Water is the most important of all the vital nutrients needed for a pet. It constitutes nearly 84 percent of a newborn puppy and 60 percent of an adult dog. It is the basis for all metabolic processes of the body. Let’s find out more about the importance of water.
According to Dr CS Arun, “Though very essential, the importance of water is completely overlooked and ‘water negligence’ is a common problem encountered in the practice. Inadequate supply of water can damage the organs like kidneys, liver, etc. It can even lead to death.”
How much water is enough for my pooch?
Dr Arun explains that it is imperative to provide water to pet always and ad libitum. Basically, a dog needs 60 ml water per kg body weight per day. So, a 20 kg normal dog needs 1.2 litres of water per day. In another thumb rule, a dog should drink 2.5 times the quantity of food it consumes. If the dog eats 300 gm dry food, he should drink at least 750 ml water. But the water requirement considerably increases in hot climate, after exercise and during lactation. It may go upto 2-3 times more than normal. It has to be remembered that dogs on dry food need more water.
Pawfect water balance
Dr Indranil Samanta says like us, our dogs also cannot survive without water which is the most important regulator of all the cellular functions. “Water is continuously supplied and lost from the body. So, the machinery to maintain the balance should be efficiently functional. The machinery is regulated by several factors such as hormones (anti-diuretic hormone or vasopressin and oxytocin),hypothalamus of the brain, effective kidney, lung and skin function. The positive water balance is noted in puppies, pregnant dogs and with the diet rich in carbohydrate. Whereas, the negative water balance is observed in excess loss of water than intake due to environmental stress or exercises, and high fat content in the diet. Thumb rule for water intake may vary with the breeds of the dogs who are fed the canned foods (moisture content 60-87 percent) and can collect their required water from the food items. They may intake less amount of liquid water which is a normal phenomenon and there is nothing to
worry about it.” he adds.
Why water deficiency occurs?
As per Dr Arun, primary cause of water deficiency is managemental error.
- Pet parents may tend to forget filling up water bowls.
- Never keep your dogs chained in certain cases. Chained pets may not be able to reach water troughs.
- Occasionally, a pet may knock out the water bowl.
- Pets on travel may not be provided with adequate quantity of water.
- Excessive panting and salivation causes water deprivation.
- Fever and severe vomiting and diarrhoea also lead to severe dehydration.
He further explained that a loss of 10 percent of body water may cause serious disorders. A dehydrated pet will look dull and depressed with dry, pale and sticky gums and sunken eyes. Skin loses its turgidity. When a flap of skin is pulled away from the body, it won’t snap back quickly.
Dehydration – a serious issue!
“The overall activities of dogs are reduced during dehydration. The dogs taking sufficient water are able to burn the glucose more efficiently. So, if your dog is reluctant to walk, play with you or children, you may doubt about its sufficiency of water intake. Other signs depending upon the degree of dehydration include panting, dry oral mucus membrane, tachycardia, decreased pulse rate and hypovolemic shock in fatal cases. However, the proper detection of this syndrome can be done by a qualified veterinarian only,” tells Dr Indranil.
According to Dr Indranil, there is a ‘rectal pinch test’ which can be performed by any pet parent to detect whether their dog is taking sufficient water. Lifting the skin on a dog’s back and watching how quickly it returns to its normal position is known as rectal pinch test. A healthy dog’s skin returns immediately, a dehydrated (lack of water) one goes back slowly. If you find the dehydration in
rectal pinch test, you should consult your veterinarian immediately.
“Further, when your dog is sick, he is reluctant to take water. However, during sickness, especially fever, more amount of water is needed. Together these factors may contribute to massive dehydration which needs immediate attention of your vet. Dehydration can be fatal if hypovolemic shock occurs. Further, insufficient water intake in dogs may cause constipation and renal failure,” adds Dr Indranil.
- Vaccinate your dog regularly.
- Do not give his access to garbage bin or stale food.
- To treat dehydration, start infusing fluids i/v, s/c or oral as early as possible.
- If there is no vomiting, the pet may be forcefully fed water frequently.
- To increase the palatability of water, you may add some chicken or beef flavour.
- Let your pooch drink water before exercise.
- Water bowls can be placed at 2-3 places.
- Ice cubes can be given as treats in summer.
- A treat can be put at the bottom of the water bowl to encourage your pooch to drink.
- In summer, provide cool water and in winter, provide water at room temperature.
- To prevent water deficiency, always make sure that the pet has access to clean water always.
- Change the water in bowl at least twice a day.
- When on travel, carry enough water for the pet.
Overhydration – also a concern
Dr Indranil explains that intake of excess amount of water is termed as overhydration. It is also fatal for the dogs which are clinically evident from the symptoms such as poyuria (frequent urination), acidosis, cyanosis (bluish discolouration of mucous membrane), muscle twitching, hyperirritability, vomition and convulsion. Pulmonary edema is the life-threatening event of overhydration.
“For mild overhydration, restriction of water intake can check the condition. For severe cases, diuretics along with fluid therapy to restore the salt balance are recommended. To detect the internal organ damage caused by the excess of water, an expert advice is needed,” he adds.
Quality of water… important too!
“Quality of water fed to the pet is very important. Usually water we use contains various solid particles in the forms of chemicals, contaminants or dirts which we cannot see through our naked eyes. If the water is containing more than 5000 parts per million of such total dissolved solids is not acceptable for consumption. High nitrates, magnesium or iron pose long term health hazards. Untreated water may be a source of pathogenic microbes like Giardia,” says Dr Arun.
Take care of the bowls as well!
Dr Arun mentions, “At the same time, cleanest water may not help if placed in a dirty container. So, water bowls should be washed daily and disinfected periodically. Take special care to clean the ‘bio film’ formed
in the water.”
Clean drinking water is the right of every pet and responsibility of every pet parent.
“Water carries and helps the body to absorb important nutrients; aids in digestion of food and helps to maintain normal body temperature. It makes movement easier by lubricating and cushioning the joints. Urination and bowel movements help in removing waste from the body. Always give filtered drinking water to your pet.”
– Dr CS Arun
“The stainless steel bowl is preferable because it develops fewer amounts of scratches. The scratches can harbour pathogenic bacteria.”
– Dr Indranil Samanta
“The World Health Organisation (WHO) data on faecal coliform bacteria (contaminants that pollute water) group them into the following risk categories: 0 cfu (colony-forming unit)/ 100ml (conformity); 1–10 cfu/100 ml (low risk); 10–100 cfu/100 ml (intermediate risk); 100–1000 cfu/ 100ml (high risk) and 41000 cfu/100 ml (very high risk).”
– Dr Indranil Samanta
(With inputs from Dr CS Arun, MVSc, PGDMM, My Pet Clinic & Pet Fancies, Mysore. He is author of the book ‘Frequently Asked Questions About Dogs & Cats’.
Dr Indranil Samanta, (MVSc, PhD), Assistant Professor in Veterinary Microbiology at West Bengal University of Animal & Fishery Sciences, Kolkata. He is actively engaged in microbiological disease investigation and allied research. He is the author of the book ‘Veterinary Bacteriology’ (NIPA, New Delhi)).