How to Treat a Dehydrated Cat

By Tammy Dray

If you suspect your cat is dehydrated, take him to the vet right away. In severe cases of dehydration, just encouraging your cat to drink water might not be enough. In addition, your vet can help determine if there's an underlying condition causing the dehydration and whether you can treat this at home or if your cat needs to be hospitalized.

What Causes Dehydration

Just like humans, cats can become dehydrated for many reasons, including illness, such as kidney disease, a bit of diarrhea and overheating. Vomiting or diarrhea also lead to fluid loss and might cause your cat to become dehydrated. Cats who eat only dry food are more likely to become dehydrated than cats fed a canned food diet, as canned food can contain up to 80 percent water.

Symptoms of dehydration

A dehydrated cat might show loss of appetite and signs of depression and lethargy. They often pant and have an elevated heart rate. Dehydration causes a loss of elasticity on the skin and many cats will have sunken eyes. You also might notice that your cat's mucous membranes -- nose, mouth, eyelids -- are dry.

Treating Dehydration at Home

Once your vet has determined what caused the dehydration, you might be able to treat the problem at home. This can be done by switching to a canned food diet, syringing water directly into your cat's mouth or providing fluid therapy through a home IV. Some cats might be more inclined to lick an ice cube than to drink water from a bowl, while others might prefer bottled water over tap water. Always provide options and leave several bowls of water around the house for easy and constant access throughout the day.

Dangers of Dehydration

If your cat appears dehydrated, take him to the veterinarian as soon as possible. When dehydration is due to vomiting or acute diarrhea, the veterinarian might need to administer subcutaneous fluids to help restore the correct levels of electrolytes. Leaving dehydration untreated can lead to further problems, including kidney conditions.