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Giving Your Dog Clean and Fresh Water


Being a dog lover, you don't mind your pooch's panting and salivating when your dog has been running around-or excited to see you, right? As that saliva evaporates, it helps cool your dog's body temperature down. But all the water dripping from his tongue has to be replaced. So how do you know how much water you should give your dog?

It actually depends on several factors. Here's what you need to know to keep your pooch well hydrated:

What Water Does for Your Dog

As in humans, water makes up most of your dog's body—about 60 percent for an adult dog. Water keeps your dog's organs healthy and, in particular, helps the kidneys flush out toxins from the blood. Water also promotes a healthy cardiovascular system, keeping essential electrolytes in balance. Some dogs, such as the northern sled dog, can actually go months without drinking real water; they consume snow and ice instead. But most dogs need a good amount of water every day. When dogs become dehydrated, they can die. Dehydration can occur in certain illnesses, such as kidney failure, bladder infections, vomiting and diarrhea. And in hot weather, a dog can die within hours if he doesn't drink.

How Much Water Does Your Dog Need?

Here are the various factors you may consider, but always consult with your veterinarian for advice:

  • Dog Size—If given ample amounts of fresh water, your dog will quench his thirst when he's thirsty. But one guide to go by is size. According to some experts, a dog should drink about 30 ml (about one ounce) of water per pound of body weight each day. So if your dog weighs in at 50 pounds, your dog should drink 50 ounces. That comes out to a little over six eight-ounce cups of water per day.
  • Amount and Type of Food Consumed—If your dog eats wet food, he'll generally require less water. But if he eats dry food, he needs more water. How much? Here's one general rule: Your dog should drink 2.5 times the amount of dry food he eats. If your dog eats two pounds of dry food, he should drink five pounds of water-or more than half a gallon daily. If you have a little pooch who eats four ounces of dry food, he should drink 10 ounces of water (1¼ cup) per day.
  • Nursing Dogs—During lactation, your dog often needs three to four times the amount of water she normally drinks to provide enough milk to her pups and keep up with her own water requirements.
  • Hot Weather—In the summer or a hot climate, your dog needs three to four times the amount he would normally drink. Don't forget an outside water bowl. Make sure it won't tip or spill by attaching it to a solid structure or secure it in the ground. Wash the bowl and fill it regularly—and keep it out of the sun.
  • Cold Weather—If your dog stays mostly outside in the winter, make sure to provide him with a heated water bucket or container.
  • Exercise—Studies show that dogs perform better when given water while exercising because they utilize glucose more efficiently. Drinking also prevents overheating. So before, after, and during exercise—if possible—offer your dog a hefty drink.

Here are some ways to tell if your dog is drinking enough:

  • You observe your dog lapping several times a day from his water bowl.
  • 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.)
  • Dogs, as you know, love to pee. Although all dogs are different, your dog is probably drinking enough if he urinates several times a day when you take him out. You'll notice your dog urinates around the same amount on most days. Again, if you notice a significant change in habit, check with your veterinarian right away.
  • Your dog is active and doesn't seem lethargic or ill after exercise or in warm temperatures. His fur is shiny and there isn't a lot of dryness or flakiness.

Bad Sources of Water

You know dogs. If your dog is thirsty, he'll find water one way or another. Here are some of the less tasteful selections your dog may choose if there isn't a better alternative:

  • Toilets—Keep lids closed. More than one dog has taken a dip into the toilet as a means of quenching his thirst. In addition to the obvious reasons why drinking from the toilet is less than desirable, there is also the danger of drowning. A small dog can easily slip into the toilet with disastrous results.
  • Dirty puddles—If you wouldn't drink from brown, mucky puddles on the street, don't allow your dog.
  • Lakes, ponds or streams—Neither you or your dog should ever drink untreated water from a pond or stream. As clean as it might look, this water can harbor many harmful parasites. One of them is called Giardia which can cause severe illness.
  • Tap water—Many municipal water systems are treated with chemicals that may be harmful to your dog. In addition, minerals and sediment from old pipes can leach into the water.
  • The garden hose—For the same reason as the faucet, a leaking hose is not a good water source because it also uses tap water which may contain harmful substances.
  • Milk, juice, sports drinks, soda—Although all these liquids contain water, they are never a substitute for water, and can, in fact, cause severe digestive problems in your dog.
  • Dog park bowl—Communal bowls at dog parks can carry viruses and bacteria that may be harmful to your dog's health. Always carry a fresh source of water for your dog when the two of you are on outings.

Good Sources of Water

It's not difficult to supply your canine with good water. Here are some tips:

  • Drinking fountains—This is the best way to provide your dog with a continuous stream of fresh, running water. If you find it a burden to keep refilling your dog's drinking bowl—especially if you have more than one dog—a drinking fountain is just what the vet ordered. Besides letting your dog play with the running water, the charcoal filter eliminates bad odors and tastes that many pets dislike. (Note: Always provide a regular drinking bowl for your dog as well as the fountain to ensure sufficient water consumption. Many dogs like to vary how they drink and lapping from a bowl is how most dogs instinctively drink. But adding a fountain may very well increase total water consumption because they enjoy the variety.)
  • Fresh, clean bowl every day. You must clean the bowl—as you would any dish—and replace water at least once a day. It's not enough to add fresh water to the bowl; you must wash the bowl of food bits, hair, dust and other matter that collects daily in the water. Also refill if the water level gets too low. Use stainless steel bowls, stoneware, and high-end plastic dishes. They resist scratches that can encourage bacteria growth, and are easy to clean. When a bowl starts to look worn and scratched, replace it.
  • Water filters—There are a variety of water filtering devices and systems available that help block out chemicals in your tap water that could be harmful to your dog. You can find out which chemicals are used in your water supply and check with your veterinarian to see if any of them pose a danger to your dog. Water filters also help prevent residue and sludge in old plumbing from seeping into the drinking water. You can buy inexpensive filters that attach to the faucet or go inside water pitchers, or you can invest in more comprehensive water treatment systems.
  • Note that softened water is different than filtered water, and is not recommended for your dog because the salts use to soften the water may be harmful to drink.
  • Bottled spring and distilled water—These are alternatives to filtered water.

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