Hello All Pet family! It’s July and that means it is Pet Hydration Awareness Month. This month's blog is all about why it is so important your pets stay properly hydrated and offer you tips on how to ensure they do. I will also discuss the risks of water intoxication. Let's dive right in!
A pet's body consists of 80% water. 80%! In comparison, an adult human body is 55-60% water. An animal's minimum daily water intake should be at least 1 ounce of water for every 1 pound of body weight. Unfortunately, most pets are not properly hydrated, especially larger dogs. But we can easily fix that, as you will learn below. Contrary to popular belief, dogs and cats do sweat through their paws but this is not enough to properly cool a pet. Dogs will resort to panting to cool down. Panting covers more area and will cool them down quicker. Cats will bathe themselves. Saliva evaporating off of their fur lowers their body temperatures. At 90 degrees or above, a cat will pant to stay cool as a last resort. Both will find shady, cool surfaces to rest and reserve their energy.
Some of the reasons pets become dehydrated are excessive heat, lack of access to or lack of interest in food or water, vomiting and excessive loss of fluid caused by increased urination, diarrhea or blood loss.
Thirst and dehydration are very different. There are many indicators that your pet is dehydrated and has an electrolyte imbalance. They include sunken eyes, loss of coordination, lethargy, loss of appetite, dry mouth, dry, sticky gums, dry nose, excessive panting, vomiting, dilated pupils, loss of skin elasticity and excessive salivation. To perform the skin elasticity test to determine if your pet is dehydrated, lightly pull on your pet's skin at the neck or in between the shoulder blades. A healthy pet's skin will "snap" right back into place. A dehydrated animal's skin will take a few seconds to return to place, a severely dehydrated pet's skin may stay "tented" and not return to place.
Dehydration can be a very dangerous condition, in both animals and humans and can become so severe that it can cause death. It is especially perilous for very young, sick and senior animals who lose their appetites, or have just one or two vomiting episodes or diarrhea. They can become dehydrated very quickly and should receive treatment immediately. Large dogs are particularly susceptible. It takes 80 ounces of water to properly hydrate an 80-pound dog. That is a lot of water! Those big dogs that do not drink enough can dehydrate after just one bout of vomiting or diarrhea. Be vigilant!
Senior dogs tend to drink less as they age. Monitor their intake, as they can suffer the worst from dehydration. Bone broth is particularly helpful for seniors, as it is tasty, has calories and is full of glucosamine and chondroitin. Depression is a result of dehydration, in both pets and humans. If you find your pet is "blue" for no reason, this may be why. As difficult as it may be, measuring your dog's water intake to get a gauge on what kind of thirst drive he has is very helpful. Do this for a week to see if he is consistent, and where you need to fill in.
If your dehydrated pet needs medical attention, here is what to expect. Diagnosing dehydration is pretty simple. To treat your pet, the vet will most likely hospitalize your pet and administer IV fluids and electrolytes over 24-48 hours. The bigger question is why your pet is dehydrated in the first place. If it is not clear, your vet will recommend a few tests, including urinalysis, fecal and blood samples. Those are the standards to pinpoint the root cause. If it is not clear after that, they may need to run GI or toxic ingestion tests or take x-rays. The more information you can provide your vet the faster they can figure out what is wrong and treat it.
The benefits of a well hydrated pet are well worth making a few small changes. Proper hydration promotes urinary tract health. They are less likely to develop crystals or stones. I cannot begin to tell you how many pets have UTI's and are on "prescription" food for them. Dry kibble will never cure this problem and it will continue to occur if changes in moisture content are not made.
Proper hydration is their only way to regulate body temperature. Water assists in releasing body heat. Water keeps a pet's energy level up by helping to convert fat to energy.
Water and proper hydration promotes healthy kidney function by flushing toxins from their bodies. Hydration promotes healing and recovery. Keep your pet well-hydrated after surgery for a quicker recovery. I strongly recommend offering raw goat's milk to your pet the week leading up to a surgery or vaccinations and giving it to them for at least a week after- preferably during the entire recovery process. Raw goat's milk is an immune booster. So, providing it before surgery or vaccinations gets their immune system in peak shape. Raw goat's milk is also a GI soother and detoxifier. Give immediately after surgery to help avoid a possible upset stomach related to the fasting, stress and anesthesia your pet just experienced. The detoxifying properties will help push any toxins from the drugs out of their bodies faster and help keep their livers and kidneys strong. If they are on medications related to their surgery, the milk will help the liver process those byproducts also. Raw goat's milk is a complete diet and it absorbs in 20 minutes. Pets that may not want to eat can sustain on goat's milk indefinitely. Since it is fermented it may sit out at room temperature for up to 24 hours, giving your pet time to go to it as it pleases. And most importantly, goat's milk will keep your pet hydrated and heal faster!
Here are tried-and-true ways to ensure your pet is staying properly hydrated throughout its lifetime. I have successfully used every one of these. The best news is they are very simple, and many are free!
