Keeping your pet hydrated is essential and becomes even more important during the summer months. Ensure your dog, cat or rabbit is drinking enough with these top 10 tips.
How much water do pets need?
Pets need to drink plenty of water to keep hydrated, particularly in the summer months. Ensuring your pet is well hydrated is essential to keeping them healthy
However, it’s important to remember that this can vary due to factors including the weather, the pet’s activity level and their diet.
Pets are more likely to become dehydrated during warmer months. Cats and dogs both sweat through their paw pads, so they’ll need to rehydrate themselves regularly. Dogs also lose body water through panting.
Putting bowls in new or unexpected areas can also pique their interest and encourage them to drink.
Pets that are more active will need more water than sedentary pets. Dogs that go on regular long walks will need plenty of hydration, as will outdoor cats that like to explore their natural environment. It’s also important to give rabbits plenty of opportunities to drink after they’ve exercised in a run.
Your pet’s diet will also have an impact on their hydration levels. Wet food has a higher water content than dry, so it can be a good option during warm weather. Pets who eat a dry food diet, particularly rabbits, will need to drink more to keep hydrated.
1. Plenty of water bowls
Setting up plenty of water bowls throughout the house and garden will give your pet lots of opportunity to keep themselves hydrated.
Putting bowls in new or unexpected areas can also pique their interest and encourage them to drink. Placing them in areas that have less animal or human traffic will also make your pet feel more secure about taking time to drink. Using unusual water containers, like a plastic cup or mug, can be particularly effective in encouraging cats to drink – they’re attracted to the water tension on top, so make sure you fill it right up.
2. Running water
Running water feels colder than standing water, so experimenting with automatic water fountains can be a great way to encourage your pet to drink, while also providing stimulation.
Similarly, introducing your pet to a running tap or garden hose will give the same result.
3. Adding water to dry food
If your pet has a predominantly dry food diet, adding a small amount of water to it will increase their water intake - many pets also enjoy the change in texture. It’s important to introduce the extra fluid gradually, as adding too much, too quickly can be off putting for your pet. Remember to thoroughly clean out the bowl after they’ve finished and avoid leaving any wet food out in the heat.
4. Give rabbits bowls and bottles
It’s always a good idea to give pet rabbits both a sipper bottle and a heavy water bowl.
Most rabbits will have their own preference, but bottles can become blocked and bowls can get knocked over. Giving them both, particularly in their run, will ensure they’ll always have a source of water to drink from.
5. Pet lollies
Freezing pet-friendly ice lollies are a fun way to provide your pet with extra hydration while cooling them down in hot weather. Fill an ice lolly mould with a small amount of wet food and water, or a blended mix of apple and banana, and allow to freeze overnight.
It’s important to encourage your pet to lick the lolly instead of biting it, as this can damage their teeth and can become a choking hazard. For this reason, we don’t suggest giving your pet ice cubes. We also don’t recommend giving your rabbit frozen treats, as this can cause gut stasis which disrupts their digestive tract.
6. Add something sweet
Rubbing something sweet and rabbit-friendly, like a small piece of banana, on the spout of their water bottle can encourage your rabbit to drink from it.
This can be particularly useful for rabbits that are ill or recovering from surgery.
7. Hydration on the move
Whenever you take your dog on a long journey or a walk, it’s important to take plenty of water to keep them suitably hydrated. If you’re going on a long car journey, we recommend you take at least five litres of water with you to ensure you have enough in case of a breakdown.
Collapsible water bowls and bowls with water bottles attached are great options for on-the-go hydration.
8. Little and often
Serving your pet smaller, more frequent meals can encourage your pet to drink at regular points during the day, particularly if they have dry food.
Most rabbits and cats don’t like to eat or drink near their toilet, so remember to place their food and water bowls away from their litter tray.
9. Add some flavour
Adding a small amount of water from tinned tuna for cats, or low-salt chicken broth for dogs, into their water bowl can make it much more appealing to drink from. Remember to wash the bowl out thoroughly at the end of the day to stop it becoming smelly.
Rabbit owners could also add coriander leaves to their rabbit’s water bowl for the same effect. This is particularly useful for encouraging rabbits to drink post-surgery.
10. Fresh vegetables
A small handful of fresh vegetables or fresh, green grass helps hydrate rabbits due to their high water content.
Remember not to overdo it though; too much fresh food can be very rich for rabbit stomachs. Always stick to the ratio of 80% hay, 15% fresh vegetables and 5% high-quality pellet food.
If you’re planning on a summer getaway this season, don’t forget to organise suitable pet care during your absence. If you’re thinking of hiring a professional, check out our guide to finding the perfect pet sitter.
How do I know if my pet is dehydrated?
Dehydration in pets can result in the following symptoms:
- Vomiting and/or diarrhoea
- Loss of energy
- Excessive, ongoing panting
- Loss of appetite
- Sunken, dry eyes
- Dry, sticky gums
- Loss of skin elasticity
A good test to check if your pet is dehydrated is to gently pull up some of their skin near the shoulder blades. If your pet is well hydrated, their skin will instantly spring back into shape. If your pet is dehydrated, it will retain a ‘tent-like’ shape and take longer to fall back into place.
If you suspect your pet is dehydrated, lead them to their nearest water source to encourage them to drink, and keep them in the shade. If they appear unwilling to drink it could be a sign of underlying illness; contact your vet immediately.