On a daily basis, we’re bombarded with reminders to drink more water. Water’s benefits are highlighted by various sources, from peer-reviewed studies to celebrity influencers. And indeed, water can bring about many rewards, from weight maintenance to improved mood. This makes good sense given water’s vital purposes within the human body.
There are many marketing and public health messages surrounding our hydration needs. Special water bottles, TV advertisements, and doctor recommendations are a few common ones. While we may not track our own water intake, we can sense when we’re thirsty or when we would benefit from a glass of water. And we’re well aware of the negative issues associated with water— from the dangers of inadequate hydration to tap water contamination. Research has even begun to look more deeply into the latter. Though all of this information is comprehensive, it only concerns humans. What about our dogs? Can they drink tap water? How much water should they be drinking?
According to recent surveys, nearly 70 million American households own a dog. And in 2020, an estimated 103.6 billion dollars were spent in the pet industry. Despite these staggering statistics, little information is available to the general public regarding our animals’ water needs. This is disappointing, especially given the significance of proper hydration for our furry friends’ overall wellness. We take our dogs to the vet and bring them along on walks. We keep them clean and shower them with affection. In addition to these healthy habits, water is a big part of the puzzle.
Keeping Our Pets Hydrated
As in humans, water plays a crucial role in dogs. It maintains several functions such as temperature control, joint lubrication, nutrient transportation, and waste filtration. Water also comprises up to 75% of most dogs’ bodies.
If you feel guilty about being unaware of your pet’s hydration needs, don’t. Nearly half of pet owners— 45% according to one survey—don’t know how much water to give their pets. Given that there are no major ad campaigns or public health messages surrounding the importance of water for dogs, this makes sense. There are many grey areas and widely held beliefs that are harmful when it comes to our four legged companions, though. Let’s start with one misconception: panting. Common knowledge assumes that when a dog pants, it’s thirsty and dehydrated. However, this tends to mean that the dog is anxious or overheated. Puddle water is another murky factor. As many dogs lap water from the ground, this can seem benign. Unfortunately, puddle water can be hazardous for our pets and may lead to digestive troubles. It’s often riddled with bacteria and other contaminants that aren’t suited for our dogs’ bodies.
What about cow’s milk? It’s not unusual for dogs to have some every now and then, or products derived from it. We may offer them ice cream or the leftover milk from our cereal bowl. As much as our animal companions may jump at a cup or two of this beverage, it can do more damage in the long run. Issues like obesity, cramping, and diarrhea can arise.
Tap water is a common water source for dogs. Most pet owners may not think twice about giving it to them. But giving our pets clean, uncontaminated water is a major part of keeping them healthy. If it’s a priority for ourselves, it should be for our dogs, too. Just like humans, they lose water through exercise, exposure to hot weather, and illness. So it’s important that they’re getting not just clean water, but enough of it.
So, what’s the magic number? The general guideline for dogs is 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight. A 40 pound dog, then, would need 40 ounces (or 5 cups) of water.
It’s important to monitor our pets’ water intake to prevent dehydration from occurring. Some types of dogs, such as nursing mothers, toy dog breeds, seniors, and puppies, are at increased risk. Signs a dog may be dehydrated are: loss of skin elasticity, lethargy, and decreased appetite. There may also be dryness, particularly in the nose, eyes, and mouth.
To prevent dehydration, it’s important to be proactive. The best way to do so is to make sure there’s always clean water available in your dog’s bowl. If your dog isn’t taking in enough water, you may want to experiment with different bowls or use a water fountain to motivate it to stay hydrated. When leaving the home for longer periods of time, it’s wise to bring extra water with you.
Water Contaminants That Affect Pets
Our water supply has been under much scrutiny in recent years due to contamination. There have, of course, been larger incidents such as the case in Flint, Michigan involving lead. But most alarming of all is the low-grade, pernicious pollution that most U.S. tap water systems are subject to. Recent findings have shown that as many as 94% of U.S. tap water supplies are contaminated with objects like microplastics. And that about 97% of Americans’ bodies have a buildup of the carcinogenic substances, PFOA/PFOS (perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfate).
Our pets aren’t immune to the contaminants that flow through our water supply, either. Like us, these substances can accumulate in their bodies over time and lead to adverse outcomes. Common contaminants include lead and chlorine. If these substances sound familiar, it’s because they are among the most prevalent ones impacting humans. These culprits can spawn gastrointestinal distress, as well as serious problems like seizures and blindness. Additionally, hard water, which has elevated concentrations of magnesium and calcium, can lead to urinary tract problems in dogs.
Furthermore, as more contaminants are being studied for their impact on human health, questions arise as to the effect on our pets. Microplastics have been linked to respiratory diseases in humans. And PFOA/PFOS, in addition to being connected to cancer, are detrimental to the immune and reproductive systems. Thus, we can only speculate the adverse effects that can occur to our dogs as a result of chronic exposure to these dangerous compounds. Current research only examines the impact of such substances on lab animals. Recommendations, however, urge pet owners to exercise the same caution they would on themselves.
One may wonder: What about communal water bowls? These are common in parks and outdoor dining establishments, and it can be tempting to allow dogs to sip from them. Other dogs do it, so what could be the harm, right? A few laps of water from a shared bowl, though, can carry risks. The source of the water is unknown. Also, germs from other dogs can be floating around, which may spread to our pets and cause a slew of potential illnesses. To prevent health risks, keep your dog away from shared water sources like these.
How to Protect Your Dog With Better Water
Dogs are a significant source of pleasure for millions of people. We spoil them with new toys, give them food they love, and spend plenty of quality time together. They’re part of our household, and many would say, our families. We ensure that our family members stay hydrated with quality water. So the same should apply to our dogs.
Keeping our dogs hydrated will help them remain physically and mentally healthy, while ensuring that they have a good quality of life. As in humans, water comprises a significant amount of dogs’ bodies. And it facilitates important functions such as nutrient transportation, waste removal, and joint lubrication.
Dogs have hydration needs that should be monitored. A good rule of thumb is one ounce per pound of body weight. But, of course, needs will vary depending on factors like activity level, illness, and pregnancy. Dogs are susceptible to dehydration, so it’s important to have an abundant water supply on hand, whether at home or on the go.
Not all forms of hydration are created equal. Communal bowls can bear risks, as can puddle water. And tap water has contaminants that may wreak havoc upon our dogs’ bodies, either acutely or over time. Just like us, their bodies are vulnerable to detrimental effects from the plethora of substances that float through the water supply system.
Current studies are limited in that they don’t examine the impact of common water contaminants on dogs. As research progresses, we will be able to ascertain specific outcomes of exposure to various contaminants. Hopefully, this will spawn greater action on behalf of regulatory bodies to provide cleaner water for all. In the meantime, there are factors within our control.
The optimal way to ensure our pets are getting quality water is to use a water filter. Filtered water, given in a clean bowl, can help our pets best meet their fluid intake. At Aquagear, we have our filters independently tested by an ISO 17025 accredited lab. These filters remove more than 99% of heavy metals like lead and mercury, as well as over 96% of aesthetic contaminants like chlorine. They also remove over 99.9% of emerging substances like PFOA/PFOS and microplastics.
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