7 Facts about Water and Your Dog

My oldest dog has been slightly increasing his water consumption lately.

That concerned me as this can be a sign of several age related health problems, including kidney disease, diabetes, Cushing’s disease, and other serious illnesses. After a complete veterinary exam and laboratory blood work, thankfully he was given a clean bill of health and I was told to continue to watch his water consumption just in case his health changed in the future.

Water is life; our dogs cannot live without water just as we can’t. Dog owners tend to pay attention to many aspects of their dogs’ lives, including diet, but water is often ignored, taken for granted, or not taken seriously enough.

How Much Water is Good?

Most dogs need one ounce of water per pound of body weight daily. A ten pound dog then would need ten ounces per day or just over a cup of water. Puppies tend to drink more water than adult dogs and older dogs drink more than healthy young adults. Pregnant or lactating female dogs also need more water.

These recommendations include most of the moisture your dog takes in; not just water drunk from the bowl. For example, if you feed The Honest Kitchen‘s dog foods and re-hydrate the food with a half a cup of water and your dog eats all of his food, you may find that he drinks less water. A dog eating a dry kibble food, however, may need more water because of the lack of moisture in his food plus the dry food may actually make him more thirsty.

It’s All About the Bowl

Metal bowls are fine for water as are ceramic bowls with a lead-free, food quality glaze. Plastic bowls aren’t as good because the pores can build up bacteria. Some dogs will develop chin acne from a contaminated plastic bowl. The bowl can be plain or decorative; choose what pleases you as your dog doesn’t care about decorations.

Choose a large bowl to serve as your dog’s water bowl; one that holds more than your dog normally drinks in a day. This way if he’s alone for longer than planned, he still has water. The size and shape of the bowl is important as the water needs to be easily accessible. Your dog shouldn’t have to lean into the edge of the bowl and put pressure on the front of his neck to get water. A wide flat bowl is best for shorter dogs.

If your dog likes to play in his water, an unspillable or weighted bowl might be a good choice.

If your dog spends time both inside the house and outside, he should have a water bowl in each location. Outside, I use a five gallon galvanized tub as a dog water bowl. Not only is it impossible for my dogs to tip over because it holds a lot of water, but the water also stays cool.

Although dogs will often drink any available water, even from a mud puddle, the water bowl should be emptied and washed daily as bacteria can quickly build up in the water and on the bowl itself. Bits of food dropped into the bowl, debris from the dog’s mouth or coat, and things that blow or drift into the bowl can all contaminate the water and potentially create a danger to your dog. Bacteria can also create a usually invisible coating (often called a biofilm) over the water and bowl.

©istockphoto/oneinchpunch

©istockphoto/oneinchpunch

Keep Water at Hand

If you’re walking your dog, taking him out to play, or going for a jog, take water with you. No matter whether you’re using commercially bottled water or refilling your water bottles, have some at hand for yourself and for your dog. There are many different ways to carry water bottles with you, depending on your activities; including fanny pack style bags and belts made specifically with dog owners in mind. These have a pockets for dog clean up bags, wet wipes, treats, and often have net bags on the side that will hold a bottle.

There are many different types of folding or collapsing bowls that you can carry so your dog can easily drink. I also teach all of my dogs to drink out of the palm of my hand, so that if nothing else is readily available, they can do that. Teaching your dog to drink out of the bottle is a good skill, too.

Offer small drinks frequently rather than one large drink. A dog who is hot or exercising heavily could vomit after too large a drink. Plus, he could become dehydrated before getting that drink (or after vomiting). Several small drinks during the activity will help him remain well hydrated and won’t upset his tummy.

Cold and Heat Create a Thirst

The weather can directly affect your dog’s water needs. Hot summer days, especially if your dog is going for a walk or playing outside when it’s hot, will increase your dog’s water needs, doubling and even tripling the amount. A hot summer wind can dehydrate your dog, too.

Did you know that cold weather can dehydrate your dog, too? It can and not just because your house is heated—although a heated home can dry out everything. You may notice, if you watch, that your dog will be thirsty on cold, dry winter days after he’s been outside.

Dogs Who Drink Too Much

Dogs who drink too much water (or swallow a lot during play) can develop a medical condition called hyponatremia or water intoxication. An affected dog will be nauseous, drooling, staggering, and have a glazed look in his eyes. His pupils can be dilated and his gums pale. It can lead to difficulty breathing, seizures, coma, and death.

This can happen when a dog is playing hard in the water; often a dog who is jumping in and out of the pool, retrieving toys while swimming, and gets so excited he doesn’t take a break. This also happens with dogs who love to play with water from the hose and bite at the stream of water. The best way to prevent these dogs from getting too much water is to make sure they do take a break from the pool and the fun. Have the dog walk around, relieve himself, and then lie down and relax for a while.

©istockphoto/MivPiv

©istockphoto/MivPiv

Dogs Who Drink Too Little

Just as some dogs drink too much water; some don’t drink enough. My middle dog, Sisko, often doesn’t drink as much as I’d like, especially on busy or hot days. I’ll drop a couple of special treats in the water and as he gets one (and some water with it) I’ll drop another treat in the water. I may also add some chicken broth to his water. Then, come mealtime, I’ll mix his Honest Kitchen food with more water than normal. Sometimes I’ll make it so soupy he has to lap it up.

If your dog doesn’t get enough water, he could become dehydrated and this is potentially fatal. The easiest way to check for dehydration is to lift a pinch of skin from the back of your dog’s neck. If, when you let it go, it immediately falls back into place, your dog’s hydration is fine. However, if the skin doesn’t fall back into place or does so slowly, call your veterinarian right away. Depending on your dog’s symptoms, he may offer some suggestions to help your dog or he may recommend immediately bringing your dog to the clinic.

Salt Water Doesn’t Quench Thirst

If you and your dog enjoy summer days at the beach, don’t forget to bring lots of fresh water with you. Dogs tend to drink salt water because running around on the sand is hard work and they get thirsty. They can also swallow salt water if retrieving toys thrown in the water. Unfortunately, salt water then makes them thirstier and so they drink more salt water, and well, this vicious circle never ends well. Most dogs begin vomiting when they’ve ingested too much salt water. If this happens, have your dog lie down and relax and offer small sips of fresh water. Your dog may also develop diarrhea because of the salt water moving through his gut. If the vomiting and diarrhea continue after your dog has gotten rid of the salt water in his tummy, call your veterinarian.

To prevent too much salt water ingestion, offer fresh water often throughout your stay at the beach. Small, frequent drinks are best. Make your dog take a few breaks away from the salt water and limit the retrieving games in the water.

Be Aware and Pay Attention

Just as our water intake is important to us, so it is for our dogs. If you’re thirsty, your dog probably is, too. If he’s playing or working hard, or it’s warm (or cold), offer water.

If your dog’s drinking patterns change, especially as he’s growing older, don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian.

Meet the Author: Liz Palika

Liz Palika is a Certified Dog Trainer, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, and the co-owner of Kindred Spirits Dog Training in Vista, CA. Liz is also an award-winning author and writer specializing in pets. She writes about cats, cat behavior and health, dogs, dog behavior and health, living with pets, and pet nutrition. Liz’s works have been recognized with many awards, but her most recent book, “Idiot’s Guides: Dog Training” (Penguin Books, 2014) recently won the Best Nonfiction book category in the San Diego Book Writing competition. Liz shares her home with two dogs; Bashir, an Australian Shepherd, and Bones, an English Shepherd. Three cats, Spock, Scottie, and Kirk, provide motivation for her articles about cats. And yes, she is a Star Trek fan. For more information go to www.kindredspiritsk9.com.

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