Fluid balance in Dogs and Cats

Water is a crucial component of an adult animal’s body, making up around 60% to 65% of their body weight and playing a vital role in almost all bodily functions. In cats and dogs, fluid balance, including water absorption and secretion, is closely connected to the concentration of specific molecules called electrolytes. Sodium and chloride, which together form table salt, are two common electrolytes with positive and negative charges, respectively. Maintaining a balance between these electrolytes is essential for normal bodily functions, and even minor fluctuations can significantly affect hydration levels and the proper functioning of cells and organs.

Electrolytes also contribute to regulating body pH and are critical for muscle and nerve activity, as well as normal heart and brain function. Just like humans, healthy animals constantly gain and lose water and electrolytes through everyday activities such as urination, panting, defecation, exercise, and sweating. Animals typically replenish these fluids through eating and drinking, and their bodies’ regulatory mechanisms ensure that minor daily variations have minimal impact on normal functions.

However, problems can arise when an animal’s fluid loss surpasses its intake, leading to a drop in fluid levels in blood vessels and cells below normal levels—this condition is known as dehydration. One significant consequence of dehydration is a decrease in blood pressure, or hypotension. As dehydration progresses, the imbalance in fluids and electrolytes impairs the optimal functioning of cells, tissues, and organs. This situation puts additional strain on vital organs like the heart and kidneys, which must work harder to restore balance. Severe dehydration can result in clinical shock, a life-threatening condition requiring immediate attention from a veterinary professional.

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