Pets Need Clean Drinking Water, Too – Here’s Why
Updated April, 6th 2023
For many of us, pets are a precious treasure. They bring a whole new level of fun and joy to our everyday lives and our families. Not to mention the sheer comfort and emotional support they provide and how much they help ease our stress levels and sense of loneliness.
In return, pet owners must ensure that their “loyal companions” are safe and healthy. Of course, we want the best for them, right? But in achieving that, we tend to fall short along the way. We focus so much on providing the most nutritious food, the safest toys, and the most comfortable environment for our furry (or scaly) friends that we constantly overlook one crucial thing: clean drinking water.
In the wild, animals can use their extraordinary sense of smell to discern which water is best for them to drink. As such, they naturally avoid water that contains chemicals and other detectable pollutants. But since not all tap water is safe, you could be feeding contaminated water to your pets, which could be poisonous for them. To make matters worse, our domesticated pets pretty much have to drink the water we provide, else they’ll risk getting dehydrated.
For this reason, we’ve decided to highlight the importance of clean drinking water for pets and what you can do to ensure that your water is contaminant-free before it reaches your pet’s water dish or water fountain.
Is Your Tap Water Safe for Your Pets?
Whether your water comes from a municipality, a well, a river, or any other source, there’s always the chance that it is riddled with contaminants. Well…to a certain extent. When ingested, toxins lurking in contaminated tap water supplies can lead to a host of adverse health effects in your pets – and even death.
It’s not easy to tell if your tap water is completely safe for your pets by just smelling it, tasting it or looking at it, but there are several things that we have to consider to make a precise guestimate. First of all, we have to take into account the possible presence of toxic pollutants like industrial chemicals, pesticides, metals, pharmaceuticals, bacteria, viruses, protozoans, parasites, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), radiological contaminants such as plutonium and uranium and even sewer overflows and wastewater. Secondly, water hardness can also be a potential threat to the health of some pets. And last but not least, we must not forget the cancer-causing water fluoridation.
Considering all the dangerous impurities that might be present in untreated tap water (in some areas), it is not safe for humans to drink and certainly not safe for your pets. If you wouldn’t drink water from your tap, there’s no way on earth you should give it to your pets.
Common Water Contamination Problems and How They Affect Pets
Some people believe that 5,000 ppm (parts per million) of Total Dissolved Solids in drinking water is acceptable for pets. However, when we consider the difference in drinking water that contains 5,000 ppm of sodium versus 5,000 ppm of toxic arsenic, we don’t fully agree with that recommended contamination level. Instead, it’s more logical to observe the concentration levels of the individual water contaminants as well as their known health effects:
Municipal water treatment plants generally do an excellent job of purifying water to make it safe for humans and pets to consume. The problem is that most utilities add chlorine to disinfect the water.
While chlorine effectively kills harmful bacteria and viruses, long-term exposure to chlorinated water can harm furry and scaly pets. According to SprucePets, ingesting excess amounts of chlorinated pool water can irritate a dog’s gastrointestinal tract, leading to nausea, vomiting, and damage to the esophagus. And as you might expect, the risks are significantly higher if the chlorine level in a pool is too high.
Research also found that “chlorine kills living cells, most often damaging fish’s sensitive gills as well as the skin that covers their entire bodies.” According to the study, “fish placed in chlorinated water will begin to suffer from respiratory problems and may suffocate, unable to breathe properly.”
Chlorine can also create hazardous disinfection byproducts (DBPs) when combined with naturally occurring matter in water. A research team at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, found that DBPs were three times higher in counties where dogs with bladder cancer lived.
Related: What are Disinfection Byproducts (DBPs) in Drinking Water?
Trupanion, a pet insurance company, recently conducted a study that linked high hard water rankings from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in certain cities and an increased likelihood of larger claims for urinary issues in cats and dogs.
Trupanion’s research revealed that male cats are 1.5 times more likely to develop urinary problems than females, and cat owners are 40% more likely to file claims for these issues than dog owners.
It’s not just cats that are affected. In communities with hard water, dog owners also reported urinary tract infections, incontinence, cystitis, and crystalluria in their furry companions. Female dogs were 2.5 times more prone to urinary problems than their male counterparts.
Apart from being detrimental to your pets’ well-being, treating these medical conditions can also be very expensive. Trupanion reported that the cost of diagnosing and treating urinary problems in pets ranged from $77 to over $1200.
Related: 3 Easy Ways to Test for Hard Water and How to Measure its Hardness Level
Pets can also suffer from the long-lasting effects of lead exposure, as revealed by a 2017 study published in The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA). In Flint, Michigan, dogs had four times the median blood lead concentration of dogs in other areas, despite their owners providing them with clean water.
The researchers pointed out that animals are more vulnerable to the effects of lead exposure than humans, and the negative consequences can be severe. Cats may suffer from intermittent seizures, while dogs can experience damage to multiple systems.
Related: How to Protect Your Family from Lead in Tap Water
According to experts at veterinary service Wag, excess iron in a dog’s body can cause harm to multiple systems, including the liver, metabolic, nervous, and cardiovascular systems. What’s more, their body cannot expel iron.
