Water is essential for life, whether we are talking about people or our pets. It is just as important that our pets get plenty of clean drinking water as it is for us. Did you know that 70-80% of a dog’s lean body mass is water? In veterinary medicine, we look at hydration as a marker of health and even use balanced water solutions (fluids) to treat disease. Water is used for patients with renal disease who need to have their kidneys flushed and even as supportive care for pets who are losing water or aren’t drinking enough due to other illnesses. We measure water output to assess kidney and bladder health. We use water as a tool in healthy animals to promote satiety for weight management and to keep our pet’s electrolytes in balance. Healthy pets get their water internally – by metabolism of macronutrients, through food, and, most importantly, through the water we provide as part of their diet.
In the U.S. there are many options for water filtration systems, devices, and sources including tap and bottled water. But which should our pets drink?
The internet provides us with many forums and groups with suggestions about water sources and filtration types that are “best” for pets. Some sources talk about contaminants and toxins in tap water. Others mention minerals and heavy metals which might affect a pet’s system. Much of the evidence is conflicting and there are even studies that show that bottled water can be loaded with many of the same contaminants that can be found in tap water. There is a lot of science to sift through.
One concern about water has to do with pH and how that might affect the gastrointestinal or urinary tracts of our pets. Concerns about alkaline water might stem from the understanding that alkaline pH urine increases an animal’s likelihood of developing kidney or bladder stones but there isn’t any peer-reviewed literature to support that the pH of water will directly impact the pH of urine. Urine pH is determined by other physiologic processes; primarily by renal tubular function (healthy kidneys).
The World Health Organization released a global compendium on nutrients in drinking water where researchers discussed the importance of minerals and micronutrients in drinking water. They can improve the taste, help us get more of the essential minerals we need in our diet and even improve our health. Several studies have even shown that hard water can reduce the risk of gastric and cardiovascular diseases in humans because of its high calcium and magnesium content.
Sometimes modifying our water can cause other trouble. For example, water softeners have been implemented in cases of hypernatremia (high blood sodium levels). Water softening is a process which removes hard minerals like the magnesium and calcium mentioned above. The process uses salt and can cause high sodium content in water when they malfunction and even when used properly.
So what’s the verdict?
At Vet’s Here, we are dedicated to the highest standard of care for our pets. In terms of oral water, in most cases our verdict is that tap water is a great safe, cost-effective and readily accessible option.It is generally perfectly safe to give pets the same water we drink, including tap water. Municipal water companies work to filter, test, and treat water to meet internationally established minimum and maximum concentrations of minerals, salts and metals. If you are concerned about your municipal water, you can contact your water supplier and get more information about how they ensure they meet state standards.
If an animal is healthy (no urinary disease, renal dysfunction, and normal system function) then we expect their body to maintain appropriate homeostasis. The biggest risk with water for our pets is that they don’t like their water and don’t drink enough.
In short – your pet should be able to drink the same water you do, tap, filtered or other. If they don’t like the taste of it or if they seem to have a preference, we recommend catering to that. Reduced water intake is proven to affect health, especially renal health, while changing water sources has not been proven to make a significant difference in healthy pets.
Routine blood work evaluation (annually in a healthy animal) is always a great idea to ensure normal organ function. That would be the best first assessment or your pets ability to handle the water they take in. If your pet has an aversion to water, drinks excessively or is having urinary problems (changes such as increased/decreased drinking and urination, difficulty urinating, abnormal colors like red, brown or orange), it is a good idea to seek veterinary evaluation. Vet’s Here can provide comprehensive veterinary exams and testingin the comfort of your home with our mobile vet service. Call us to make an appointment to assess your pet’s health status today!
Adams, Craig, et al. “Removal of antibiotics from surface and distilled water in conventional water treatment processes.” Journal of environmental engineering 128.3 (2002): 253-260.
Sengupta, Pallav. “Potential health impacts of hard water.” International journal of preventive medicine 4.8 (2013): 866.
Skelton, Harold. “The storage of water by various tissues of the body.” Archives of Internal Medicine 40.2 (1927): 140-152
Sockett, Donald. “Sodium Toxicity in Neonatal Dairy Calves.” https://www.wvdl.wisc.edu/index.php/806/ , Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, 24 July 2013
Titles 22 and 17 of the California Code of Regulations.
World Health Organization. Nutrients in drinking water. No. WHO/SDE/WSH/05.09. World Health Organization, 2005.