It’s Crystal Clear: The Importance of Water for Pets

Cat drinking water outside

Good nutrition is important for pet health. Water is also an important component of keeping a healthy pet and is the main component of healthy cells in the body. Without it, your pet can become dehydrated and lose the function of vital body organs. We know that providing drinking water daily to our pets is important, but what else should we be aware of? 

July is National Pet Hydration Month, and so Wellesley-Natick Animal Hospital thought it a good time to explore the importance of water for pets.

Water and Your Pet’s Health

Water provides several key functions when it comes to your pet’s health. Water regulates body temperature, delivers important nutrients to cells, and lubricates joints. It also improves cognitive function and cushions the brain and spinal cord. 

Without water, your pet can quickly become dehydrated. Older pets, cats, and those that are sick or injured are at a greater risk for dehydration, as are short-faced dog breeds (brachycephalic).

Dehydration: What to Look For

Signs of dehydration include:

  • Tiredness
  • Moving more slowly than usual
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sunken eyes
  • Dry nose and gums

You can use these two quick ways to check for dehydration in your pet:

  • Gently pull up (or “tent”) the skin between your pet’s shoulder blades and then release it. If the skin easily falls back to a normal appearance, your pet has enough hydration. If the skin remains tented or is slow to sink back to normal, your pet is dehydrated.
  • Gently press on your pet’s gums until the pressure creates a light/ white spot. When released, your pet’s gum color should return to normal within 1-2 seconds. The gums should feel slick and wet, not dry. 

How Dehydration Happens

It may not seem like dehydration happens easily, but the opposite is true. Dehydration in pets is common. Pets lose water through normal body processes, like going to the bathroom, panting, and sweating through their paw pads. They replenish this lost water by eating and drinking.

Dehydration can happen if your pet is not eating or drinking enough, and since inappetance is a sign of dehydration, a vicious cycle often occurs. Pets who are exercised in hot and humid conditions are susceptible to dehydration. Heat stress, heat stroke, and dehydration often go hand in hand. 

Studies show that cats often exist in a state of chronic dehydration, which can affect their health in a variety of ways. Kidney disease, diabetes, and liver disease can all be consequences of chronic dehydration. 

Ways to Keep Your Pet Hydrated

Providing fresh, clean drinking water daily can be a great start. Here are some other ideas for keeping your pet hydrated. 

  • Invest in a drinking fountain. Many cats like to drink running water.
  • Provide some canned food, which contains more water than kibble.
  • Use multiple water bowls in different locations.
  • Location matters! Sensitive cats need water bowls in low traffic areas
  • Teach your dog to drink from a water bottle, and/or bring collapsable bowls and water on outdoor adventures
  • Don’t let your dog drink from ocean water sources, which can disturb electrolyte balances
  • If your cat likes to drink from a dripping faucet, let her
  • Test different bowl types (plastic, metal) and sizes. Some cats are especially particular

If you notice signs of dehydration in your pet, it’s an emergency that requires veterinary attention. Bring your pet immediately to the nearest veterinary hospital. When dehydrated, the body needs quick infusion with IV fluids to replace lost water and electrolytes before organ failure can occur. We also need to assess the level of dehydration to determine what other treatment your pet may need.

With a little awareness and some extra preparation, you can prevent dehydration in your pet and ensure their health and safety. Establishing simple habits can be effective; each time you reach for your own water bottle, check on your pets water needs as well. If you have any questions, please give our team a call.