Is your pet getting enough to drink?
Like us, cats and dogs are primarily composed of water. They lose water daily through urination, defecation and respiration. Digestion, especially of dry food, requires vast amounts of water to properly prepare the food for nutrient absorption. Without enough water it is impossible for the kidneys and liver to properly filter the bloodstream, which can result in toxicity. Therefore, adequate water consumption is absolutely vital to the health of your pet.
Dehydration is a common problem for companion animals eating a diet primarily composed of kibble. Kibble is usually between seven and ten percent moisture, requiring additional supplementation of water, typically in a water bowl. The wild forebears of our dogs and cats would have met most of their water needs by eating the flesh of their prey (containing 75-80 percent moisture) and occasionally drinking from streams. In the wild, animals will only drink from a stagnant water source, such as a puddle, in times of drought or famine. Many pets will naturally choose to drink out of the freshest water source available. So when you see your cat lapping up the water around your bathtub drain, or your dog with his head in the toilet bowl, it is effort to rehydrate with fresh water.
Failure to drink enough water can result in bad breath, dry nose and mouth, lethargy, susceptibility to infection (especially urinary tract infections) , dull coat and dark, smelly urine. It is easy to monitor your pet’s hydration status by performing either a basic turgor test or a capillary refill test.
• Turgor test: gently lift the loose skin between your dog or cat’s shoulder blades and then release. If properly hydrated, your pet’s skin will return back to normal instantly. If anything other than an immediate return is observed, your pet is dehydrated. The more slowly the skin goes back to it’s original position, the more dehydrated the animal is.
• Capillary refill test: with your index finger, firmly press the gum line of your pet for three seconds, and then remove your finger. The color should return to the area in less than two seconds. The sooner it returns the better, and the more slowly it returns, the higher the level of dehydration.
There are a variety of ways to ensure that your pets are getting enough water. Incorporating canned food into a dry diet is helpful, and switching to a raw diet is ideal. In a raw diet, none of the water is cooked out of the food; therefore no additional water is needed to digest it. Freeze-dried raw diets and dehydrated diets are also excellent choices when saturated according to package directions. Encourage your pet to drink as much as possible from their dish by changing the water twice a day and cleaning it often. Stagnant water grows bacteria which smells and tastes unpleasant. To provide a constant fresh water supply, consider a pet fountain in which the water circulates continuously. Pets that are sick, pregnant, nursing or very active have greater water needs. In high temperatures, dogs and cats lose more water through respiration and will need additional access to water. Supervise dogs tied outside as they can either knock over their water bowls or become tangled out of reach. All life sustaining processes require water. Without water food can’t be digested, toxins can’t be excreted and air can’t be absorbed. It is the least expensive form of preventative medicine. Make sure your animals are getting enough for a lifetime of health.
Article by Jenny Cournoyer
Jenny is an employee at Maggie’s and a graduate of UMASS Amherst, she has studied Pre-vet and Animal Science and is very knowledgeable about pet care and nutrition