One of the first things that a veterinarian evaluates when she is examining a pet is the hydration status. This simple, but important part of the physical examination helps the doctor determine how effectively your pet is meeting its specific water intake requirement. The typical dog is about 60-70% water by weight.
Water plays a vital role in many of the organ systems in our pets. The digestive system relies on it to help optimize digestion of food and absorption of nutrients. The circulatory system needs the proper amount of water in order to effectively distribute oxygenated blood and nutrients throughout the body. The kidneys are reliant upon this essential nutrient to effectively filter out unwanted nitrogenous materials from the blood. Pets that are well hydrated may also be at lower risk of developing lower urinary tract stones or calculi.
Because of the important role that water plays as a nutrient, veterinarians will underscore the need for dogs and cats to always have access to fresh, clean and abundant water. In fact, a healthy 30 pound dog may reasonably consume about 1 quart or more of water per day. Factors such as hot weather, high sodium foods, medications and certain diseases may cause your pet to consumer even more water. If you think that your pet is drinking too much, talk to your veterinarian as there could be an underlying medical reason that needs to be diagnosed and managed.
Pet owners need to be observant about watching their pet’s appetite and thirst. If a dog becomes ill and stops eating and drinking, it can quickly become clinically dehydrated. If vomiting and/or diarrhea accompany the anorexia, the dehydration can develop more rapidly and may require urgent clinical intervention with hospitalization and administration of intravenous fluids to replace the fluid losses. It is always better to contact your veterinarian if you have any concerns or doubts about how well your pet is drinking water. In addition to a physical examination, the clinician may perform some quick assessment tests that allow for a more accurate assessment of your dog’s hydration status and other vital signs.
An important source of water for your pet can come from the food that he consumes. Dry pet foods may contain only about 10% water. A minimally processed, dehydrated pet food like Humankind® that is prepared by adding warm water, is one way to help your pet stay hydrated.
The next time your veterinarian quizzes you about your pet’s water consumption, remember that he is trying to ascertain important information about access to this most essential of nutrients. In the words of the famous American author Mark Twain, “High and fine literature is wine, and mine is only water; but everybody likes water.”