to moderate pain can indicate a bruise, sprain or strain of limbs and paws. Keep your pet quiet and restrict exercise by crating if necessary. If the signs continue for more than 2 or 3 days, contact your veterinarian.
  • Torn Toenails – Dogs and cats can slice up their nails in a variety of ways – everything from a too-close nail trim that nicks the quick, to running outdoors over sharp rocks. When the bleeding doesn’t stop, dip the hurt nail into a tiny amount of styptic powder, typically found on the shaving aisle found in most commercial pharmacies. If you don’t have styptic powder available, corn starch or regular baking flour will also curtail the bleeding.
  • Cuts and Scrapes – Please Note: If the injury site is swollen, bruised or bleeds excessively, you must assume your pet has sustained a bone break or sprain and you should allow your veterinarian to provide treatment and pain meds immediately. For minor cuts and scrapes with no other signs, clean the site of dirt with a cloth or towel and a non-stinging antiseptic diluted in warm water. Apply a cold compress (you can use a bag of frozen veggies) and keep it in place for a few minutes to alleviate any inflammation and pain. Place a dab of 3-in-one antibiotic ointment on the cut and bandage lightly to keep your pet from licking the area. Contact your vet for further advice and additional treatment.
  • Bug Bites or Bee Stings – Bug bites or stings typically occur around the face and head of a dog or cat. Once you notice the area, apply a cold pack to the bite to reduce swelling and itching. Look for a stinger. If one is still in the skin, use a credit card or other flat, rigid object (NOT tweezers) to scrape it out. Take your pet to the veterinarian immediately if you notice any swelling in the head or neck area that can affect breathing or if you find a stinger in the tongue or the roof of the mouth.
  • Swallowed Objects – In many cases, if your dog swallows an inappropriate object, you can take a wait-and-see approach to watch if the item passes without any trouble. However, swallowing sharp objects, such as needles or pieces of glass, extremely large objects, or any type of long item, such as string, pantyhose, or fishing line, is very dangerous because a serious bowel constriction or obstruction can result. Additionally, cats often swallow tinsel, fishing line or thread that can become wrapped around the tongue. In those cases, or if your pet shows signs of consistent vomiting, has a distended or painful abdomen, or is not having bowel movements, contact your veterinarian for immediate emergency treatment.
  • Constipation, Diarrhea, Hairballs, and Other Minor Digestive Issues – Most pets, at one time or another, experience digestive upsets that last for a few days and disappear. If these upsets are not related to other major health issues, then a dose of canned pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling) can do the trick. Veterinarians recommend giving 1 teaspoon per every 10 pounds of body weight either as a treat or in the normal diet one or two times a day until the issue resolves. Pumpkin is rich in a soluble plant fiber that eases the pains of both constipation and diarrhea.

 

 

If the symptoms of any injury or trauma are excessive – or continue for more than 1 or 2 days – contact your veterinarian for treatment. Remember, if your pet is sick or injured, it’s important to protect yourself and anyone else who may be caring for or handling her, so using a muzzle on dogs or a pillowcase on cats may be necessary. Even the most docile and gentle of pets can bite in response to pain or fear.

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Cate Burnette is a semi-retired registered veterinary technician with clinical experience in small and large animal medicine. With 30-plus years of journalism experience, she went back to school after 9/11 to work with her first love: animals. The pet parent of four cats, three dogs and one ex-racehorse, Cate is a certified rescue volunteer with the American Humane Association’s Red Star Emergency Services and served with the group in New Orleans doing animal search and rescue after Hurricane Katrina. She is also a horse safety and horse management expert, and has volunteered with US Pony Clubs as a district commissioner and horse management judge.

Enjoying 4th of July with your Precious Pets

Summertime is a wonderful time of year when we can celebrate with family and friends, frolicking in the sprinklers, enjoying barbecue and picnic foods and relishing the holidays that fall during the warmth of the season.  One of the most popular holidays is the 4th of July, but this can be a scary and dangerous time for our pets.

The Pet Amber Alert blog reports that national statistics show an increase of shelter use and missing pets between the days of July 4-6th.  When the neighborhood is outdoors enjoying the fun and loud fireworks, pets indoors can become overwhelmed, and the likelihood of them running away and becoming lost is greater.

Fireworks and food can be fun for humans, but not necessarily for pets.  Here are just a few things you can do to keep your pet safe during this Independence Day:

Serve Goodness. Although it’s tempting to offer your pet a special barbecue nugget, the safest thing for their sensitive systems is to keep pets on their regular diets during the holiday season. You can find more out about people food that can be harmful to pets by checking out a handy publication by the ASPCA.

Dim the Flame. Matches and fireworks can be scary, and dangerous to your pets.  Any exposure to fireworks has the potential for an injury involving burns and trauma for your pet. Also, fireworks are made with substances that are toxic to pets, not to mention that loud noises can cause pets to run off seeking the solace of a quiet space. Keep your pet indoors while the fireworks are outside.

The 4th of July can be great fun for everyone including your pets.  With a bit of preparation and caution, you and your pets can enjoy a fun-filled Independence Day.