Water is a large component of what our dogs (and we) consume every day. For that reason, we must emphasize the importance of not only water itself but water quality for both our dogs and ourselves.
Why is Water So Important?
Although water isn’t considered a nutrient, it’s one of the most important aspects of our dog’s diet. It’s known as a universal solvent and is responsible for dissolving and transporting molecules throughout our dog’s body. Not only is it responsible for transport, but also aids in regulating our dog’s temperature and providing structure.
Processes that occur within the body also require water, including the digestion of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.
How Water Regulates Body Temperature
Water has a high specific heat which is the amount of heat required to increase the temperature by one degree (Celcius).
Large fluctuations in heat generation can occur within an animal while the body temperature barely changes. Additionally, this trait enables the movement of heat throughout the body.
The evaporation of water from the skin and respiratory system helps to control body temperature. A significant amount of heat can be lost while just a little amount of water is lost because big quantities of heat are needed to evaporate small amounts of water.
When Dehydration Occurs
Dehydration can occur when there is an excessive amount of water lost or if your dog has not consumed a sufficient amount of water.
Lack of water frequently results in a loss of skin elasticity. Additionally, water protects the neurological system by providing cushioning and lubricating joints and the eyes. It also helps with gas exchange during respiration by maintaining the moisture and pressure of the lungs’ alveoli.
Water Flushes Toxins from the Body
Water aids in your dog’s body’s detoxification process. The kidneys are important organs that aid in the body’s elimination of waste materials. Your dog has to drink enough water each day to maintain a healthy, working kidney (approximately 10 cups for a medium-sized dog). If you observe that your dog is drinking more water than usual, speak with your vet to see if there are any underlying issues causing excessive thirst.
Understanding Water Quality
Salinity, nitrates, nitrites, toxic organic and inorganic chemicals, and microbial contamination can all have an impact on the quality of water.
Water quality is frequently measured using the term “total dissolved solids (TDS),” which refers to the concentration of all components dissolved in water. As a measurement of the total ionic concentration in fresh water, TDS is equated with salinity (the amount of salt present in the water).
Since dogs and cats frequently drink the same water as people do, common water quality issues (including nitrates, sulfates, and bacterial contamination) can frequently be resolved by local public health departments. Pesticide residues and other contaminants must be screened for in commercial analytical laboratories in order to solve water quality concerns (toxic inorganic compounds or pesticides).
On the EWG’s website, you may use the National Drinking Water Database to assess the quality of your water. By entering your zip code and utility choice, you can get a report on the quality of the water from your state’s water authority. A Consumer Confidence Report (CCR), an annual report that details every contaminant discovered in your community’s water supply, is also available from your local water utility company.
The health of dogs and cats is not significantly impacted by water “hardness,” or the proportion of calcium and magnesium salts to calcium carbonate. Although feline urolithiasis has been associated with hard water with high magnesium levels, the amount of magnesium absorbed in drinking water is insignificant compared to the amount consumed in the diet. Cats who are susceptible to urolithiasis may benefit from drinking distilled water rather than hard water that has been softened with sodium chloride.
Nitrates in Water
Nitrates are widely spread in the environment, and they can be harmful to all living things when found in high amounts in drinking water. Although nitrate ions (NO3) in drinking water can be tolerated in small amounts by dogs and cats, nitrite (NO2, the reduced form of nitrate), which is readily absorbed, can be dangerous.
Nitrites dangerously increase the production of methemoglobin by oxidizing iron in hemoglobin, which reduces blood’s ability to carry oxygen.
Nitrates are typically a sign of bacterial pollution in the water source. As the pH of the digestive tract rises, bacteria are better able to convert nitrate to nitrite. In contaminated water sources, bacteria can change nitrate to nitrite.
The permitted upper limit for nitrogen in water for human consumption is 10 ppm, which is based on the total nitrogen derived from the mixture of nitrate (which contains 30.4 percent nitrogen) and nitrite (22.6 percent nitrogen). There are no safe upper limits for canines and felines. Livestock limits should be used until research is done to establish upper limits for dogs and cats.
Bacteria in the Water
For a very long time, it has been believed that clean water for humans must be free of coliform bacteria. Despite the fact that not all coliform bacteria are pathogens, a significant number of them are, and their existence suggests that water can support infectious bacteria or viruses.
The outcomes of several qualitative tests conducted on water samples can also be used to predict the presence of bacteria. Bacteria coexist proportionately with chemical compounds like nitrites, nitrates, and phosphates. If these compounds are present in large quantities, it is likely that bacteria are also present in large quantities.
With water making up between 40% and 80% of an animal’s body weight, it is one of the most significant parts of the body. An animal’s body contains different amounts of water depending on species, state of health, and age. Lean body mass has 70 to 80 percent water and 20 to 25 percent protein, whereas adipose tissue, also known as fat tissue, contains 10 to 15% water and 75 to 80% fat. Younger and slimmer animals typically have more body water. Conversely, animals that are heavier have less water in their bodies.
Animals require proportionately less water on a weight basis as they age because they consume less food per unit of body weight, which reduces urine water loss. Additionally, the surface area of adult animals is lower per unit of body weight, which results in less skin evaporation.
The majority of the water needed by dogs and cats is provided through food or drink, especially if your dog eats raw food. Animals fed commercial moist feeds use less water than those fed dry food because commercial moist feeds have a higher water content (>75 percent water).
In mature, healthy, nonreproducing dogs and cats, the amount of water consumed will be roughly 2.5 times greater than the amount of dry matter (DM) consumed as food at a moderate ambient temperature. Pets must always have access to fresh, clean water.