Remember that plant you received on Mother’s Day. The one you forgot to water until you noticed the brown leaves. Well, if you caught it quickly, the plant could still thrive but those brown leaves would never recover. If you let that plant go too long without water, it would not recover and die. That’s dehydration. There is no difference between dehydration between plants and animals.
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, shock as well as damage the circulatory system. It will also cause organs to shut down. 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
1. Their water bowls are unclean. Nobody likes to drink dirty water. Or water is not provided for them because the groomer does not want to pet to knock it over and rewet themselves. Personally I would rather re-dry the pet then have to explain to the owner why their pet was taken to the veterinarian. Or worse, why they died in my care. As a mobile groomer, I provide water for the thirsty pet.
2. Stressful events (grooming) and travel (driving to the groomer) can reduce the pet’s desire for water.
3. Dogs and cats require a diet that is 70% moisture. Most dry foods have between 8 and 12% moisture content. If supplemented foods and water do not make up the other 60%, then the pet is 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 cause for dogs. The basic rule of thumb for water consumption is the takes the pets weight, divide it in half, and convert it to ounces. For example, an 80 pound dog would need 40 ounces of water a day.
INCREASED FLUID LOSSES
1. Overexertion and panting due to heat (hot air dryers) or exercise (dancing on our grooming tables).
2. Medications that cause the pet to urinate frequently such as steroids and antibiotics.
3. Illnesses, diarrhea, vomiting, fevers, large wounds, and burns. To begin with, we should not groom sick or injured pets. In addition, recuperating pets need more fluids than normal.
4. Excessive drooling. This can be a particular breed issue such as Newfies and Mastiffs or an allergic reaction to a grooming product.
5. Kidney disease and diabetic pets are unable to retain fluids effectively and urinate frequently. When discussing the medical history of a pet upon check-in, these are two of the conditions I specifically mention. It’s amazing the number of people who do not equate diabetes with a medical condition.
Young, older, immune-compromised, pregnant and nursing pets are more susceptible to dehydration. Like the tell tale brown leaves of a plant, pets exhibit signs of dehydration. When signs are apparent, it’s important to go to your vet immediately.
SIGNS OF DEHYDRATION
- 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.
- Lethargic or depressed in appearance. This pet looks like it has no zest for life. It will also be accompanied by sunken and/or dull looking eyes.
- The gums are dry and sticky to the touch. Even though the heart may be racing, the capillary refill time is slow. You can check capillary refill time by pressing on a pink area of their gums. Normal refill time is two seconds or in the amount of time it takes to say, “capillary refill.” Exercise caution when putting your fingers into a mouth of a pet. Many do not appreciate your concern.
- 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 or percentage, cause and check for kidney damage. A complete biochemistry profile is recommended.
MEASUREMENTS OF DEHYDRATION
- Less than 5% is considered mild dehydration. The stretched skin will return to normal quickly. This is not an accurate test on obese pets.
- Between 6 and 9%. 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.
- Between 10 and 12%. 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.
- Between 12 and 15%. This is life threatening for dogs. They will be in shock and most likely unconscious.
- 15% is death.
It does not take long for your pet to go from 5% to 15% and any delay in treatment can be fatal.
In mild cases of dehydration you can give the pet fluids by mouth or into the cheek pouch with a syringe. Use Smart Water© or UNFLAVORED Pedialyte© instead of water as either will help to replace lost electrolytes. Do NOT use flavored Pedialyte© or Gatorade© as they contain artificial sugars. Artificial sugars are highly toxic to pets as they cause an unsafe drop in blood pressure. 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. The vet will also determine and address the cause leading to dehydration. It bears repeating, untreated dehydration can lead to in a matter of hours.
There are steps to reduce a pet’s risk of dehydration. The first is to educate your clients on dehydration. As a groomer you do not want to begin with the dehydrated pet. While the pet is in your care, provide fresh, clean water and pay attention to the pet for any signs of distress.
Prevention is always better than treatment. Just ask the plant on your counter.
This article first appeared in Groomer To Groomer June 2012 and is reprinted with permission.