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We have officially survived the hottest July on record! Between long stretches of triple-digit temperatures, dry weather, and wildfires everywhere, we have all talked a lot about water this summer: drought, dry lawns, struggling plants, irrigation being shut off early, conserving water, drinking enough water, “Water, Water, Everywhere!”
One topic that never comes up is proper hydration for our pets. Sure, we keep a bowl full of water next to the dog or cat food and fill it whenever it’s empty or replace it when the water ends up with that oily film from the proximity of the kibble; but is that good enough?
Humans receive 20-25% of their hydration from the food we eat. It’s called intracellular moisture. Every salad, juicy steak, fruit, or vegetable is not only nutritious but also hydrating. Dogs and cats in the wild tend to eat as much or more moisture as they drink as their wild food (prey) contains at least 70% water. Our pets often don’t have that same luxury as any kibble contains 5-10% moisture due to the way their food is cooked. That’s not to say that high-quality kibble is unhealthy as they are usually high in meat protein, healthy grains, fruits and vegetables, and full of vitamins and minerals but moisture is a huge missing piece of the health puzzle.
Not only is proper hydration important for all-around health, but it’s also extremely important for digestion. When moisture is not provided for our pets, the organ systems are limited in their ability to carry out their role in digestion, immunity, and all other bodily functions. A dog eating 4 cups of kibble per day would need to consume at least a gallon of water to digest that food. For cats, they would need to drink over one cup for every 10 pounds of body weight to adequately digest a dry food diet.
An easy solution that your pet will love is amending their kibble diets with food higher in moisture.
You and I can recognize our own dehydration as a dry mouth, water craving, headaches, and irritability. And, by the time we recognize these signs we are already 2-3 percent dehydrated. Since our pets do not talk to us, we must be very vigilant for the following signs of dehydration.
The earliest symptoms will not occur until your pet is at least 5 percent dehydrated. Life-threatening dehydration occurs at 10-12 percent, so it is important to look for and recognize these signs early. If you are concerned that your pet is dehydrated, contact your veterinarian or emergency clinic for help. Moderate to severe dehydration requires prompt medical care.
As with any illness, prevention is always best. Here are some suggestions to help prevent summer dehydration.
As much as we love to bring our pets, especially dogs, everywhere with us, remember when temperatures are soaring, your pet’s well-being may be best served by being left at home. Being a good pet owner is not about spending every minute with your pet, but about making appropriate choices to keep them healthy and safe.