Drink to good health

6 mins read

By Tracie Korol

Now that the hot, humid weather is behind us we may not be quite as conscientious when it comes to making sure our pets are supplied with fresh, clean water. Even in winter, in a dry heated house, a dog can become dehydrated if deprived of fresh water. I emphasize the word “fresh” for a reason.

Try this experiment. Drink a glass of cold clean tap water, right from the tap. Observe. At the same time, fill another glass and leave it on the counter. Come back to it three or four days later. Most likely it has a faint film on the surface — dust, grease, pollen — and if you choose to drink it down, fuzz and all, you’ll notice it tastes musty and flat.  Observe. This is probably the water your dog drinks every day.

Water is the most important of all the nutrients. It plays a complex and critical role in the health of all mammals, constituting 55%-75% of the body mass of all warm-blooded creatures, 84% of a newborn puppy and 60% of an adult dog. Water bathes and fills every one of a dog’s billion cells. In fact, a dog can lose all of its fat and half of its muscle mass and survive, but just a 10% loss of body water can cause breakdown. Water lubricates a dog’s joints and muscles and cushions the spaces between individual cells. As the principle element of blood, it transports oxygen to all body tissues and helps fight infections by distributing white blood cells produced by a dog’s immune system. Water provides an environment in which enzymes can digest food and convert it to energy for a dog’s survival.

Dogs crave fresh water; and they like a clean bowl, too. It’s easy to simply refill the bowl, day after day, dumping more in when the level gets low. But really, when was the last time you ran the water bowl through the dishwasher? All kinds of stuff can grow in there especially if you have one of those dogs that dips his beard and rinses his mouth when he drinks leaving dirt, twigs and crumbs to float around the bowl. It’s a good idea to get multiple water bowls, bottom-heavy stainless steel or ceramic, so you can switch them out when the dog water begins to look like bilge.

A properly sized bowl is a good idea, too. An oversized bowl means your dog may only be able to drink water part way down. While it looks full, it’s not because he can’t get to it. Tall, narrow bowls are good for dogs with long ears like Bassets, spaniels and beagles, reducing collateral wetness from drippy ears.

Our Best Friends are messy, hit-and-miss slurpers, so it can sometimes be hard to know just how much water they get in a day. Most dogs need about an ounce of fluids per pound of body weight daily, so a 10-pound dog needs a bit over a cup of clean fresh water daily. Hard playing, working or lactating dogs usually need more and puppies generally drink more than adult dogs. Dogs that eat only a dry kibble diet, with less than 5% moisture content, will naturally drink more, too. Plus, a dog will drink more when it is hot and conversely, more when it is cold and dry.

Resist the temptation to add things to his water to make it more “drinkable”. There are all kinds of toppings and additives on the market these days designed to activate your guilt or your compensation tendencies. Your dog doesn’t need “flavored” water any more than you do. If you just can’t stand the pressure of not indulging your dog, add a few ice cubes and yodel “cocktails!” just for fun.

Your dog is drinking enough if you observe him lapping several times a day from his water bowl and if the water level goes down in the bowl over the day. If you’re aware of a sudden decrease or increase in water consumption, your dog may be ill. Excessive thirst and urinating large amounts may indicate diabetes, kidney failure or other endocrinological diseases. Time to call the vet if you notice drastic changes. Although all dogs are different, your dog is drinking enough if he urinates several times a day when you take him out.

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