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Fluid Therapy: Electrolytes for Puppies & Kittens

Neonates, or newborn puppies and kittens, are composed of over 70 percent water, significantly higher than adult dogs and cats. After initial health issues are addressed, dehydration and electrolyte loss can quickly become life-threatening for these young animals. Most sick neonates will appear weak, lethargic, or show a lack of appetite, making it crucial to address hydration promptly.

How to Hydrate a Puppy or Kitten

Nursing and weaned puppies and kittens can dehydrate rapidly, especially when they are not drinking enough fluids. Vomiting and diarrhea exacerbate this issue, leading to even quicker fluid loss. Replacing these lost fluids is essential. For instance, two tablespoons of diarrhea or vomit require 30 cc of fluid replacement, in addition to the regular maintenance fluid intake. The primary electrolytes lost during dehydration are sodium and chloride, with potassium also needing replacement if the issue persists. Oral electrolytes are effective for rehydration if the neonate is not vomiting. If vomiting is present, injectable (subcutaneous or IV) fluids are necessary.

Oral Fluids for Puppies with Diarrhea

An emergency situation involving a dehydrated puppy is manageable with the right solutions. Electrolyte powders are convenient to store and should be readily available for use. These should be administered before and during illness to increase the chances of saving the litter. Oral electrolytes are ideal for supporting the entire litter when they begin to show signs of illness. Using the gastrointestinal tract for fluid administration is recommended whenever the puppy or kitten is not vomiting and is willing to drink.

Oral electrolytes, which contain salts and glucose or dextrose for energy, are highly effective. In emergency situations, diluted Pedialyte can be used. It’s important to dilute Pedialyte with water (50/50) to make it palatable for puppies and kittens. Electrolytes formulated specifically for animals often have flavors like chicken soup base to make them more appealing and ensure better intake.

Injectable Fluids for Vomiting Puppies

Injectable fluids should be used early in cases of diarrhea or vomiting. The sooner electrolytes are administered, the better the neonate or adult animal can combat the infection. Subcutaneous (SQ) fluids are particularly useful when oral administration is not possible due to vomiting.

When using injectable fluids, start with ten ml per pound twice a day, utilizing solutions like Saline (0.9% NaCl) or Lactated Ringer’s Solution (LRS). Saline is excellent for acute issues as it does not require processing by the liver. LRS, preferred for chronic fluid loss issues, needs to be processed by the liver, which may not be fully functional in neonates until they are over six weeks of age.

Key Points for Fluid Therapy in Neonates

  • Dehydration and Electrolyte Loss: Address immediately, especially in cases of vomiting and diarrhea.

  • Oral Rehydration: Effective when neonates are not vomiting; use electrolyte solutions with salts and glucose.

  • Injectable Fluids: Necessary for vomiting neonates; use Saline or LRS for fluid replacement.

  • Monitoring and Adjusting: Ensure proper hydration by monitoring intake and adjusting as needed based on symptoms.

By understanding and promptly addressing dehydration and electrolyte imbalance in puppies and kittens, you can significantly improve their chances of recovery and survival. For more information on neonatal care, visit

Electrolytes for Puppies
Electrolytes for Puppies


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