As I think about what’s best to feed your pets, I feel we often overlook or forget about how important water is in your pet’s food. We all know that it’s important to keep fresh water available to drink at all times, but do you know it’s even more important to have water in their foods?
You might wonder why I’m including water as food. What I mean, is that water is in all fresh foods, and that’s one thing that makes fresh foods better for us and our pets. Yes, we can go get a bottle of water, or a cup from the tap and your pets can drink water from a bowl, but that’s not the same as getting it from the food.
First, do you always drink as much water as you should? Some say us humans should drink 8 cups a day. Do you? I know I forget to drink when I get busy. Your dog should drink about ½ oz to 1 oz per pound of body weight of water a day. So if your dog is 10 lbs, that would be 1 ¼ cups or a 50-pound dog would need a little more than 6 cups a day. Cats need a little less than 1 oz water per pound so that a 10 lb cat should drink 7-9 ounces of water per day. I know I don’t drink enough every day. I often get busy and forget. And depending on what you feed your pet, he or she may not be drinking enough water either.
Here’s why you and your pets need to drink or eat (in their food) enough water each day. Water makes up about 60% of our bodies. Every cell, tissue, and organ needs water to function properly. Water gets rid of wastes, including some toxins, through urine and bowel movements. Water helps keep our temperature stable. It helps cushion and lubricates joints. It also protects sensitive tissues. If your pet is chronically dehydrated it may cause fatigue, drain their energy, cause kidney stones or organ failure. If your pet drinks too much water, it can lead to bloat or electrolyte imbalance. It’s important to be aware of your pet’s water intake and notice any significant changes and analyze why there is a change.
How does this all relate to pet food? As I mentioned before, we get water through our food, not only drinking it. When our pets eat dry kibble, the food has at most 10% water, where fresh meat has about 75% water. When your pet eats more fresh foods, they tend to drink less water. They’re getting the most important ingredient in their food already! But when a pet is fed kibble every day for every meal, they are barely getting any water from their food. And, they may not be drinking enough water to compensate for the lack of water in their food.
Dogs have a better thirst drive than cats. Dogs will tend to drink more often from their bowl or other sources. Cats, on the other hand, have a low thirst drive because their ancestors are from the desert, and therefore do not crave water as much. Dry food is highly processed and difficult to digest. The body has to work extra hard to digest dry food. This is hard on the digestive system and the organs. That’s one reason why you should feed as many fresh foods as possible. Pets that often have compromised kidneys or liver can be helped by feeding more fresh foods. Plus dry food does not add water to the body for all those vital functions mentioned earlier.
Here’s what you can do to get more water into your pet’s diet. First, have a clear glass bowl of fresh water available at all times. If you don’t feed all fresh, start with adding more canned food to your pet’s daily meals. You should also include fresh meats, vegetables, and fruits at least twice a week as part of their meal or as a treat (watermelon is terrific for hydration). And whenever you get a drink, give your pet a hydrating treat too.