Where Has All The Water Gone?
Many people bring their cats, dogs and other pets in for examinations when they notice that there has been an increase in their pets’ water consumption — and it’s a good thing that they do! Very often this is the sign of a major illness, and the earlier that the source of the problem is found the better.
Organ malfunctions, infections and hormonal abnormalities are all potential sources. The pursuit of the cause is, for me as a clinician, an especially fun investigation because it usually is so logical and so worthwhile. Blood and urine tests as well as x-rays are very likely to be the tools utilized in the investigation.
One of the most common organs to malfunction is the kidneys. Unlike some other organs, which can regenerate themselves, the kidney depends on starting out with four times the capacity that it needed to keep our blood clean. Usually the kidney cells slowly die, but until three fourths of the cells are gone, there will be no signs of illness. Everybody knows the the kidneys are supposed to remove the bad stuff from our body, but equally as important is the ability to keep the good stuff. The main good thing that is retained is water. Without healthy kidneys, we would be urinating so much dilute, watery urine that we would need to drink and drink in order to prevent dehydration
Because a urine specimen is so valuable in the diagnostic process, always try to collect one for analysis before the visit. Only a small amount is needed (1/2 teaspoon) and the sample doesn’t have to be sterile but it must be in liquid form (no clumping litter or damp cloth please!). If the urine is well concentrated the cause of the water consumption is generally in another area of the body, but if the urine is very dilute the chances are good that the problem lies in the failure of the kidney tubules to effectively reabsorb the water from the urine passing through them. Examining the types and amounts of cells present in the urine will help differentiate an active problem from an end stage process. The presence of large amounts of sugar in the urine usually will mean that the patient is diabetic. Blood tests that measure the levels of waste products are used in conjunction with the urine to confirm the diagnosis.
For kidneys that no longer retain the one-fourth of the cells that are required to do the job, the best long term therapy involves the use of specially formulated diets, usually low in protein, that generate less waste materials. Short term treatment will usually involve the use of supplemental fluids in an attempt to flush the toxins out of the body.
The causes of increased water consumption can often be life threatening and self-diagnosis is not recommended. Consult your local veterinarian for the professional advice that will benefit your pet.
Next: where has all the water gone? Part two: diabetes.