Can Cats Have Pedialyte?The modern developed world has many perks, but by far one of the biggest is the fact that a stomach bug is significantly less likely to kill us than it was our ancestors. While diarrhea often spelled disaster for people living a few hundred years ago, we often push through it by taking a day off work, watching Netflix, and employing any of the wonderful over-the-counter remedies lurking in our medicine cabinets. One of the more popular medicine cabinet staples is Pedialyte, the electrolyte replacement drink designed for children battling stomach bugs and dehydration. By taking it easy and sipping on an electrolyte beverage throughout the day, most of us get over our stomach problems without even needing a trip to the doctor.
When our cats get sick, however, we tend to panic. Our cats can’t watch Netflix. We’re pretty sure they can’t live on toast and applesauce, either. But can they benefit from electrolyte replacers? Can you give your cat Pedialyte?
The answer: yes, you can give your cat Pedialyte if they are suffering from (or in danger of) mild to moderate dehydration. Even though most of us consider Pedialyte to be a medication, it is not nearly as potent as many other ‘medicines’ we rely on when we’re sick. Unlike painkillers and decongestants, Pedialyte does not contain any ingredients that are going to immediately destroy your cat’s liver or kidneys. If they are dealing with vomiting, diarrhea, or dehydration, Pedialyte may even be beneficial.
It is important to stress the first part of that sentence: “if they are dealing with vomiting, diarrhea, or dehydration.” While this drink is not poisonous, it can cause problems if it is given to cats whose electrolyte stores are not depleted. By adding extra electrolytes into a healthy body, you can throw their system out of balance. So use Pedialyte as a medication, not as a treat!
Generally, it is only a good idea to give your cat Pedialyte if they are currently dealing with an illness that causes multiple bouts of diarrhea or vomiting. If your cat shows either of these symptoms, it is a good idea to keep an eye on their food and water dishes as well as their litter box—this will let you know if they are taking in enough water to make up for the fluids they are losing. Counterintuitive as it may seem, sick animals often refuse to eat or drink anything, so they can easily become dehydrated.
How will you know if your cat is dehydrated? In addition to refusing food, they often become very lethargic, and their movements may be heavy or slowed down. As their body tries to conserve water, your cat’s eyes, nose, and mouth may dry out. More severe symptoms include rapid heartbeat, hollowed eyes, heavy breathing, and behavioral changes.
If you’re not sure, a good way to figure out whether or not your cat is dehydrated is to press your fingertip against their gums. If their fluid levels are optimal, it will turn a pale whitish color for only a second before the healthy pink color flows back in. If they are dehydrated, that white color will linger for a longer period of time.
Dehydration goes far beyond thirst. If your furry friend has become dehydrated, they are missing the water and electrolytes their body requires to function properly. If this situation is not rectified, the body becomes depleted of fluid, potassium, and sodium, and the cells are no longer able to stay alive. This will result in organ failure, coma, and death.
Things to ConsiderOf course, the best thing you can do is head off dehydration. If your cat has had multiple bouts of vomiting or diarrhea, it may be a good idea to give them Pedialyte before their body has a chance to start showing symptoms of fluid loss. If your cat seems unable to keep down any of the fluids you give them, they may need intravenous fluids rather than Pedialyte. Severe dehydration or persistent vomiting and diarrhea should not be treated at home—your cat’s chances of survival will be much higher if they seek proper veterinary care as soon as possible.
Though it should not be administered to healthy pets, Pedialyte can be beneficial for sick or dehydrated cats. If your cat’s dehydration is mild and you decide to try Pedialyte, dilute it with water and do not mix it with any other beverages. Milk or juice may be tempting because they are high in calories, but they will likely only worsen your cat’s digestive troubles. Unless your cat’s veterinarian has told you to use a different beverage to make the Pedialyte more palatable, use only water. Rectifying their dehydration is a far more pressing concern than trying to boost their caloric intake. Your cat can go several days without food and recover just fine, but dehydration can be immediately life-threatening.