My "broken record" standard statement to EVERYONE who feeds their pet kibble, is add moisture to EVERY meal! This is the first moisture thief your pet experiences daily if they eat kibble. A pet's biologically appropriate diet should consist of 70% moisture. (remember that figure above- their bodies are 80% water). A typical dry food, or "kibble" contains 10-11% moisture, this means what happens is every time your pet eats, its body pulls moisture from its kidneys to aid in digestion of that dry food. Adding some warm water, bone broth, kefir or goat's milk helps save kidneys!
Cats are even more at risk, since they do not have a natural thirst drive and do not consume enough water on their own. It is the direct reason I lost my first three cats to kidney disease. My current cat still gets a very small (handful) of kibble daily, but she eats raw with goat's milk in the morning and evening. This ensures she is getting her proper daily hydration. I want to see this kitty have SUPER kidneys! And not allowing her to free feed all of her diet keeps her from having a weight issue. Since I began scheduled feeding, I have not had a pet with a weight problem. And when one has special dietary needs or has to take medication, I can easily control it this way.
Diet changes are certainly at the top of my list for ensuring hydration. There are other options besides raw that have a high moisture content. I am always happy to discuss those options with anyone interested in hearing more about them in detail.
If changing kibble is not for you or your pet, that is fine, too. Mixing in a few of these tips will greatly help:
Placing multiple bowls of water around your house helps promote drinking, especially if you have cats. Some pets want their water changed multiple times daily. This is when a fountain comes in handy. Fountains are also helpful if you are away long hours or plan to leave for multiple days. Cats seem to really love running water. A fountain keeps you from having a dripping sink faucet. Bone broth is a fantastic product. Not only is it a tasty way of providing moisture, it is also full of vital minerals, glucosamine and chondroitin. You may add this to your pet's dry food, especially if you have picky eaters. Most cannot resist bone broth! You can find pet bone broths in many finer pet food stores. If you use grocery store broth make sure you get NO or LOW sodium. You can also make it at home in the crock pot or a stock pot. It is so easy to make and lasts a long time. You can freeze it in ice cube trays for easy use, or even as summer treats for your pet. Sardine, oyster, clam or tuna juice from the can is a good additive for moisture. Choose the lowest sodium content possible. Sardines are a beneficial additive every so often if you may be concerned about your pet not getting enough taurine and there are electrolyte tablets you can purchase and add to your pet's water bowl.
Offer summer treats in the form of frozen ice licks, ice cubes, frozen goat's milk cubes, kefir cubes or bone broth cubes. If your pet likes ice, adding some to their water bowl may keep them interested in drinking.
Take water with you everywhere you go and offer it to your pet often. If you are thirsty your pet probably is, too.
Now I would like to share information on water intoxication. The pets most at risk of water intoxication are larger dogs and hyperactive dogs that love water- swimming in it, playing near it and drinking it. The two forms of water intoxication are Hyponatremia and Hypernatremia.
Hyponatremia is a condition caused when the sodium level in the blood is too low. This happens when a dog consumes too much water in general and their electrolyte balance is disrupted.
Hypernatremia is a condition caused when there is a high concentration of sodium in the blood. This occurs when a dog consumes too much salty water. Lethal sodium doses for dogs is .07 ounce per 1 pound of pet.
Water intoxication dangerously dilutes the blood, causing a loss of sodium and chloride in the dog's body. The consequences are severe. Small dogs may die 3-4 hours after intoxication. Large dogs can die 7-8 hours after. Seek immediate care if you suspect water intoxication.
Besides the dangers of drinking too much water, you should be aware of the dangers of your pet ingesting parasites or poisonous algae. It is very important to keep your dog from ingesting water that may be at risk for algae or parasites. Algae poisoning can cause severe skin rashes and GI distress. Severe cases can cause damage to the kidneys, liver, intestines and the central nervous system. Parasites can build up in any stagnant water. Puppies and older dogs are more likely to suffer a severe reaction from infected water.
The risk factors of water intoxication are as follows:
Dog's size- small dogs are more inclined to suffer since a smaller amount of water is needed.
Dogs' body fat- a dog with less body fat is more susceptible due to having less tissue to absorb the water.
Dog's access- Never allow your dog unsupervised access to any large body of water, including lakes, ponds, pools and fountains.
Dog's personality- Water lovers and hyperactive dogs are more at risk.
The good news is it is easy to prevent water intoxication. Here are a few tips how.
Of course, continuous supervision. Especially if you know your dog has a strong drive for water. Establish limited time frames for water play. Keep your dog well hydrated to curb his desire to drink unsupervised. Use flat water toys rather than round ones. They will absorb less water. Have your vet check your dog's kidneys annually, to ensure they are processing fluids properly.
Now you should be an expert at pet hydration! Share with your friends and we can make sure all our pets stay healthy and hydrated for their entire lives.