Drink up!

Sound extreme? Well just ask those neglected pot plants that have not been watered enough, if they could talk, I am sure they would agree! Now, I may be drawing a long bow when I compare dying pot plants to your faithful pets but water is the single most important nutrient to all living things and there are some very important things to know about the water requirements of cats and dogs.

  • Dogs and cats need to consume 60-70ml of water per kilogram of body weight each day. This means that for an average 4.5kg cat it needs about 300ml per day. For a 25kg dog, the water requirement is about 1600ml per day. 
  • Dogs are naturally more inclined to drink than cats. They will drink enough water to replenish any dehydration within 24hours whereas a cat could take up to 6 days to completely rehydrate itself.  
  • Cats will remain better hydrated, especially in warmer weather, when they derive most of their water requirements from their diets (Seefeldt and Chapman 1979).

So the question is; how much water do you provide your pets with? Do they have access to enough water every day to satisfy their requirements? Now consider our poor pot plant, it would probably be looking a lot better on its own if you neglected it during winter. Yes, you’ve got the point, our pets need MORE water in summer and EVEN MORE water if they are exercising in summer. Consider the following;

  • In 1947 and scientist called Adolf (his last name – not his first!), discovered that rectal temperatures of 41 degrees Celsius for dogs and 42 degrees Celsius for cats can be fatal. Normal rectal temperatures for dogs and cats are about 38.5 degrees Celsius so we are talking about relatively small increases (compared with humans) for pets to become severely hyperthermic.
  • Both dogs and cats will increase blood flow to their skin to cool themselves but because they have fur and an absence of sweat glands they cannot perspire like people do; Cats and dogs can sweat through their paws (Hammel et al 1958) but this does not provide enough cooling to be effective.
  • Cats and dogs rely on panting to keep their body cool when the air temperatures are high or they are exercising. Panting only remains effective if the pet is sufficiently hydrated and has access to water to maintain its hydration.

So what does all this mean? Let’s forget about pot plants for now and consider dogs. It is very easy to see how a dog, shut in a hot car with high humidity, and without water, could develop lethal hyperthermia (body temperature over 41 degrees Celsius) in less than 20 minutes. The same could be said for a dog running with its owner for 45 minutes on a hot day. In this instance, the exercise will not only increase the body temperature but also cause dehydration. I have firsthand experience of a dog’s body temperature reaching 41 degrees after exercise! In these cases, the dog needs shade, water and hosing off. While we don’t tend to take our cats for a 45-minute run, I have seen them left in cars or being locked in attics (inadvertently) without water which will lead to dehydration and potential heat stress.

Tips from Dr. Patrick on keeping pets hydrated

  • Never leave your pet alone and without water in a hot car

  • Always have a supply of water (ideally fresh) available to your pet

  • When traveling or during outdoor activity, ensure easy access to bowls and always take water with you

  • Ensure your dog can cool off in the sea, lake or under a hose if it has been exercising

  • Pets need more water in summer, and even more when they’re exercising in summer

  • Check your attic or rooms before closing doors.  Cats locked up anywhere warm without water could suffer from dehydration or heat stress.

  • If your dog is tied up outside, ensure he will still have access to water should he get tangled

  • Consider feeding canned or moist food to your cat during the warmer months of the year

Hydration Solutions from Pet.co.nz

  1. Torus Water Bowl: with a concealed reservoir which automatically dispenses water while your dog drinks, the Torus is a fresh new way to ensure your dog drinks clean water at any time. From $49.95 on Pet.co.nz

  2. EzyDog Foldable Bowl: a leakproof solution for providing pups and dogs water on the go.  This travel bowl folds flat for easy transport.  From $22.82 on Pet.co.nz

  3. PetWare Water Dispenser: clips onto your dog’s lead while going for walks, this doubles as a water bottle and bowl.  From $9.99 on Pet.co.nz

  4. Dogit and Catit Fresh Water Fountain: provides a continuous source of fresh and clean drinking water.  The flowing water eliminates stagnation and the elevated fountain provides a great drinking position ideal for large breeds, older pets or those with arthritis, muscle or joint problems. From $89.99 on Pet.co.nz

  5. Wet Cat Food:  contains fewer carbohydrates (important for overweight cats!), wet food provides a good source of water.

In summary, never underestimate the importance of water for your pet at all times this summer. Ensure free access to plentiful bowls, take water with you and ensure your dog can cool off in the sea or lake or under the hose if it has been exercising. 

Remember to call your vet or after hours provider if you suspect that your pet is suffering from hyperthermia or any dehydration related conditions.

Dr. Patrick Foley B.V.Sc