A wise person once said, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.” If you’ve tried to make sure a cat or dog is drinking enough water, you know the same wisdom applies: you can provide your pet with water, but you can’t make them drink it. Sometimes, no matter how much you encourage your pet, they just don’t want to drink, which can lead to dehydration.
Why is hydration important?
Being proactive with your pet’s hydration is important because animals can’t cool themselves as easily as humans can. Their internal temperatures stay hotter, and they use up their hydration more quickly. The primary way that dogs cool themselves is through panting, which evaporates air from their mouths and lungs and replaces it with cooler outside air. The more a pet pants, the more water they lose. Pets also lose hydration quickly through daily activities, like urination and salivation. Keeping your pet hydrated, especially before strenuous activities, is important because it prevents severe dehydration which can lead to irreversible kidney and joint damage, unconsciousness and even death.
It’s important to remember that pets naturally drink in response to thirst, not in preparation of being thirsty. We may offer our pets water before going outside to play, but, unlike humans, pets have no way to know that they’re about to be thirsty. Pets also don’t have the same self-control that humans do, so when they feel nauseous or anxious, they aren’t able to make themselves drink water to stay hydrated like humans can. This poses a question for pet owners everywhere: How can we make sure our pets are well-hydrated? We’ve come up with some creative ways to help keep your pet hydrated!
Make meal time hydrating
Wet food isn’t just an added bonus on top of your pet’s dry food – it’s actually a great way to ensure your pet is getting the essential amount of fluids! Wet food is approximately 80% water, which will help boost your pet’s daily water intake. Pet owners can also add a small amount of water to their pet’s dry food. About one-fourth of a cup of water is a great way to enhance the flavor of your pet’s food while also adding fluids to their diet. It’s important to consult with your vet before making these changes, though.
Add some excitement
Humans have fun ways to drink their water, like seltzers and flavor drops. Why not make your pet’s water more interesting? Try adding a tablespoon of bone broth specifically designed for dogs or cats (human broths often contain ingredients dogs shouldn’t have), or stirring in some pet-safe peanut butter to enhance the smell and taste of your pet’s water. Cats will appreciate a few drops of tuna juice or lactose-free milk in theirs. You can even add some pet-safe fruits or ice cubes to jazz it up! Making your pet’s water more interesting will give them more of a reason to drink it and improve their hydration. But, always remember to provide a separate dish of plain, fresh water so your pet has plenty of options.
Hydration can be a real treat
Nothing is better than a popsicle on a hot summer day, and your pet agrees. A great way to encourage hydration is by making paw-psicles for your pet. A quick and easy recipe for a frozen treat is freezing cat-safe and dog-safe fruits like watermelon. Frozen fruit treats are a great way to hydrate your pet because they contain high amounts of water and taste delicious! Owners can also add treats to broth-enhanced water and freeze it to make ice cubes for your pet to lick. There are so many fun ways to make hydrating treats for your pet, check out some more here.
Pay attention to location
Providing easy access to a water bowl is a great way to ensure pet hydration. Water dishes should never be in a place that a pet cannot access without help. For pets who have difficulty moving, water should be placed close by and on the floor so they can access it with little effort. For homes with both cats and dogs, the cats should have access to a separate, elevated dish of water that’s out of the dog’s reach, since most cats do not like drinking after dogs. However, it’s also important to place additional bowls on the floor – in case the cat has trouble jumping. No matter how many animals you own, it’s a good idea to have multiple bowls of fresh, clean water available since pets can be particular about where in the house they like to drink.
Pet hydration is essential, but it can be hard to ensure your pet is getting enough water. Trying out new ways to hydrate your pet can take the stress out of the task while improving their safety and overall health! For more general tips on heat safety and hydration, check out our summer heat guide here.