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Animals have an instinctual drive to consume enough water to meet their daily requirements. The average amount of water for a dog or cat to drink each day is roughly 1 cup per 10 pounds of body weight. Young puppies and kittens require more due to their higher metabolism and growth rate, and pets with certain illnesses (or those that are very active) may also require more water each day.
Animals meet their daily water requirement in numerous ways, most commonly by drinking water. A less obvious means of consuming water is through food. Canned food has higher moisture content than dry food. If you start out feeding dry food but begin feeding your pet a canned diet, the amount of water she drinks will often decrease.
How do you know how much your pet drinks? Start the morning by measuring how much water you place in your pet’s water dish. Allow free access to the water all day, and if the pet empties the bowl, refill it (but measure how much water you added). At the end of the day, measure the amount remaining in the dish. Do this over several days or a week to obtain an average of how much water your pet drinks. If there are several pets in your household, you may need to isolate this pet from the others for a few days so she is the only one drinking from the bowl. And don't forget to restrict access to "other" water sources your pet may find, like the toilet or the fish pond. Once you know how much your pet is drinking, your veterinarian can determine whether the amount is sufficient or excessive or if additional supplementation is required.
Dogs and cats that don’t consume enough water can become dehydrated. Pets with normal hydration typically have adequate saliva in their mouths, so your finger should slide easily over their gums. In severely dehydrated pets, the gums can feel dry or “tacky” to the touch. Your veterinarian has other ways to check your pet's hydration status, so if you have any concerns, contact your vet to schedule an examination.
If it seems like your pet is drinking more than normal, it’s important that you don’t restrict her access to water without consulting your veterinarian first. Some pets may drink more because of underlying diseases and restricting water could worsen their condition.
If your veterinarian feels your pet needs to drink more, there are several ways to go about it. One option is to feed either a strictly canned diet or to add canned food to dry kibble. Your veterinarian can help you figure out the right proportions of canned food for your pet.
If canned food isn’t an option, dry kibble can be soaked in water or other liquids such as tuna juice or low-sodium chicken or beef broth. These options can also be added to your pet’s water dish to encourage her to drink more water, but you’ll need to change the water several times per day to maintain freshness. If you choose this option, offer a plain bowl of water for pets (especially cats) who don't like the taste of the broth or tuna juice. If you notice your pet avoiding the water, discontinue the additives.
Some pets can be enticed to drink more by adding ice cubes to the water dish. The flowing water in a fountain can encourage increased drinking as well. Just remember to clean the fountain regularly to prevent slime and other unpleasant material from accumulating inside. If your pet still isn’t drinking enough water, please schedule an appointment with your veterinarian, who may have additional suggestions on how to increase your pet’s water intake.
With some diseases such as kidney failure, your pet may be unable to consume enough water to maintain normal hydration. In these cases, she may need fluids administered intravenously (into a vein) or under the skin, in addition to what she drinks. Your veterinarian can recommend the best approach for your pet.
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