Pedialyte is an oral electrolyte solution used to treat dehydration in children and cats. It contains not only water and glucose but essential electrolytes (body salts) including sodium, chloride, potassium, which are vital for normal organ function.
Dehydration is a serious, and life-threatening condition which can occur as a result of vomiting, diarrhea or blood. When a cat becomes dehydrated, blood volume and intracellular fluid decrease, and electrolytes become dangerously low. A sick cat often won’t feel well enough to replace lost fluids by drinking more, which can quickly become life-threatening.
Severe dehydration needs immediate veterinary care.
If a cat is vomiting or has diarrhea which puts it at risk of dehydration, especially if they are not eating or drinking.
- Sunken eyes
- Dry, tacky gums
- Poor skin elasticity
- Increased heart rate
- Poor capillary refill time
- Loss of appetite
- Increased or decreased water intake
- Constipation. Water is reabsorbed from the colon and if the cat is dehydrated, the body will try to conserve water by removing additional water from the stool
How to check a cat for dehydration
Skin turgor test (skin tenting):
Grasp the skin at the scruff of the neck and gently pull it up to form a tent. The skin should spring back immediately in a well-hydrated cat. The skin will be slower to retract if the cat is dehydrated.
The more severe the dehydration the slower the skin will take to retract. The skin will remain in the tent shape in a severely dehydrated cat. This requires immediate veterinary attention.
Capillary refill time:
This helps you to test your cat’s blood circulation and can indicate dehydration, heart failure or shock.
Lift up your cat’s upper lip and press the flat of your finger against the gum tissue. Remove the pressure and you will see a white mark on the gum where the pressure of your finger squeezed blood out of the capillaries. Time how long it takes for the pink colour to return to the white spot once your finger is removed.
- 1-2 seconds is normal
- 2-4 seconds is moderate to poor – See a veterinarian
- > more than 4 seconds is an emergency – See a veterinarian
- < less than 1 second is an emergency – See a veterinarian
Always consult your veterinarian before you administer Pedialyte.
- Only purchase flavourless Pedialyte
- Mix Pedialyte with 50/50 water
- Fill a needleless syringe or an eye dropper with the Pedialyte mix
- Insert the tip of the syringe/dropper into the centre of the cat’s mouth and squirt the solution into the pouch of the cheek
- Gently stroke the throat and blow in his nose which will prompt the cat to swallow
6 ml (0.2 oz) per kg (2.2 lbs) of body weight, per hour. An average adult cat who weighs 5 kg (11 lbs) would receive 30 ml (1 oz) per hour. This can be in 10-minute increments, so 5 ml every 10 minutes
Continue to offer clean, fresh drinking water and offer wet food
If you are struggling to administer Pedialyte to your cat, freeze into cubes and if necessary, add some tuna water to the mix. Some cats will lick flavoured ice cubes even if they are refusing to drink or receive Pedialyte.
When to see a veterinarian
If your cat is unable to hold down Pedialyte due to continual vomiting, seek veterinary attention immediately as dehydration can develop very quickly. Intravenous fluids can replace lost fluids in the cat who is vomiting.
Moderate to severely dehydrated cats must receive treatment from a veterinarian.
Other electrolyte replacements
Pedialyte is one of the most recognisable brands of electrolyte replacement products, but there are other brands. When choosing an electrolyte replacement, speak to your chemist or veterinarian to let them know it is for a cat.
Brands can differ from country to country. Your pharmacist or veterinarian will be able to recommend a suitable product.
Encouraging a cat to drink
- Ensure water is clean and fresh and wash out water bowls once a day
- Add some clam or tuna juice to their water if they are reluctant to drink
- Consider purchasing a cat water fountain, some cats prefer to drink from running water
- Switch to wet food which has a higher water content than dry