Pet lovers often read about the importance of providing their dog or cat with key nutrients such as protein, fat, and vitamins and minerals, but did you know that water is also essential to your pet’s overall nutrition?
Beyond helping your pet’s body maintain a normal temperature, particularly during hot summer months, plenty of clean water each day enables his or her body to operate appropriately. Water is important to every key body function, such as aiding the digestion and absorption of the nutrients provided in pet food, moving nutrients in and out of cells, cushioning joints and internal organs, and helping with elimination.
While the symptoms of deprivation can take weeks or months to appear for other nutrients, the effects of water deprivation occur much more quickly. Dehydration, which occurs when your pet does not consume sufficient water, poses a serious threat to a pet’s health. If he or she is suffering from dehydration, their blood volume will thin, which can damage organs or internal body systems, such as the respiratory system. The symptoms and occasionally deadly consequences of dehydration can occur quickly.
Healthy dogs will normally drink enough water to stay hydrated if provided for them. Cats, however, are less likely to drink water from a bowl than dogs, having descended from desert cats whose water was supplied by the prey they consumed. While both wet and dry food are viable options for your pet, he or she may require more water if they are eating dry food due to the lower moisture level. If you are having trouble getting your cat to drink, try using running water, a different water bowl, or multiple water bowls placed around the house to help encourage regular consumption.
If you suspect dehydration, Pet WebMD advises checking your dog or cat for dehydration by pulling up a loose fold of skin on top of the shoulder blades. Upon release, it should return quickly back into place. In a dehydrated dog or cat, the skin may move back into place slowly or may remain in the lifted position. In addition, dry, sticky, or pale gums is a sign of dehydration, as are panting and elevated heart rate, lethargy, sunken eyes, and a dry nose and mouth. To further support your pet’s health and wellbeing, make sure to regularly refresh the bowl with clean water and wash it with soap frequently. If you are concerned that your pet is not consuming enough water, speak with your veterinarian for advice on how to increase your cat or dog’s water intake.