We may be in the dog days of summer, but it's important for pet owners to realize that cats feel the heat, too. In fact, one hot-weather danger for cats is dehydration. Just like people, pets need water to stay alive and well, and when the level of fluid in their bodies goes down, they become depleted of the sodium, potassium, and other electrolytes they need.
Because cats have that air of "I can take care of myself, thanks," an owner may not notice right away if their pet isn't feeling well. But as the veterinarian-run website askthecatdoctor.com pointed out, cats can develop many of the same illnesses that affect their human companions — diabetes, pancreatitis, urinary tract infections, heart and kidney disease — in addition to cat-specific ailments such as heartworm and feline leukemia.
"Any cat can be prone to dehydration, but obviously those with with certain conditions — diabetes, hyperthyroidism, cancer — are more at risk," Jodi Holcomb Oliver, DVM, a Maryland-based vet, tells Romper. "Excessive heat and lack of fresh access to fresh water can cause it, as can vomiting and diarrhea." Kittens and elderly cats are especially vulnerable to the illnesses that can lead to dehydration, and Persian cats and similar breeds are at risk of overheating in the summer because of their short noses and flat faces.
"If you have any concern that your cat is dehydrated, you should see your vet immediately," says Dr. Oliver. Depending on the severity of the dehydration, the doctor will either inject fluids just under the skin, or keep the cat in the hospital for a day or two to receive IV fluid and treat any underlying illness.
In addition to always having fresh water and a cool resting place available, the best way to prevent dehydration in your fur friend is to see your vet regularly, says Dr. Oliver. For healthy cats, that means every six months to a year; cats with medical conditions will need to be examined more often to make sure they're getting enough fluids.
Every cat owner should know and recognize these key symptoms of dehydration.