We all know that water is important to our bodies, and we have a good idea how much we should drink every day. There’s even a smartphone app to remind you to drink water. But have you ever wondered how much water your pet should be drinking? Or why veterinarians recommend giving your dog or cat free access to fresh, clean water? While there’s a simple answer to the second question, the answer to the first one is slightly more complicated. Read on to learn more about the connection between water and our pets’ health.
Water, water everywhere
Paws down, water is the nutrient that is most important to our dogs’ and cats’ good health and even survival. Dogs and cats (like us) can live for weeks without food, but not consuming enough water can cause severe dehydration, organ failure or worse within a few days. Veterinarians recommend providing free access to clean, fresh water because water is so important to the body. Consider these reasons:
- Water is the main component of healthy cells. The lean body weight of adult dogs and cats is roughly 70 percent water, and many tissues are composed of 70 to 90 percent water. That makes water extremely important to a properly functioning body.
- Water is a major constituent of blood. Water helps move other nutrients into cells and helps remove wastes from individual cells as well as the overall body.
- Water plays a role in food digestion and nutrient absorption.
- Water helps the body maintain a normal temperature, especially during cooling when it’s evaporated during panting or sweating.
- Water helps lubricate and cushion joints, making movement easier. It’s also part of the fluid that cushions and protects the spinal cord and brain.
How much water does a dog or cat need?
The amount of water required by our pets is influenced by a number of factors, including size, diet (canned versus dry food), age, activity level, underlying health problems and weather conditions. As a rule of thumb, a healthy adult cat should consume between 5 and 10 ounces, or about two-thirds to 1.25 cups, of water daily. The water requirement for dogs is stated differently: A healthy adult dog should drink between one-half and 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight each day. That means a healthy, 50-pound mixed-breed dog should be drinking around 25 to 50 ounces, or about 3 to 6.25 cups, daily.
Dogs and cats most commonly satisfy their water requirements by voluntary drinking. However, part of their requirements are met through food and metabolism, which can produce small amounts of water. The amount of water found in food depends on the diet’s form. Canned food, which ranges from 70 to 80 percent moisture, obviously provides more water than dry kibble.
How to determine your pet’s water consumption
Figuring out how much water your dog or cat drinks is pretty straightforward, assuming you have only one pet who is healthy.
- Fill your pet’s water bowl with a measured amount of water.
- Allow free access to the water dish all day, making sure your pet doesn’t have access to other sources of water, such as the toilet or overflow trays of potted plants.
- If your pet empties the bowl, refill it — just be sure to measure how much water you’re adding to the dish.
- Twenty-four hours after you initially filled the bowl, measure how much water remains before you refill it.
You’ll want to repeat this process for several days to obtain an average of how much water your pet drinks. If you feel your pet is drinking too much or not enough — or even if you feel unsure if the amount is appropriate — be sure to discuss your findings and concerns with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian has ways to check your pet’s hydration, so don’t hesitate to contact him or her.
Keep your eye on the bowl
Some health problems, such as a bladder infection, kidney disease, diabetes, Cushing’s syndrome or particular types of cancer, can cause your pet to change the amount of water that he or she drinks. That’s why it’s important to know what is “normal” for your dog or cat. Then you can see if they are drinking more or less than normal, and contact your veterinarian to schedule a physical exam to rule out an underlying disease.
Clean, fresh water for drinking is an important part of your pet’s overall health and nutrition. Unfortunately, it’s also an overlooked and neglected nutrient. Be sure to provide your pet with easy access to good drinking water.