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Natural Awakenings Fairfield Cty/Housatonic Valley, CT

A Simple New Year’s Resolution for Pets: Water

Dec 31, 2014 03:36AM ● By Mary Oquendo

It’s that time of year again. What if there was one simple resolution you could make that would instantly improve the quality of life for your pets? Here it is…

Resolve to add more water to your pet’s daily diet

Water is important because it maintains the balance of body fluids that are used in digestion, circulation and body temperature regulation. It reduces muscle fatigue resulting in better performance and more energy for playtime. The skin will be more elastic and the coat healthy and shiny. Ninety percent of the brain is made up of water. Adequate water consumption will boost energy levels and promote mental clarity. This is important because pets can begin to suffer from cognitive disorders as they age.

All these factors matter, but the number one reason for ensuring adequate intake of water is to protect the kidneys. The kidneys are your pet’s filtration system; they need a sufficient water supply to work properly. If your pets do not have enough moisture in their diet through food and drinking water, it could lead to dehydration.

Dehydration is the loss of normal body fluids, including water and electrolytes. The body’s cells are now deficient in the necessary water needed to perform vital functions. Dehydration can cause permanent kidney damage, heatstroke and shock as well as damage the circulatory system. Untreated dehydration can lead to death in a matter of hours.

There are three ways dehydration can occur. There is a reduced fluid intake, an increase in fluid losses or a combination of both.

Reduced fluid intake

• Your pet’s water source is unavailable or unclean

• Stressful events and travel reduce your pet’s desire for water. Stressful events include holiday gatherings, moving, and additions to the family.

• Dogs and cats require a diet that is 70 percent moisture. Most dry foods are between 8 and 12 percent moisture. If supplemented foods and water do not make up the other 60 percent, then your pet may be living in a state of dehydration. This continual dehydration damages the kidneys. Kidney failure is the number one cause of death in cats and the number two for dogs.

Increased fluid losses

• Overexertion and panting due to heat or exercise

• Medications can cause your pet to urinate frequently

• Illnesses, diarrhea, vomiting or fevers

• Excessive drooling, which can also be a particular breed issue or an allergic reaction

• Large wounds or burns

• Recuperating pets need more fluids than normal

• Kidney disease and diabetic pets are unable to retain fluids and urinate frequently

Young, older, immune-compromised, pregnant and nursing pets are more susceptible to dehydration. When signs of dehydration are apparent, it’s important to go to your vet immediately.

Signs of dehydration include:

• Skin loses elasticity. The “pinch test” is a quick way to check for dehydration. Pull up the skin like a tent and let it fall back down. It should return to its original position immediately. This is not an accurate test for obese pets as their skin is already stretched to capacity.

• Acting lethargic or depressed

• Sunken eyes

• Dry, tacky gums

• Increased heart rate

• Slow capillary refill time (normal
refill time is two seconds)

• Tremors in back legs

While physical findings can point to dehydration, it cannot determine the extent. A complete blood count, packed cell volume and total blood protein tests are needed to determine the extent and cause and check for kidney damage. A complete biochemistry profile is recommended.

Dehydration is measured in percentages

• Less than 5 percent: Considered mild dehydration. The stretched skin will return to normal quickly.

• 6-9 percent: There is a noticeable delay in skin returning to normal position, eyes can be sunken and the gums dry. This range can cause significant health problems in cats.

• 10-12 percent: The skin does not return to normal, eyes are very sunken, pulse is weak and the heart rate is accelerated. This will cause significant health problems in dogs and can be fatal in cats.

• 12-15 percent: This is life threatening for dogs. They will be in shock and most likely unconscious.

• 15 percent: Death.

It does not take long for your pet to go from 5 to 15 percent and any delay in treatment can be fatal.

In mild cases of dehydration, as determined by your vet, give your pet fluids by mouth or into the cheek pouch with a syringe. Use Smart Water or unflavored Pedialyte instead of water, as they will also replace lost electrolytes. Do not use flavored Pedialyte or Gatorade as they contain artificial sugars.

In more serious cases of dehydration, the pet needs immediate veterinarian intervention and treatment. The vet will determine the proper rehydration dosage using IV fluids. This pet will need monitoring at the hospital. Your vet will also determine and address the cause leading to dehydration. Please remember that untreated dehydration can lead to death in a matter of hours.

Steps to reduce your pet’s risk of dehydration:

• Provide fresh, clean water for them at all times.

• Replace their water with Smart Water or unflavored Pedialyte during stressful events or when traveling.

• Give water before and during any activities.

• Provide your pets with a moisture-rich diet.

A simple resolution to provide adequate water for your pets may prevent many health risks. Remember, prevention is always better than treatment.

Mary Oquendo is a Reiki master, advanced crystal master and certified master pet-tech pet first aid instructor. She is the co-owner of Hands and Paws-Reiki for All in New Milford. She can be reached at HandsandPawsReiki.com. See ad, page 45.