The arrivals of spring and summer bring with it longer daylight hours and warmer weather. This also means plenty more time spent outdoors with our pets. While having fun in the sun, we also need to be aware of the increased risk of dehydration as soon as the temperature rises.
Our pets can become dehydrated very quickly and if not addressed soon enough, it can lead to fatal consequences.
Water is the most critical nutrient for survival. Without it, an animal will die within a few days. An animal can become seriously ill if it loses 10% of its water. A 15% water loss often results in death.
So, how do we know if our pets are becoming dehydrated? And what can we do to prevent this?
We have three simple tests that you can administer yourself on your dog or cat If you are at all concerned about your pet’s health it is vitally important to contact your vet immediately.
Check the scruff
A classic dehydration test that you may have seen your veterinarian do is called a scruff test.
- Locate the animals scruff – This is the loose skin between the shoulders and at the base of the neck of the dog or cat.
- Elevate the scruff – Grasp the skin and gently raise it approx. two centimetres in a vertical direction.
- Release the scruff and observe. Fully hydrated skin springs back instantaneously. When dehydration is present, the skin is less elastic, which means it will not fall back as quickly.
- If the skin takes more than one to two seconds to return to normal, your pet is most likely dehydrated.
Check the gums
The dog’s or cat’s gums are a good indicator of early dehydration. Normal gums are moist and shiny, much like our own. Dehydrated animals often have dry or tacky feeling gums, because they are producing less saliva.
Check your pet’s urine output
A hydrated pet should be urinating 2-3 times per day. Urine should be a pale-yellow colour. If your pet is not urinating, then you need to call your vet.
There are many things we can do to make sure that our pets stay healthy and hydrated in summer and ensure they avoid an unexpected vet visit.
Water should be available at all times, so that means many bowls in lots of places in and around the home.
Consider the type of bowl you use. Ceramic and glass are best as they keep the water cooler. Try and stay away from plastic as they can leave a bad taste in the water particularly when its warm.
If your pet is outside during the day, ensure their water bowl is placed in a cool shady spot. Provide more than one bowl in case one is knocked over.
We all love a drink of fresh clean water and so do your pets. Warm weather increases the growth of bacteria in water, so ensure their bowls are cleaned and refilled with fresh water daily.
Automatic pet fountains are watering units that are great for multiple pet households. Pet fountains keep water much cleaner than standing bowls of water because they continuously filter and circulate the water to prevent bacteria growth. The free-falling stream of water entices your pet to drink more and continually aerates the water with oxygen.
How do I know if my pet is drinking enough water?
The daily water requirements for dogs and cats depends on their activity level, age, size, and weather.
Below are some guidelines on what a pet’s total water requirement is for a 24 hour period.
As a general rule of thumb:
Dogs require 55mls to 110mls per kg a day in total.
EG: A 25kg dog in summer should be drinking up to 2.8 litres of water a day if they are fed a dry only diet (25×110=2.750L).
Cats require 44mls to 66mls per kg a day in total.
EG: A 4kg cat in summer should be drinking approximately 265 mls of water a day if they are fed a dry only diet (4×66=264ml).
What we feed our pets can also play a large role in ensuring they receive the necessary water intake their bodies require.
Dogs and cats receive most of their moisture intake through ingestion (drinking water + water content of their food).
Water content in various forms of food differs greatly:
- Dry food is usually around 10-12% moisture.
- Semi-moist food is usually around 33% moisture.
- Canned food is usually around 72-82% moisture.
So, in warmer months, if your pet is fed a predominately dry diet, consider adding some canned food to your pets daily feeding routine. Not only will it provide a treat, but a valuable source of water, too!
Fun ways to keep your pet cool and hydrated
Icy treats on hotter days are a great way to cool your pet down and ensure they stay hydrated.
Choose some of your dog’s favourite fruits and vegetables and freeze them. Frozen carrots and watermelon are great options. For larger dogs try making your own pup-sicles of chicken stock/broth with a drumstick in the centre popped in the freezer for 4-6 hours. Frozen chicken wings or the juice drained from canned tuna in spring water make great frozen treats for cats.
Zoo Products has a wide range of pet fountain and water bowls for pets of all sizes. Come in store to see your options!
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