- Clinical signs develop when about 6% of body weight in water is lost. (B337.3.w3)
- Loss of skin elasticity and tenting of the skin - the skin does not
immediately return to its original position if pulled up;
- Eyes dull and sunken;
- Mucous membranes dry or tacky;
- Pulse may be rapid and thready;
- Capillary refill time may be prolonged;
- Collapse and death with severe dehydration;
- Packed cell volume will be increased with dehydration;
- Urine output of mammals will be decreased and urine will be
- May appear dazed and lethargic.
- Affected chicks may lose interest in eating and drinking.
- Estimation of percentage dehydration:
- Less than 5% dehydration: usually cannot be detected clinically.
- 5-6%: slight loss of skin elasticity; there may be some
tenting of the skin e.g. over the hocks; the eyes appear dull and the
mucous membranes are tacky.
- 7-9%: some loss of skin elasticity; skin tenting may be visible but
is not pronounced.
- 10-12%: dull and depressed, with dry mucous membranes, cool
extremities and increased heart rate.
- 12-15% severe depression, close to death.
- Weight loss from dehydration can be measured by weighing daily or
twice daily. (B115.5.w6)
- Clinical pathology: raised PCV, plasma total solids, BUN and
uric acid. (B115.5.w6)
- If a hoglet is dehydrated then the skin on its abdomen will look
wrinkled and will stay wrinkled if pinched up gently. (B337.2.w2)
- As with other mammals the skin may show tenting (not springing back
when gently pulled upwards, the pulse may be weak, fluid outputs will
be low and concentrated, the eyes dull and sunken, the animal may be
depressed, with cool extremities, and with severe dehydration the
individual may be collapsed. (B337.5.w5)
Dehydration may occur associated with:
- Drought conditions in which water is not available;
- Individuals without access to a source of water, for example if trapped
in a building or by entanglement.;
- Debilitating injuries preventing the individual from accessing
- Suckling young deprived of their mother or an alternate source of
- Overheating in hot environmental conditions, leading to excessive water losses from panting, sweating
- Loss of water from wounds such as burns with a large surface area;
- Excessive water losses with vomiting or diarrhoea;
- Excessive urine output associated with kidney disease or diabetes;
- Excessive salivation;
- Persistent fever;
- Severe respiratory diseases;
Note: dehydration often includes an element of electrolyte depletion as well
as water depletion.
- It is generally reasonable to assume 10-15% (in terms of body
weight) dehydration for casualty wildlife presenting in a
debilitated state. (B197.15.w15,
- Dehydration may be seen in chicks in their first week before they
start drinking properly; this is seen in both hand-reared and parent
reared chicks. (B115.5.w6)
- Chicks should be monitored carefully for dehydration during their
first week. (B115.5.w6)
- Dehydration may be
associated with diarrhoea and many other diseases in chicks. (B115.5.w6)
Dehydration may be associated with:
- Debilitating injuries;
- Accidental confinement;
- Prolonged exposure to heat;
- Drought conditions.
- Hoglets which have lost their mother.
Fluid therapy for the treatment of dehydration should take account of
the composition and route of fluid losses in order to choose the most
appropriate type of fluid and route of fluid replacement. (B101)
- If possible (dependent on the state of the affected individual) oral
fluid therapy should be given. (B101)
- Oral rehydration solutions containing about 100 mEq of sodium per
litre together with glucose or amino acids to provide an
isotonic solution (about 300-350 mOsm/l) are readily absorbed
following oral administration. (B101)
- Treatment aims to return the individual's water and electrolyte
balance to normal.
- For mild dehydration fluids may be given by mouth, either by
providing the fluids in a bowl for the hedgehog to drink or offering
it from a syringe.
- For more severe diarrhoea parenteral treatment may be required.
- Fluid therapy should be given to all casualty hedgehogs on arrival via
either the subcutaneous, intravascular or intraosseous routes (B151,
- For further information see:
Fluid Therapy for Hedgehogs
birds may be considered to be 10% dehydrated unless clinical signs indicate otherwise.
to replace this 10% over 72 hours, plus 5% body weight maintenance, plus losses due to
- Suggested suitable oral rehydration fluids (given by gavage (stomach tube)
include Liquid Lectade (Pfizer
Limited) (P14.5.w6), Pedialyte or lactated Ringer's solution and 2.5% dextrose (B23.38.w2);
suggested amount 20ml/kg (P14.5.w6).
N.B. weak birds unable to maintain head carriage should
not be given oral fluids (B23.38.w2).
- If necessary, parenteral fluids may be given (subcutaneously, intravenously or
intraosseously), e.g. 3-5% of body weight intravenous plus approximately 5% body weight
- Calculate the fluid deficit (usually 5-10%), and aim to replace 50%
of the calculated deficit in the first 12 hours, then in the next 24
hours, 25% of the deficit, plus maintenance needs. (B115.5.w6)
- Give isotonic fluids (lactated Ringer's solution, normal saline or
lactated Ringer's mixed 50:50 with 2.5% dextrose, at body temperature:
warm up in warm water, or keep fluids in an incubator at 37-39 °C
(97-102 °F). (B115.5.w6)
Treatment and Care - Fluid Therapy
- For a severely dehydrated crane chick (10% dehydrated or more),
give fluids by intravenous bolus (Venipuncture
in Cranes). (B115.5.w6)
- Provide warmth, give other supportive care including
- Otherwise (5-9% dehydrated), give fluids subcutaneously along
the bird's sides just behind the wings (Subcutaneous
Injection of Birds). (B115.5.w6)