Does an IV Work on Dehydrated Cats?

Intravenous fluids are one way to help a dehydrated cat.
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If your vet says Missy is dehydrated, it means she has lost too much fluid from her body. Not only has she lost water, but also electrolytes necessary for her body to function properly. Intravenous fluids are one way to get Missy back on the road to good health.

What is Dehydration and What Causes It?

When Missy's water and electrolytes (minerals) are below normal levels and out of balance, she's dehydrated. There are two ways she can become dehydrated: drinking less water than normal or through fluid loss. Sometimes the cause is simple, such as she's become overheated or had a spell where she's been sick with diarrhea or vomiting. Other times it can be more complicated and the result of a more serious illness, such as kidney disease or hyperthyroidism.

No matter what the cause, it's important to make sure she gets her fluid and electrolyte levels back in balance. Believe it or not, 80 percent of Missy's body is water and it's necessary that she have enough so her digestion, circulation and other bodily functions work properly.

Will an IV Cure Missy's Dehydration?

An IV is a form of fluid therapy and means that Missy is receiving fluid directly into a vein through a drip feeding. The fluid is not just water, but also contains electrolytes to help get her body back in balance. The vast majority of IV fluids are administered in the vet's office because it is much more than simply inserting a needle under her skin. The fluid goes directly into her vein and the rate that it is administered is very important. If the fluids are given too quickly, her heart can be stressed. If the fluids are too slow, she may not rehydrate fast enough.

IV fluids are typically used for cats who are critically ill and have lost enough fluids that their lives are threatened. If dehydration is a chronic condition, due to something such as kidney disease, IV fluid therapy is not suitable. In such cases, your vet will probably administer subcutaneous fluids. Subcutaneous fluids, which don't go into a vein but under the skin, are easier to give and usually take just several minutes to administer. In fact, many people are able to do this procedure at home for their pets on a regular basis.

What are the Symptoms of Dehydration?

Basic symptoms of dehydration include loss of appetite, lethargy, sunken eyes, panting and elevated heart rate. It is also easy to test Missy's skin elasticity by gently pulling on the skin around her neck. If her skin springs back into place, she is properly hydrated. If it is slow to move back or stays in a ridge, that's a sign of dehydration. If she'll let you check her gums, you can also try putting your finger against them. If the spot on her gums doesn't return to its original color quickly, it is another sign that she's likely dehydrated.

What Else Can I Do to Help Her?

On a day-to-day basis, make sure Missy has clean, fresh water. Her water dish should be cleaned daily to keep bacteria from forming. Some cats can be very picky about their water and prefer drinking from a fountain designed for cats. You can also try placing multiple water bowls around your home so she has easy access. Canned food, which can be up to 80 percent water, is another easy way to increase her water consumption.

If you suspect Missy isn't getting the water she needs, keep an eye on her and watch her food and water intake. This is particularly important if she is older or suffers from a disease such as cancer, diabetes, renal failure or hyperthyroidism. If you suspect she is dehydrated, contact your vet to ensure she'll be treated correctly.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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