Water and Pets

You've seen it, probably even done it. Drinking bottled water, or filtered water from the refrigerator while your cat, dog, or other pet's water bowl is filled from that, ugh, tap. Why should our furry (or scaly) companions drink lower quality water than us?


We all know that public water systems can contain certain levels of bacteria. But we knew that- that's why we are drinking the "safe" water. Still, many continue to fill pet bowls with tap water. Animals, like humans, need water to survive. And, like humans, animals are about 80% water. So, most animal experts will agree that pets should be given the same quality water as humans: bottled and/or filtered. As stated earlier, municipal and well water can contain many harmful things, even parasites. These harmful things don't discriminate between pets and people! Tap water can especially pose risks if it is high in iron, magnesium, or nitrates. These contaminants can cause health issues for your family as well as your pet.

One of these parasites is Giardia, a single-celled organism that ends up living in the mucous lining of the intestines. Giardia is transmitted by discharges of fecal wastes into the water, food, soil, and other surfaces. This parasite can cause diarrhea in animals as well as humans. If a puppy or kitten is suffering malnutrition, the effects of Giardia can be worse. Treatment in the form of anti-protozoal drugs can be administered to infected animals.

There are also things in the water that can cause cancer- just like in humans (Fluoride, for one) Giving your pet filtered water will remove a potentially sickness-causing organism or metal from being ingested.

Cats and dogs, the two most common pets, need fresh water and plenty of it. On a side note, cats are very finicky about their water; they like it fresh. The longer the water sits out, the more oxygen it loses, the less likely the cat would love to drink it. One more note of interest. It doesn't really matter what type of water is used in a pet's bowl if the bowl is not cleaned frequently. Bacteria can grow from mold in the air in your pet's bowl. (That's what those growths are!) So, clean the bowl often and keep it filled with fresh, filtered water. Additionally, drinking more water can also reduce urinary tract disorders in cats and dogs.

For amphibians and more "wet" pets, they do not drink water but absorb it. Frogs, salamanders, and others in this category need water to absorb through their skin, and the higher that quality, the longer they will live. If one finds a tadpole and wants to keep it as a pet, it is best to not use tap water; they are very sensitive to water quality. Fish, which live in water, can be greatly affected by water with high levels of chlorine or ammonia—the chemical used in some treatment plants. Other than the harmful chemicals, a certain pH value is also needed in tank water for fish to have a proper living environment. Also, poor quality water can be more prone to 'bad' algae. Check with your aquarium retailer for specifics.

Signs of dehydration in cats and dogs

The pet’s gums are the best indicator of dehydration. Lift your pet’s lips to expose the gums. Place your index finger on the gum and press your finger flat into the gum. This temporarily squeezes blood out of that spot so when you release your finger the blood should return in less than 2 seconds. The response will be delayed if your pet is dehydrated. Gum moisture is also a sign of dehydration. When you pull your finger away the gums should feel very wet, if your finger sticks to the gum it is a sign of dehydration. When water ratios fall 5% below normal, pets will start to show signs of dehydration. Other signs of dehydration include sunken eyes, dry mouth, poor skin elasticity, lethargy, increased heart rate, and constipation. Monitoring and encouraging your pet’s water levels can help you prevent dehydration.

Consider the side effect of feeding your pet bottled water

Some folks feed their pet’s bottled water and can cause more problems than they think. Bottled water is extremely expensive and continues to add waste to our landfills. Only about 27% of plastic bottles are recycled. Despite the waste plastic bottles create, some bottled water is just bottled tap water. This means pets can still be harmed by the contaminants in the unfiltered water.

With water being a crucial part of a pet's health, it is no wonder that many pet supply manufacturers offer water fountains, water filters, special bowls, special dispensers, and more. When it comes down to it though, a normal stainless steel or glass bowl filled with water from a home-filtration system works well. Hopefully, you can see that not only you can benefit from a water filtration system, but so can your lovely pet!

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