How do I know if my pet is dehydrated?

We take a look at the signs, treatment and prevention of dehydration in pets.

13th May 2019

Water is important to all mammals as it plays huge roles in our bodies, helping with many of the most essential biological functions that keep us happy and healthy. It also serves to cool our bodies, so if not enough is going in, or too much is going out this can lead to dehydration and this is the same for our pets, cat or dog.

What causes dehydration in pets?

Our pets gain and lose water throughout the day, panting, urinating, sweating and even breathing contributes to the loss of fluid and is then replaced when our pets drink or eat. Overheating, diarrhoea, and vomiting can all lead to dehydration, which can be a life-threatening condition if not recognised and treated.

What are the signs of dehydration in pets?

It can be hard to spot a dehydrated pet, but once you know the signs, they’re easily recognisable. Most can be seen or observed and there’s one easy test you can do with your cat or dog that will help you confirm whether or not your pet’s dehydrated.

The test involves gently pinching a fold of skin at the top of the neck, just between your pet’s shoulder blades, and letting go. If your pet is dehydrated it will fall back into place slowly instead of immediately springing back to its original position.

A skin test might not be accurate in older or obese pets.

Other signs to look out for include:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Sunken eyes
  • Dry nose and gums
  • Weakness or collapse
  • Excessive panting

How is dehydration in pets treated?

If you suspect your pet is dehydrated then you will need to take them to see the vet as they will need to have their fluid levels replenished. While your pet might be able to do this themselves by drinking enough water, some will need assistance, depending on the severity of dehydration. 

Your vet will need to carry out an examination if they suspect your pet is dehydrated, this will help them determine the severity and cause of your pet’s condition. Once the severity and cause have been identified your vet will decide what treatment is needed for your cat or dog.

From here, your pet will be placed on a drip in order to replace the fluids they have already lost. There are alternative methods for rehydrating pets but if these need to be used your vet will let you know and talk through the procedure your pet is going to undertake depending on what they think’s best.

What can I do to prevent dehydration in my pet?

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help prevent your pet from becoming dehydrated, and this is incredibly important in the summer months.

  • Make sure you provide clean, fresh water at all times
  • Never leave your pet in the car, whatever the weather
  • Provide shade if your pet likes to go outside
  • Make sure your pet takes time to stop and rest
  • Keep them indoors when it’s too hot
  • Keep an eye on how much they’re eating and drinking
  • Make sure to take water when walking your dog
  • Avoid long walks or exercising when it’s too hot

Is there anything I can use to keep my pet hydrated?

Trying to get a pet to keep themselves hydrated can be a challenging task, depending on their preferences and character. There are a few cat and dog products on the market designed to help owners make sure their pets are drinking enough.

Cat fountains

Cat fountains can sometimes encourage cats to drink more than they usually would. As our feline friends can be a little fussier than their canine counterparts, buying a fountain might help make sure they keep hydrated during the hotter days. There are a variety of different fountains available, and not all cats will prefer drinking moving water, but it may help your fussy cat.


Fillable cat and dog toys can be frozen in the summer to help keep them cool, hydrated and entertained. They can be filled with their favourite treats and some water, and as they lick or play they are unknowingly hydrating their bodies.

If you own any pet puzzles, some of these can be filled with a cat or dog’s normal food and frozen.

Sometimes we do our best to make sure our pets are safe and healthy but we can’t always prevent them from falling ill so recognising the symptoms and catching dehydration early is key before it becomes dangerous.

If you suspect your pet is dehydrated, speak to your vet as soon as you can.

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