Cat & Dog Drinking Water: Which Water Sources Are Safe for Pets?

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Warm summer days are upon us! This means more outdoor adventures with our dogs and more lounging in that sunny window spot for our cats. Higher temperatures also mean thirsty pets. And when your pet is thirsty, you let them drink. But does it matter where the water comes from? Are dogs drinking water from ponds going to get sick? Will cats drinking water from the fishbowl end up with a bellyache?

As a pet parent, you want your furry friend to stay hydrated — and healthy. Here's what you need to know about your canine and feline friends' daily water needs and the various sources they might sniff out to quench that thirst.

How Much Water Do Pets Need?

For proper bodily function and to avoid dehydration, cats and dogs must consume water daily, according to Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. A pet can go a day without food but not water.

Dogs generally need one ounce of water per pound of weight per day. So, if your pet weighs 45 pounds, they should be offered at least 45 ounces of fresh water daily.

You'll find cats drinking water at the rate of five to 10 ounces per day, depending on their size, age, activity level and the type of food they eat.

Pets living in warmer climates or who are very active may ask for more water. Let them have it! Pets who eat moist foods, are older, or are sedentary will likely consume a bit below the average.

Cat drinks clean water from water dispenser. Cat water fountain. Pet thirst. Dehydration in a cat.

10 Common Water Sources: Are They Safe?

Whether they're inside the home or spending time outside in nature, your pet has a nose for water. If they sniff out one of these water sources and go in for a drink, here's what you need to know.

1. Bottled Water

Bottled water is safe to share with cats and dogs. Opt for spring water or bottled tap water varieties. Some veterinarians, including those at the Locust Valley Veterinary Clinic, are skeptical of the quality of distilled water for pets and its effects on urinary and cardiac health.

2. Creek, Pond or River Water

Whether you're wandering the trails at the local park or enjoying a camping trip together, it's not uncommon for your tired dog to start lapping at local bodies of water. The American Kennel Club warns pet parents that you never know when a pond or river might be contaminated. The water may carry substances that can make your pet sick, such as Leptospirosis, algae, or bacteria that lingers in standing water and mud. It's best to avoid this type of water for pet drinks.

3. Fish Tank Water

Do you have an ornamental pond in your backyard that you fill during the warm weather months? Or maybe you have an indoor aquarium? If you discover your cats or dogs drinking water from this bubbling source, redirect them to their own water bowls. Why? These water sources are treated with chemicals to keep the water balanced for fish, reduce algae and maintain proper pH levels. They're not meant for your furry friends to drink from.

4. Ocean Water

When you head to the beach, your pup might love to frolic in the gentle waves. But what about dogs drinking water from the ocean? Ocean water is naturally salty. If your pet drinks this water, they can get salt poisoning, also known as hypernatremia, which negatively affects the neurological system, according to the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. Instead of relying on the ocean as a water source, pack plenty of bottled spring water or water from your home tap for your pet.

5. Pool Water

Public and home pools are treated with chemicals to keep bacteria and algae levels low for swimmers. The use of salt (similar to the ocean) and chlorine means pool water isn't safe for your pet to drink. Bring fresh drinking water to keep them hydrated when you visit your neighbor for a pool party. Dogs drinking water from a pool, even just a few gulps, may get an upset stomach.

6. Puddle Water

Can you identify the source of the puddle? Is it from a dripping garden hose that's supplied by your home's tap water system? If so, it's safe for pets to explore. Is the puddle next to a creek bed or on the side of the road after a rain? Avoid letting your dog lick that water when you're out for a walk. Oil drips from cars and lingering winter road treatment chemicals — and who knows what else — could still be on the pavement and at the bottom of that puddle.


7. Shared/Community Water Bowls

When you're out and about with your dog at the farmer's market, dog park or pet store, it's common to see a community water bowl for all dog visitors to use. But should you? Maybe. If you can fill the bowl yourself from a tap water system, go ahead and give your pup a slurp. However, if a line of dogs have been drinking and drooling back into the bowl, steer clear. Preventive Vet explains that shared dog water bowls are breeding grounds for disease-causing microbes, including parasites, worms, viruses and bacteria.

8. Tap Water / Water Fountains

This is your best option for providing fresh water for your pet. Tap water has been cleaned and prepared for human consumption, bathing and washing. The American Animal Hospital Association does warn that extremely hard water, which has a higher than usual mineral content, can trigger urinary health conditions in pets. So, if softened water is available, that would be a better option.

9. Toilet Water

No pet should rely on toilet bowl water for their water source. If your pet is simply curious, keep the lid down. They could accidentally lap up human waste, chemically treated toilet bowl water or lingering bathroom cleaner — all of which are sure to make your pet ill.

10. Well Water

Live in a rural area? If your home is plumbed with well water, and it's safe for you to drink, it's also good for your pets. However, if you have a farm pump and use well water exclusively for outside livestock, regularly test the water quality to ensure no contaminants are leaking into the aquifer.

Clean Water Is Essential for Pets

If you're ever unsure if your pet should drink from a water source, ask yourself if you'd take a sip. Does the water look clean? Is it fresh? Clear? If you can't say yes to these questions, it's likely not a good idea for your pet either. Next time you head out for a nature hike with Fido, grab a few extra bottles of water to share. And if you see Fluffy eyeing the toilet bowl, check your cat's water bowl. Does it need a rinse and refill? Everyone loves a drink of fresh, cool water — pets included.

Contributor Bio

Angela Tague

Angela Tague

Angela Tague is a pet mom and writer in the Midwest. When she's not exploring nature trails with her dog, or making fruit salad for her tortoises, she's writing for pet care brands including Kaytee, Good Good, Purina, Zilla, Aqueon and Big Heart Pet. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn @AngelaTague.