Home Pet Care Is My Cat or My Dog Dehydrated: Using Vet ORS for Dehydration

Is My Cat or My Dog Dehydrated: Using Vet ORS for Dehydration

by Vetic Editorial
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Dehydration can happen when the body loses more fluids than it takes in. Dehydration in dogs is quite common during the hot summer months. Even cats may become dehydrated due to rapid fluid loss in the summer months. Cat and dog dehydration symptoms can be similar.

Dehydration is not a disease. However, it can be the result of one or more diseases including gastrointestinal distress, diarrhoea and repeated vomiting. In both cases, the condition can be acute or chronic depending on the cause(es). 

Keep an eye on the temperature outside before letting your dog or cat out

Dehydration can be a serious condition in pets. The loss of fluids and electrolytes from the body leads to severe stress on the kidneys and the other organs. Persistent dehydration in cats and dogs can eventually lead to organ failure and death. 

What Are The Common Dog Dehydration Signs?

Keep an eye out for the following signs of dehydration in your dog –

  1. Loss of skin elasticity
  2. Dry eyes with a visible third eyelid
  3. Sticky or dry gums
  4. Thick saliva
  5. Dry nose 
  6. Higher CRT

Dog dehydration signs and symptoms can be quite easy to detect. If you are a pet parent, you can speak to your veterinarian and learn about the telltale signs of dehydration in dogs

dog in front of a fan

The Skin Turgor Test

Pinch your dog’s skin lightly between the shoulder blades so it resembles a tent. The skin turgor test is also known as the skin tent test. If your dog is dehydrated, the skin will remain tented or take longer than 2 seconds to return to normal position. 

The turgor test is not the litmus test of dehydration in dogs, especially, if your dog is old or has lots of loose skin.

Sunken and/or Dry Eyes

Any dog with dehydration will have dry eyes that appear to sit further back. Sometimes, the third eyelid may become prominent due to dehydration and the rapid loss of nutrients. 

Dry or Sticky Gums

If your dog allows you, run a clean and dry finger along his gums. 

A dog in perfect health with enough hydration has enough saliva present in their mouth and in such cases, your finger should feel slippery-wet. 

In the case that your dog is dehydrated, your finger should feel either dry or overly sticky. 

Thick Saliva

A dehydrated dog will salivate less. They are not likely to drool or slobber. You can repeat the test we have mentioned above to confirm if they are salivating and how much they are salivating. 

If dehydrated, their saliva will feel denser, and your fingers will feel stickier than usual. 

Dry Nose

Again, this one is debatable, but it’s common for healthy dogs to lick their noses constantly. So, hydrated, well-nourished dogs have wet noses. 

Several experts recommend a dry nose as a sign of dehydration and illness in dogs. However, simply noticing a dry nose isn’t enough to confirm dehydration. You need to check for the other signs as well. 

Higher Capillary Refill Time (CRT)

It is an important sign that indicates dehydration in dogs. Press one finger gently against your pupper’s gums. If they are doing well, their gums will remain white for a split second and then return to their normal pink or reddish colour. 

For dehydrated dogs, the capillary refill time (CRT) can be as long as 2 seconds. 

What Are The Signs of Dehydration on Cats?

Here are the signs of dehydration in cats –

  1. Visible third eyelid and sunken eyes
  2. Dry and sticky gums
  3. Lack of appetite
  4. Panting
  5. Loss of skin elasticity

Cats are private creatures and it is often difficult to figure out when a cat is feeling unwell. It is imperative to keep an eye on your cat’s eating and drinking habits, especially during the summer months. 

Cats can become dehydrated and remain dehydrated without drawing the attention of the owners until the condition becomes critical. 

Sick dehydrated cat

Visible Third Eyelid 

Vets often refer to this as sunken eyes as well. However, one of the telltale signs of dehydration and illness in cats is the increasing prominence of the third eyelid. Their eyes may also seem dry and further inside their head. 

Loss of Appetite

Inappetance is another common sign of dehydration in cats. When a cat refuses to eat their daily food at the regular time it can be a sign of severe dehydration and sickness. Take your cat to the vet if they refuse to eat for over 8-hours. 

Dry Gums

It is difficult to stick a finger in a cat’s mouth and not get nipped. However, as a cat parent, one has to try! Dry and sticky gums are another significant sign of dehydration that you shouldn’t ignore. 


Panting does not necessarily mean your cat is dehydrated. However, combine any of the previous signs with panting and it will point towards dehydration. Panting is not normal in cats unless they are very excited or exposed to heat. If your cat pants while sitting or lying down it’s time to consult a vet. 

What Causes Dehydration in Cats and Dogs?

The signs and symptoms of dehydration in dogs and cats may differ a little, but the causes are similar. Here are some of the potential causes of dehydration in dogs and cats –

  • Diarrhoea
  • Chronic Fever
  • Heatstroke
  • Overheating (hot weather and humidity)
  • Vomiting

Viral diseases such as canine parvovirus and feline panleukopenia can result in rapid fluid loss and dehydration in dogs and cats respectively. 

