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Tackle the heat head-on with these pet hydration tips

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Dehydration in pets can be caused by not drinking enough water, as well as heatstroke, vomiting, diarrhea, and other illnesses.

As the weather gets warmer, it's more important than ever to make sure your pets meet their hydration needs. Pets don't have all the temptations that humans do, like coffee, soda, and energy drinks, to distract them from drinking the water they need. As pet owners, you simply have to fill their water bowl early and often.

So, what exactly is the benchmark for water intake? It varies by animal. A dog's daily threshold is one ounce of water per pound of body weight. A cat's water needs are tied to how many kilocalories of food consumed in a day. Rabbits need anywhere from 50 to 150 milliliters of water for every two pounds of body weight. They're hypersensitive to heat and will stop drinking water (not because they don't need it!) if the temperature gets too high. Hamsters make up for their lack of outdoor running with their trips around a wheel, so they require fresh water all day.

If you don't give your pets enough water, you'll notice some tell-tale signs of dehydration:

  • Sluggish behavior
  • Sunken eyes
  • No interest in food
  • Dry mouth and nose
  • Low skin elasticity

Dehydration can also be caused by heatstroke, vomiting, diarrhea, or other illnesses. If you know your pet is struggling with another disease that could dehydrate them, try to encourage them to rest and drink water as much as possible.

Sometimes, it's not that easy. You've probably heard that you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. Even if you fill your pet's bowl with water, they won't drink it until they absolutely need it. To make things more complicated, animals don't always notice they've reached their limit, so they may continue playing or refuse water throughout the day. It's up to owners to let their pets know they need to drink. In these cases, you'll have to get creative to increase their water intake before they go outside to play.

Ice cubes are a great way to increase your pet's water intake because it seems like a treat to them. You can also try adding electrolytes to their bowl to make the flavor seem more enticing. Sometimes, pets will respond better to flowing water, so you can buy a contraption that cycles and filters the water throughout the day. Serving your pet wet food can also increase the fluids they're consuming. Regardless of what you do at home, make sure you bring a water bowl or bottle to keep your pet hydrated during playtime outside.

When playtime in the heat is over, your pet will almost certainly come running to the water bowl, so make sure it's full of fresh, cold water to reinforce that they will be rewarded for going to their bowl. The general rule is that you should never rely on your pet to self-regulate, even if they sometimes seem capable of doing so. Unless your pet is an avid swimmer, it takes a lot to overload on water, so always err on the side of caution, hydrate often, and enjoy a fun and safe summer with your furry friends!

Have a question about pet health? Want to become the best possible pet parent? Find helpful tips, reminders, and insight to giving your furry friend the best possible care with For Pet's Sake! Learn more at drdevonsmith.com.