A dog being given water

Water is what we’re made of – whether human, cat, or dog. Depending on age and species, 60 to 80 of body mass is comprised of water.

Hot weather is has arrived, and July has been designated Pet Hydration Awareness Month. We thought it high time for some guidance about the importance of water for pets along with a few tips and tricks to keep pets hydrated.

Why is Water Important for Pets?

Water is a vital nutrient. Some of its important functions are:

  • Lubricates joints
  • Transports nutrients through the bloodstream
  • Regulates body temperature
  • Flushes waste out of the body
  • Cushions the brain and spinal cord

When we don’t get enough water, neither pets nor people can function well. We feel groggy, lightheaded, uncoordinated. Excessive loss of water beyond what the body takes in, is referred to as dehydration. In dehydration, the body draws water out of the cells, resulting in electrolyte imbalance and muscle dysfunction.

Older pets, puppies and kittens, pets with kidney disease or diabetes, and pets who have short faces are at increased risk for dehydration.

Signs of Pet Dehydration

Dehydration is a common problem in pets. Here are some of the early signs.

  • Tiredness or moving more slowly than normal
  • Loss of appetite
  • Gums and nose are dry
  • Panting (in dogs)
  • Eyes appear sunken and dry

When pets don’t take in enough water, their skin may become less elastic. To test for this, you can also do a simple skin pinch. If his skin springs back quickly, chances are he’s got enough water on board. But if the skin sinks back sluggishly to its normal appearance, it’s an indication of dehydration in pets.

How Does Dehydration Happen?

Pets lose water for normal reasons, such as painting, going to the bathroom, and even breathing. They replenish this water by eating and drinking.

Sometimes pets aren’t eating or drinking enough to take in normal amounts of water. Dehydration itself can cause appetite loss, so it can become a vicious cycle. Dehydration in pets can also result from illness, diarrhea, vomiting, and fever. Heat stress or heat stroke and dehydration often go hand in hand.

Many cats are thought to exist in a state of chronic dehydration, which affects their overall health in many ways.

Simple Ways to Increase Hydration in Pets

Attention to water is one of the best things we can do in the hottest months of the year as well as all year round. Here are some tips and tricks for increasing hydration in pets.

  • Provide a water fountain (many cats like drinking moving water versus still).
  • Give cats wet cat food as opposed to dry.
  • Teach your dog to drink from a water bottle.
  • Provide more than one water bowl at your house, especially if you have multiple cats.
  • Location matters! Sensitive cats need water bowls in low traffic areas.
  • Refill your pet’s water bowls daily with fresh, clean water.
  • Test different bowls: some cats have drinking quirks, or whisker fatigue. Expand your horizons!

If your pet is wobbly or weak behind, seems dehydrated, has pale gums or is not drinking enough water, it’s time to visit the veterinarian right away. With severe dehydration, the body will need IV fluids to replenish quickly in order to get fluid levels back to normal. And, we’ll need to address the causes of your pet’s dehydration to restore their health.

With a little awareness and preparation, you can make sure your pet is well hydrated. The importance of water in pets is not often something we think of, but keeping pets hydrated is a simple habit. Each time you reach for your own water bottle, think of your pet’s water intake, too. Give your team at Conrad Weiser Animal Hospital a call with any questions or concerns.