Keeping Pets Hydrated by Dr. Krista Hight

dog drinking water

With this summer has come sunshine and heat waves. It’s important we keep ourselves hydrated, and it’s important we keep our pets hydrated. Animals indoor and outdoor should have access to fresh, clean water 24/7. If your pet is an outside pet, make sure adequate shelter or shade is available. Brachycephalic dogs (squishy-faced breeds such as pugs, bulldogs, shih tzus, and Boston terriers) should never be in the heat longer than 15 minutes. These dogs cannot ventilate properly and so cannot release heat—they are very susceptible to heat stroke. I once saw a bulldog on emergency for heat stroke because he was left unsupervised outside in the heat for a mere 15 minutes.  Also, if you’re thinking of taking your pets with you anywhere, make sure you think of them when you are packing your cooler and umbrellas—they need water and shade just as much as you do. And it should go without saying, but never, ever leave your pet in the car.

Symptoms of dehydration:

  • Sunken eyes
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dry mouth

If you think your pet is not drinking enough, there are two simple tests at home you can do. Lift up their lips and feel their gums—they should be pink and feel moist. If they are dry and tacky this can be a sign of dehydration.

cat testingYou can also grab the scruff on the back of their neck and lift it up. If it falls right back into place this is a good sign, but if it drops slowly or even stays up in a “tent” shape, then your pet may be dehydrated and you should seek veterinary assistance. Do NOT rely on what their noses feel like. This is an old wives tale—a warm, dry nose does not mean your animal is sick, and a moist, cool nose does not mean your animal is healthy.

Typical water consumption for both cats and dogs is 60 ml/kg/day. This means that an average-sized dog weighing 50 pounds, should drink 1,300 milliliters of water a day, which is roughly 5-6 cups. For an average-sized cat weighing 10 pounds, this should be about 300 milliliters of water a day, which is roughly 1 1/3 cups. On hot days, it can be much more.

pets drinkingThere are a few things you can do to encourage water consumption if you feel that it is inadequate. Water drinking fountains can be very successful, especially for indoor pets. Canned dog and cat food is mainly water or moisture, so adding these in will definitely increase water consumption. If you have a very finicky pet, make sure that there is a water dish away from heavy foot traffic, litter boxes, and direct sunlight. If moving or adding a water dish doesn’t help, you can also try changing from ceramic to metal or vice versa. Outdoor pets may benefit from plastic kiddie pools and trips to the lake to help stay cool and hydrated. If your pet does become overheated, cool rags placed on the belly and feet and fan will help cool them off. Never use ice—it constricts blood vessels and holds heat in.

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