Along with the July heat comes National Pet Hydration Awareness Month! If managing your pet’s hydration during the summer months feels like rough waters, don’t sweat it! We’ve compiled everything you need to know below!
First thing’s first: you should always ensure you have a fresh, clean bowl of water available for each pet in your household in an accessible location. Ensure that safe access to a water bowl is available. In multiple pet households, especially in those with mixed species (ex. dogs and cats), resource guarding can impede your pet’s ability to maintain hydration. This can be minimized by ensuring your pets have separate spaces to access water.
Establishing Daily Hydration Needs
The amount of water your pet needs daily depends on its species, body weight, and whether they consume wet or dry food. Dry pet food typically consists of less than 20% moisture, wet food typically contains greater than 65% moisture, semi-moist pet food contains between 20%-65% moisture, and raw and homemade diets contain roughly 65% moisture. Generally, dogs require 60-80 ml of water per kg of body weight and cats require 40-60 ml of water per kg of body weight. When in doubt, consult with your veterinarian about how much water you should be ensuring your pet intakes daily.
|REQUIRED DAILY WATER INTAKE (ml)|
Beverages that are Safe to Sip
While warm water is safe to drink if no cool water is available, it is best practice to primarily offer your pet cool water to drink. However, some other beverages can occasionally be enjoyed to help your pet cool down on a hot summer day. In small amounts, both dogs and cats can consume pure fruit juices (Note: never grape juice; grapes are poisonous to dogs and cats) and coconut water. You should never offer your pet sugary, processed fruit juices, caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, and sports drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade.
Melting the Debate on Ice Cubes
There has been debate about whether the consumption of ice cubes can cause gastric dilation and volvulus (GDV). GDV is a life-threatening condition in which the stomach fills with gas and twists upon itself, requiring urgent treatment to alleviate the gas buildup. Risk factors for GDV include diet, large, deep-chested dogs, purebred dogs, anxious or stressed dogs, and advancing age. Despite ideas perpetuated by the internet, no research evidence suggests a causal link between the consumption of ice cubes and GDV.
Healthy dogs and cats can safely indulge in ice cubes during the summer months. If you do decide to offer ice cubes, ensure that they consist of clean water and were not immersed in an alcoholic beverage, caffeinated beverage, or processed fruit juice. In addition, ensure that the size of the ice cube is appropriate for your pet; large ice cubes should not be offered to small animals as this poses a choking hazard. Furthermore, your pet should always be supervised while ice cubes are being offered to prevent choking. If your pet does not enjoy ice cubes, another safe alternative that will cool them off is frozen carrots. You can also create frozen treats for your pet by freezing xylitol-free peanut butter or low-sodium canned salmon or tuna in an ice tray with some water. Similarly, you can freeze pureed fruit or vegetables in an ice tray to make a frozen snack for your pet. However, ensure you are not using toxic ingredients, such as grapes, onions, and garlic.
If your pet is suffering from heat stroke, do not give them ice. Instead, cool them down using cool, water-soaked cloths, fans and air conditioning and call your vet immediately.
The Scoop on Swimming Pools
Swimming pools tend to have low chlorine levels and consumption of chlorinated pool water is not harmful to dogs in small amounts. However, excess consumption of chlorinated water can cause irritation, vomiting and stomach erosion. Additionally, untreated pool water can contain harmful microorganisms that should not be ingested by your dog. Ingestion of saltwater, instead of hydrating your dog, causes dehydration as it draws water from the blood into the intestines. Furthermore, ingestion of saltwater may lead to diarrhea and vomiting. Therefore, it is best practice to prevent your dog from drinking pool water of any kind by ensuring a full bowl of fresh, cool water is always available outside.
You Can Lead a Cat to Water – and You Can Make Them Drink
Encouraging your pet cat to obtain adequate water intake to meet their daily hydration needs can be a challenging task. Failure to drink enough water increases the risk that your cat will become dehydrated and put your cat at risk for medical conditions such as urinary crystals and stones. Thankfully, various methods can be used to successfully increase your cat’s water intake.
The easiest way to increase your cat’s water intake is to feed your cat wet food or to add additional water to their wet or dry food. You may also find it beneficial to invest in a cat fountain or to leave the tap running on a light drip during the day as some cats prefer running water over still water. If using a bowl, place the water bowl next to their food bowl and try introducing multiple water bowls in different areas throughout your house. When using a bowl, ensure it is non-reflective and wide enough so that your cat’s whiskers do not touch the side of the bowl. Importantly, whether you are using a water bowl or fountain, it is important to maintain their cleanliness by washing the water bowl daily and following the instructions pertaining to cleaning the water fountains’ filter. Routine washing prevents harmful bacterial buildup and ensures that the water stays tasteless and at a scent and temperature preferred by your cat.
Remember those ice cubes mentioned earlier? Some cats find ice cubes fascinating, and placing ice cubes in their water bowl can be used to encourage drinking while simultaneously cooling them down. You can also try adding tuna juice, clam juice, or chicken broth to your cat’s water, provided they are low-sodium, and garlic and onion-free. Note that if you choose to add additives to your cat’s water, you should ensure it is fresh and that there is always an additional bowl of fresh, clean drinking water with no additives available.
Tracking Your Pet’s Water Intake
If you’re looking to track your pet’s water intake, start with an empty bowl in the morning and add a known amount of water from a measuring cup. Once your pet has had some water to drink, add and measure additional water that is added to the bowl. By making repeated top-ups and measurements, you can track your pet’s water intake throughout the day.
There are also water fountains available that can track your pet’s water intake by connecting with smartphone apps. These fountains can be a great tool but are not essential. Because of the extra cost, it is critical to do your research about these products (and their reviews) to ensure they will meet your expectations.
Your pet’s urine will also give you clues as to their hydration status. Dark yellow urine may indicate that your pet is dehydrated, whereas clear urine indicates that your pet is well-hydrated. Urine volume is also impacted by the state of hydration, with less urine being produced when your pet is dehydrated. Healthy cats produce 18-28 ml/kg/day of urine, whereas healthy dogs produce 20-100 ml/kg/day of urine.
Written by: Giselle Carter, BScH, DVM Student
Reviewed by: Hannah Godfrey, BScH, MSc, PhD Candidate (Department of Clinical Studies)
Adronie Verbrugghe, DVM, PhD, Dip ECVCN
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