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Columbia Missourian

FROM READERS: Pet hydration during the summer months

By JESSICA SCHLOSSER/MISSOURIAN READER
July 19, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

Jessica Schlosser is the co-owner of Lizzi & Rocco's Natural Pet Market and has a passion for pet health and safety. This article was originally posted on the Lizzi and Rocco's blog, which you can find here

Summer is all about fun in the sun. A big part of seasonal safety is proper hydration, but that’s actually important year-round. Maintaining good hydration is essential to the health of your pets, but if you feed them a diet primarily made of dry kibble, you may be depriving them of this vitally important part of their well-being.

Dogs should consume about 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight; for cats, it’s about 5 to 10 ounces daily—and that amount increases during the hot summer months. It’s challenging to get most pets to consume that quantity of water by drinking alone, so dogs and cats that are fed a primarily dry diet are likely in a state of constant mild dehydration. They won’t show any symptoms early on, but this continual lack of adequate water in their systems can have some serious long-term effects on their health, including decreased metabolism, organ failure, urinary tract and bladder complications, and digestive problems.

Ideally, dogs and cats should get a good portion of their water intake from the food they eat. Dry kibble is, on average, 12 percent moisture. By comparison, canned and raw diets are at least 70 percent moisture. When fed a dry diet, your pet’s body has to compensate for the low level of moisture in the kibble it’s trying to break down, which basically zaps water out of their digestive system. By incorporating moisture-rich foods into their diets, you’re helping to provide them with the water their bodies need to function properly. Not only that, but their bodies assimilate to their food better, and they utilize the nutrients much more efficiently with a wet food.

Simply pouring water or broth over kibble is technically better than nothing, but it’s not quite the same as feeding a food with the moisture included in it naturally or purposefully, such as quality canned or raw diets. It can also cause the kibble to spoil faster, but more importantly, it doesn’t equate to the same moisture level in foods that have it already included.

Focusing on proper hydration is important in dogs, but it’s almost essential in cats. Unlike dogs, cats lack a natural thirst mechanism, so while they may drink some water, keeping them properly hydrated can be a big challenge. Because of this, cats thrive when they are able to get their appropriate water intake from the food they eat.

Keeping your cats and dogs on high-moisture diets can help avoid costly issues with urinary tract infections, diabetes, weight issues and more. While some people might see canned diets and even raw diets as special treats, it should be considered as a preferred choice for daily feeding, especially in cats and older dogs, to maintain proper hydration and ultimate health.

On top of feeding a high-moisture diet, here are some other tips to keep your pet well-hydrated year round:

  1. Provide fresh, clean water for your pet at all times.
  2. Get a water fountain—many pets drink much more water if it’s flowing from a drinking fountain.
  3. Feed ice cubes as treats—you can even use broths (without onions—they’re toxic to pets) or pre-made mixes available at many pet stores to make tasty ice cubes.
  4. Fill stuffable toys like Kongs with ingredients such as chopped-up whole meat, broths and canned foods to sneak water into their toys, too. Plug the small end with a dab of peanut butter and freeze the whole toy for long-lasting, healthy fun.
  5. Put out multiple water bowls along the paths pets usually take throughout your home. Cats in particular will drink out of convenience rather than out of necessity.

Lizzi and Rocco's blog is part of the Missourian Media Guide, a directory of Columbia news and information sources. Do you keep a blog that you would like featured in the Media Guide? With updates or additions, please email Joy Mayer, director of community outreach, at mayerj@missouri.edu, or call her at 573-882-8182.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.