If your dog or cat has been throwing up repeatedly and/or having diarrhoea, please consult your veterinarian immediately. Giving oral rehydration salts or ORS may worsen their symptoms unless they receive proper treatment for the underlying cause of dehydration. 

Can I Protect My Cat or Dog from Dehydration During The Summers?

It is entirely possible for you to protect your cats and dogs from dehydration during the hot summer months. 

Give drinking water to your dog while travelling

Here are a few steps you can follow –

  • Leave enough fresh water around the house in accessible places
  • Clean out the water bowls every day 
  • Add chicken soup or bone broth to your dog’s water if they don’t like to drink water
  • Include nutritional rehydration solution in their daily diet during the summer
  • Keep them in shaded areas that are well-ventilated and cool
  • Do not let them exercise in the sun during the daytime
  • Do not play with them when it’s too hot and humid
  • When travelling, carry a collapsible water bowl for your pooch
  • Try getting pet cooling pads for your dog or cat 
  • Follow summer-special grooming to keep your pet cool

It can be tricky to keep dogs and cats well-hydrated especially if they don’t drink much water throughout the year. In summer months, you can also switch to wet food. Wet food has a higher water content as compared to kibbles. If you feed your dog home-cooked meals, you should think about adding more chicken broth and fibre to their diet. 

Can I Give Human ORS to My Dog or Cat?

Human medication, including Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) is engineered as per the needs of the human body. Although we consider our fur babies a part of our family, we should acknowledge that their digestive and other systems are considerably different from ours. 

Right now, we have ready-to-use rehydration solutions and ORS sachets especially designed for our four-legged companions. 

The composition of veterinary ORS is quite different from the WHO-approved ORS formulation we drink. Although, superficially, it may seem that all oral rehydration salts have the same components, such as Sodium, Potassium and Chloride, they differ significantly in osmolarity. 

Some premium vet ORS products also include micro-nutrients and prebiotics, such as inulin, which are not included in human ORS. 

The differences are necessary since dogs and cats have different gut microflora and micronutrient necessities as compared to human beings. 

Choosing the Correct Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) for Dehydration in Dogs and Cats 

There are numerous brands and products that serve the rehydration needs of dogs and cats. In most cases the same ORS can be used for our canine and feline friends. 

Giving drinking water to cat

However, if the veterinarian has reason to suspect any nutritional deficiencies due to ongoing infection or distress of your four-legged friend, they may suggest special formulations. These contain simple amino acids, sugars and pre and probiotics in addition to the rehydration salts. 

These specially formulated rehydration solutions are ideal for senior dogs and cats, as well as dogs and cats with kidney issues. They replenish the protein and carbohydrates lost due to vomiting, diarrhoea or inappetence. These specially prepared solutions aim to make up for the nutrient loss or malnutrition that often accompanies chronic dehydration. 

How to Give ORS to Dehydrated Dogs and Cats?

The first step towards giving ORS correctly to your dog or cat is to reconstitute the solution correctly. Unless you are buying a ready-to-use solution, you will need to mix the rehydration solution with the prescribed volume of water. 

The correct way to give ORS to dogs and cats is by using a small syringe. Begin by giving around 0.5 ml per Kg of your pooch’s body weight. Give the same quantity every 2 hours until you are confident your dog or cat can drink more without throwing up. 

Do not give your cat or dog a huge volume of ORS. Our expert veterinarians from the Vetic Pet Clinic Thane state that gulping down the liquid on an empty stomach can worsen nausea and cause vomiting in dogs and cats. 

If your pup is feeling better, you can even make popsicles or ice cubes out of the rehydration solution. Let them lap it up from a bowl. It works well for palatable rehydration solutions. 

To tell you the truth, feeding ORS to cats isn’t as effortless. Very few cats lap up any ORS on their own. So, talk to your veterinarian about the best ways to give ORS to your cat while minimising the chances of choking. 

Time to See the Vet: Is Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) Always Enough? 

Sadly, ORS is not always enough to replenish the fluid and nutrient loss in dogs or cats. In the hot and humid summers of Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi-NCR, pets can suffer a heatstroke within minutes.

Sometimes, they require more aggressive fluid therapy. That can include subcutaneous or intravenous fluid administration by a vet. 

Fluid therapy often involves the injection of antiemetics, antibiotics, and vitamins subcutaneously, intramuscularly or intravenously. 

Many cats and dogs may have to undergo fluid therapy at least once a day for multiple days depending on the underlying cause of dehydration. 

For a dog or cat with severe loss of appetite, fluid therapy is the only way to provide them with enough hydration, nutrition and medication necessary for their recovery. 

Multiple Vetic Pet Clinics have IPD care that provide 24/7 treatment, including fluid therapy for cats and dogs. When in doubt, visit the Vetic clinic closest to you. If your pet requires round-the-clock monitoring and care, you can move your pet to one of the Vetic Pet Hospitals that stays open day and night for fluid therapy and additional care.

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