KEEPING YOUR PETS HYDRATED
YOUR PET’S BEST FRIEND – CHRISTINE MALLAR– Record high temps across the country bring to my mind topics like keeping your pets well hydrated to better able to deal with the heat, but the truth is, hydration is important year round to the health of our animals.
A natural diet for dogs and cats would include whole muscle meat, organs, bones and all of the moisture associated with these, but most pet owners feed a dry kibble diet. Moisture plays an important role in the body, including keeping the body temperature regulated, helping the passage of food through the digestive system (preventing constipation), aiding in the transport and absorption of nutrients, and helping the function of the kidneys and the liver to flush waste out of the body. Human nutritionists and athletic trainers will tell you that if you’re thirsty, you’re already mildly dehydrated. Serious dehydration can cause organ damage, but keep in mind that a lifetime of mild dehydration can also cause stress and damage to sensitive organs like the kidneys.
This is especially important for cats, who have not really evolved as good drinkers. As I write this, feral cats are hunting and eating as nature designed them to do, catching whole rodents and birds, which are about 80% moisture. Those that have switched from kibble to canned foods might notice a noticeable decrease in the amount their cat drinks. (When I switched my cat to a raw food diet he hardly drank extra water at all.) When a cat is exclusively eating a dry kibble diet, their body is always in a state of mild dehydration, and if your cat drinks frequently it could be a sign that they need more moisture in their diet to prevent damage to the kidneys over time. Studies have also shown that the more carbohydrates a cat diet contains, the more likely cats are to have urinary and bladder troubles. If a cat is prone to crystals, the single most important thing you can do is to provide extra water in the diet – if a cat’s not urinating enough, the urine becomes concentrated and crystals can start to clump together, becoming larger and could cause a blockage. Increasing moisture in the diet is also a helpful strategy for dogs and cats who are prone to urinary tract infections.
Here are some tips for dogs:
- make sure water bowls are scrubbed clean each day. Bad smells and slimy texture can be a turn-off or even carry bacteria.
- Put a splash of water in their kibble if they enjoy it – many think it’s exciting gravy.
- incorporate some raw food or canned food into the diet
- Give ice cubes as treats
- Freeze moist things in a Kong for them to lick out (the tiny hole at the end can be blocked with a bit of soft cheese so you can put it upside down in a cup and fill with something like chicken broth and freeze – Kong-sicle!)
- don’t forget your travel bowl when you go out with your dog to fill frequently – hot pavement can also be a heat stressor for your dog
Tips for Cats:
- Incorporate or switch to canned foods or raw foods if the cat will eat them.
- When feeding canned or raw foods, try mixing in an extra Tablespoon or so of water (a little bit of warm water is a great way to make canned food more appealing again when it comes out of the fridge)
- Consider getting a water fountain that recirculates and filters the water.
- Try putting water glasses or bowls in novel places, away from where the food is served. When they stumble upon a water bowl on the bathroom counter or on a window ledge, for example, they are stimulated to drink a great deal more. Try moving it around occasionally. A human water glass filled to the top seems to be a very appealing thing for cats to drink out of!
If your cat or dog’s rate of drinking increases significantly for seemingly little reason, check with your vet as it could be a sign of illness.