July is Pet Hydration Awareness Month. Drinking water is as important for pets as it is for humans. So, how much water does your cat or dog need each day? How can you get her to drink an adequate amount of water? Please read on to find out!
How Much Water Does Your Pet Need to Drink?
In general, dogs need to drink approximately one ounce of water per pound of body weight per day. So, a 20-pound dog needs to drink approximately 20 ounces of water each day. Cats need to drink approximately four ounces of water per five pounds of body weight per day. An average 10-pound cat should drink approximately one cup (eight ounces) of water each day. It’s important to note that the amount of water a pet requires may be affected by how active he is, pregnancy, having recently given birth, or disease (such as kidney disease).
How to Tell If Your Pet is Dehydrated
Water has many important function in a pet’s body. Dehydration can lead to a number of issues and needs to be addressed promptly.
One way you can tell if your pet is dehydrated is with the skin elasticity test.
To test your pet’s skin elasticity, gently pull up the skin on your pet’s scruff (back of the neck between her shoulder blades) and release it. If your pet is well-hydrated, her skin will snap back into place right away. If it takes more than two seconds for your pet’s skin to go back into place, she may be dehydrated.
If your pet is dehydrated, she may experience other signs and symptoms of dehydration, including:
- Dry, tacky, or off-colored gums.
- Poor appetite or lack of appetite.
- Sunken eyes.
- Excessive panting (for dogs).
If you are concerned your pet is dehydrated, please consult with your veterinarian.
Tips for Keeping Your Pet Hydrated
Dogs tend to be better at drinking enough water than cats, but these tips will help encourage both dogs and cats to drink enough each day.
- Provide Fresh, Clean Water: It seems obvious, but your pet is more likely to drink enough water when it’s fresh and clean. Refill your pet’s water bowls at least once a day. Ideally, you’ll take the time to wash your pet’s bowls daily, too. It’s a good idea to put more water bowls down than you think you need. This makes it easy for your pet to get a drink whenever he wants one. I have two water bowls and a fountain here for Carmine and Tylan in our small apartment.
- Provide Water Outdoors: If your dog spends much time outside, it’s important for her to have access to water outdoors. Put a ceramic, stainless steel, or plastic water bowl outside for your dog. It’s best not to use a glass bowl on any wooden surface, like a deck, because the sun’s rays can actually ignite the wood on fire when it shines through the bowl. Make sure the bowl always has fresh, clean water for your dog to enjoy while she’s outdoors.
You can place a plastic, ceramic, or stainless steel water bowl inside a catio for your cat if you have one so she can get a drink easily whenever she’s safely enjoying the outdoors.
When you do outdoor activities with your dog, be sure to bring a bottle of water and a collapsible water bowl for her to drink out of while you’re out.
If you care for feral cats, make sure you change the water in their bowls regularly. You can delay or prevent water from freezing in the winter by using a thick plastic, wide, deep container. Solar-heated water bowls are also good options for providing feral cats water in the colder months.
- Feed Canned Food or Add Water to Your Pet’s Diet: Canned food contains significantly more water than dry food, so a good way to encourage your pet to get more water is to feed him canned food. You can even add a little extra water to his canned food if he’ll tolerate it. If your pet doesn’t like canned food, you can try adding a little water to his kibble.
- Get a Pet Fountain: Cats, especially, like drinking from a running source of water. However, every cat is different, so be sure to have water bowls down in case your cat doesn’t enjoy drinking from a fountain. Here, Carmine absolutely loves his fountain and drinks the most from it. Tylan, on the other hand, prefers to drink from water bowls. That’s why I have both options available to them at all times.
A pet fountain doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. You can purchase pet fountains at a variety of price points. Carmine has had both inexpensive and pricier fountains, and he’s loved them all equally.
- Add Some Flavor: Add a little clam, tuna, or salmon juice or low-sodium chicken broth (just straight chicken broth with no garlic or onions) to your cat’s water bowl. Preventive Vet recommends starting with 1/4 teaspoon of flavoring per bowl of water and gradually increasing it until you find a mixture your cat likes. Preventive Vet also recommends that you limit the flavoring to one teaspoon per water bowl.
Good flavor choices for dogs include straight chicken broth or bone broth.
- Add Ice: Adding an ice cube or two to your pet’s water bowl may encourage her to drink from it. You can add a little tuna, clam, or salmon juice to water in an ice cube tray to make flavored ice cubes for your pet’s water dish.
- Location is Key: Place cat water bowls and fountains in low-traffic areas and away from their food and litter boxes. Cats are less likely to drink in high-traffic areas or near their food or litter.
Dogs, on the other hand, may prefer their water bowl near their food. You can place another water bowl near your dog’s bed to encourage him to drink.
- Change the Source: Your cat may like filtered or bottled water more than she does your tap water. It’s best not to use distilled water for your cat on a regular basis. Doing so can lower your cat’s urine pH, which can lead to your cat developing urinary crystals or stones.
When to Consult a Veterinarian
Any time your pet’s drinking habits change – he drinks more or less than what is typical for him – you should consult with your veterinarian. Changes in a pet’s drinking habits is often a sign that something is amiss.
How do you encourage your pet to drink enough water? Please share with us in the comments section!
Sierra M. Koester has been writing in the pet space since 2006. She runs the blog Fur Everywhere. She joined the awesome team at The Cat Blogosphere as Content Manager in June, 2022. She is currently working on editing her upcoming anthology, Purrseverance, a collection of stories about cats who have overcome challenges in their lives from their perspective. Sierra’s home is ruled by her two special needs cats, Carmine and Tylan, who are the center of Sierra’s world.