Recognizing the Signs of Dehydration in Your Animals

Signs your animal is dehydrated

Dehydration can be a serious problem that can turn potentially life threatening if not dealt with quickly. Today we’re going to discuss what to look for and what you should do when your animal shows the initial signs of dehydration.

If you think your animal is suffering from dehydration experts say the signs to look for are:

Lethargy (Lack of energy), irritability, listlessness, loss of appetite, decrease in the production of urine, the urine becomes darker and stronger smelling.  When dairy and beef cattle become dehydrated, the eyes will appear sunken and dull. Dehydration in lactating dairy cows will almost always result in cessation of milk production.

In pigs, signs include thirst, skin irritation, constipation, and lack of appetite. If not treated it is often followed by nervousness, blindness and apparent deafness.

Sometimes animals will show particular behaviors that are associated with dehydration. Here are a few signs to watch out for:

  • Not finishing food ( most food contains moisture )
  • Round, hard balls of manure
  • Going after spills or other small areas of water
  • Generalized fussing or noticeable discomfort

How to Test for Dehydration in Animals.

The simplest and most widely recommended way is the “Pinch test”. Grab with your thumb and forefinger and pull the animals skin away from their body, a well hydrated animal’s skin will return to a normal position within 1 second and an animal suffering from dehydration will have skin that will lack elasticity and stay in that peak position longer.

Check the animal’s gums by applying pressure to the gums, the color will fade and return quickly in a well hydrated animal and in an animal suffering from dehydration the color may take more than 2-3 seconds to return to normal and the gums may appear dry and lack mucous.

What to do if your animal is dehydrated.

If your animal fails the “Pinch test”  or displays dehydration symptoms, the possibility exists they are, or may become clinically dehydrated.  You should take immediate steps to prevent them from going toxic. The most important thing you can do at this stage is get them hydrated.

Get the animal out of the sun and into shelter. Make sure the animal has access to clean, high-quality water. If necessary, add electrolytes to the water which should expedite hydration.  If the animal is refusing to drink, contact your vet immediately.

Dehydration is a very dangerous condition and things can get out of control quickly. Therefore it’s important the animals drinking activity is closely monitored moving forward.

Sheep getting a drink out of a Nelson Waterer

How do you prevent Dehydration in Animals?

It goes without saying that every animal should have access to clean, fresh water all day, every day. To prevent diseases the water shouldn’t be stagnant or dirty. The water should taste good ( not stinky ) and make sure the water is always accessible and in a place where the animal is comfortable drinking from.

As mentioned previously, monitor drinking habits. The amount of water varies greatly by species, but ever animal is different. Establish a baseline and take action if there’s a variation.

Just remember, a hydrated animal is a happy and health animal. So be sure to keep you animals hydrated!