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Studies have shown that in people, dehydration as low as 2% can result in cognitive impairment and fatigue. Yet in dogs and cats, dehydration of up to 5% is often imperceptible from clinical exams alone. Therefore, proactive management and early intervention are essential and making sure that water is always available to drink is a must. Animals that have vomiting or diarrhoea, blood loss or heat stroke will all have a significant fluid loss that can, if not treated in a timely manner, rapidly lead to severe dehydration or shock. However, it's important to bear in mind that dehydration does not just affect sick or injured animals, even healthy animals will have an increased fluid loss and be prone to significant dehydration at times. For example, a dog panting excessively on a hot day or after extended exercise will also increase fluid and electrolyte loss that would need to be replaced. A dog that's panting excessively for 15 minutes, or even sooner if the panting is due to high temperatures, can rapidly succumb to significant dehydration if they do not have adequate fluids available to them. For animals in extremely hot environments, such as those left in hot cars, even having access to fluid is not enough to replenish what we lost once the body temperature reaches critical levels.

These cases are always medical emergencies requiring rapid veterinary intervention with controlled active cooling. If a dog is feeling unwell or has a poor appetite, then reduced feed intake can also equate to reduced fluid intake. This is especially true if the animal is usually fed a meat-based wet diet which provides a significant portion of their daily fluids. Older and very young animals have a decreased thirst mechanism, so they may not be stimulated to drink until high levels of dehydration are reached compared to other animals. This is something that needs to be considered when caring for these animals.