Monday, March 27, 2017

Use simple rules-of-thumb to ensure that a healthy pet's hydration needs are met

I had to laugh with a client a few months ago as we chatted about attending one of the first puppy classes with her new little one.

“One of the other people in the class asked the facilitator, ‘How much water do I need to bring for my dog? I don’t want him to get dehydrated.’ I was thinking, ‘What?’ The class is about an hour long. Bring water? That seemed a little much,” she said.

The attention on sufficient water intake for the pup wasn’t surprising to me, given the world’s current hyper-fascination with staying hydrated. Water bottle in hand, shall we sally forth and delve into some perspective on the hydration needs of pets?

Water is indeed necessary for optimal health, and though there are basic guidelines for healthy pets, the amount that a pet requires if they’ve some special needs will vary. In the latter case, you'll need to chat with your veterinarian.
A pup's needs can differ slightly from an adult dog's, so ask your vet. 

Adult dogs in good health and comfortably safe, temperate surroundings should average about one ounce per pound of body weight of clean, fresh water daily. Dogs are notoriously good at sipping throughout the day, but cats, not so noticeably. As a rule of thumb, if adult cats are being fed a canned diet (which is roughly 70% water), they’re getting much of their daily intake that way. If they are on dry food, they, like all cats, should have a supply of fresh, clean water offered at will so that they get the 5-10 ounces that healthy, averaged-sized cats require daily.

All of that said, water intake for pets who are infirm usually require more water, and the situation varies. Pets with renal insufficiency, thyroid issues and diabetes fall into this category.  If your pet is in one of those groups, or is recovering from an illness--including one with symptoms that include diarrhea and vomiting--ask your clinician about adjusting your pet’s intake accordingly. With warmer temperatures in the summer, one can expect increased hydration needs as well.

As a caregiver, there are a few ways that I monitor not only how much water my charges are taking in, but how well their body is putting it to use, and there are markers that you can just as easily look for. If the water bowl needs filling more than usual (and their activity level has not changed and the weather is comfortable), that’s an obvious signal, but I also look for other things: if their stools are more firm than I’m used to seeing, if their gums are dry and sticky (smelly breath can sometimes accompany this) or if they are lethargic. Changes like these need to be discussed with your veterinarian, and the sooner the better, as they can be clues when there's a health condition developing.

By and large, I find that dogs and cats do a good job in their own of adjusting their own water intake needs, so as long as your pet’s intake is falling within the amounts above and they acting normally, you need not fret.

I will say that some dogs have an affinity for indulging a fresh gulp of water whenever possible. I’ve a couple of charges who fit this description; they have been evaluated by their vet and are deemed healthy, so it’s simply a matter of mindfully rationing their water intake so that they are able to get outside to relieve themselves--and not needing to resort to doing so in the house.

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. She has been a featured guest on the Pawprint Animal Rescue Podcast, talking about her career working with companion animals and writing about her experiences. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

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