A cat drinks water from a bowl.

It makes sense that if you leave out a bowl of water for your cat or dog, they’ll drink whenever they feel thirsty. In actuality, however, animals can be as picky about their hydration needs as humans. Some pets need their bowls filled with fresh water a few times every day, whereas other pets aren’t as thirst-driven. The amount of water they drink is largely determined by their species, breed, lifestyle and general pet health, and is critical to support important body functions. Owners of both cats and dogs can maintain proper levels of pet hydration, but what exactly does that mean?

Not Just a Summer Thing

While close attention to pet hydration is essential during hot, humid weather, keeping an eye on their water bowl is a must throughout the year. Digestion, waste removal, and body temperature regulation are linked to hydration and can definitely be at risk when the balance is “off.”

All the Cat Factors

Very active or larger pets are going to be thirstier than those leading more sedentary lifestyles. Additionally, cats evolved in dry, arid regions where there wasn’t always a great deal of water. As a result, they are less likely to depend on huge gulps of water throughout the day.

That doesn’t mean that cats can go without water, however. A pet cat needs between 3.5 – 5 ounces of water for every 5 pounds of body weight. In other words, a 10 pound kitty needs 7-10 ounces of water daily. This amount of water can vary depending on their diet; canned food can be as much as 80% water. 

And for the Dogs

A healthy adult dog needs approximately 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight. Again, this depends on their activity levels and the weather, but it’s an excellent target for optimal health. Always offer them fresh water after play times or exercise, directly after meals, on especially warm days, and while taking medication.

What Stands in the Way?

Pet hydration can become part of the back burner if your pet isn’t directly asking you for a change. It is necessary to clean their bowls every day before refilling as bacteria can build up and make the water taste and smell unappetizing. 

Be sure to provide bowls around the house or backyard, and encourage them to take a drink when they are near water stations.

Threats to Pet Hydration

The most common signs of dehydration include:

  • Lethargy
  • Dry, tacky gums
  • Sunken eyes
  • Constipation
  • Panting
  • Refusal to eat

Please seek emergency veterinary care if you notice any symptoms. They may need intravenous therapy to keep organ function going and to prevent further damage. 

Other tips to promote ideal pet hydration may involve:

  • Providing the right bowl or fountain for your pet that they cannot tip over
  • Offering the hose or kiddie pool to keep them cool and wet
  • Bringing water with you during outings
  • Keeping the toilet lid down at all times to reduce your pet from drinking harmful chemicals or bacteria
  • Exercise only during the cooler parts of day
  • Never leaving your pet inside a parked car on warm days

Pet hydration may sound really simple, but the balance isn’t always easy to strike. If you have any questions about your pet’s health, behavior, and overall wellness, the staff at Leon Valley Veterinary Hospital is always here for you.