Iron toxicity usually occurs when pets accidentally ingest something they shouldn’t, such as a vitamin supplement. However, pets living in areas with hard water may also be at risk of ingesting excess iron from their water bowls. This is because hard water contains high levels of minerals, sometimes including iron, which can accumulate in your pet’s water bowl over time.
Algal blooms and cyanobacteria
Algal blooms are becoming increasingly common in water bodies worldwide, partly due to climate change. These blooms occur when waterways become polluted with excess fertilizer and minerals, erosion, and other pollutants that increase the concentration of solids in the water. The resulting abundance of nutrients and lack of sunlight create the perfect breeding ground for algae, including cyanobacteria.
Cyanobacteria produce potent neurotoxins that can make pets and humans sick and sometimes even lead to death. In fact, several beloved dogs lost their lives due to algal blooms in Austin, Texas, just a few years ago.
While municipal water treatment effectively removes toxins and contaminants from our water supply, trace elements can remain. And let’s not forget the impact that the state of the pipes carrying water to our homes can have on water quality, as we saw in the case of Flint, Michigan.
Related: Nutrient Pollution: A Persistent Threat to Wyoming Waterways | America’s Aging Water Pipes: Is Your Tap Water at Risk?
Fluoride: In high enough levels, fluoride is dangerous. It can put a strain on the kidneys to eliminate it from the body and can cause drooling, restlessness, severe sickness, weak muscles, stiffness, racing heart rate, coma, or even death. Fluoride in water can also cause cancer in pets – just like in humans.
Learn more: Fluoride in Drinking Water and Its Potential Effects
High amounts of arsenic are rarely found in tap water, but if it is and your pet swallows too much of it, it can lead to abdominal pains, sluggishness, or even unconsciousness.
Related: Effects of Arsenic in Drinking Water During Pregnancy
Some strains of E. coli bacteria are harmless, but dangerous strains are occasionally found in our public water systems. Pets infected with E. coli may show symptoms like low body temperature, depression, increased heart rate, diarrhea, vomiting, lack of appetite, lethargy, and weakness.
This is a parasite that is transmitted by discharges of fecal waste into water, food, soil, and other surfaces. Giardia can cause diarrhea in animals as well as humans.
Why Do Pets Need Clean Water?
Water is essential to the health of all mammals, making up 55 to 75 percent of the body mass of warm-blooded creatures. It acts as a gentle cooling engine in your pet’s body when they release water vapor through panting and sweating. When ingested, untreated water flowing through the body can cause several infections and damage to the pet’s immune system. In contrast, clean drinking water helps cleanse and detoxify your pet’s entire body.
Since water is a universal solvent, it can transport many different substances. The ability of water to remove toxins from the body makes it capable of transporting toxic material into the body. In this case, the contaminants found in untreated tap water can easily enter the body of your pet. With that in mind, you must figure out what water is the healthiest for your pets so they can live a longer and healthier life. But don’t worry, we’ve done the research and found the perfect solution for your dog, cat, hamster, etc. This method will not only keep your pets safe and well hydrated, but also your entire family.
How to Keep Your Drinking Water Safe for Pets
By now, you already know that the water we and our pets drink must be purified. But not all methods of purification are equal. If your tap water is not healthy for drinking, both humans and pets alike can suffer from a wide range of dangerous water-borne disease, or even death. To prevent that, you can take the following precautionary steps:
Ensure a clean water bowl
Sometimes the problem is not the water itself, but the water bowl from which your pet is drinking. If it is not cleaned regularly, bacteria may start to grow in the bowl and eventually infect your pet. Therefore, you must keep the bowl clean by washing it regularly, and if possible, change the water twice a day to keep it nice and fresh. Also, steel water containers are a better alternative to plastic bowls as there are concerns about toxins leaching from the plastic material into the water.
Invest in a certified water filter
Providing clean and healthy drinking water for our pets is just as crucial as for ourselves. After all, unfiltered water can contain harmful contaminants like iron, chlorine, chemical byproducts, and other toxins that can harm our precious pets.
To determine if your water supply is contaminated, purchase a water test kit or check your water quality report. If the results show your water is contaminated, we recommend installing a home water treatment system to remedy the problem.
Springwell offers some of the best water filtration and purification systems. For example, our whole-house water filters remove up to 99.6% of chlorine, chloramines, and other contaminants that cause bad taste and odors in water. They are also effective against o lead, pesticides, hard-to-remove toxins, and other potentially dangerous water pollutants.
For even better filtration, you can add a water softener to remove calcium and magnesium known to cause crystals in pets’ urine and lead to urinary tract infections and incontinence. Or perhaps you’ll prefer the convenience of a water filter softener dual system that combines whole-house filtration and softening of both in a single setup.
If you’re concerned about bacteria and viruses hurting your pets, our UV water purification system add-on is proven to control microbiological issues in water, including E. coli, Cryptosporidium, and Giardia lamblia. Our UV system kills 99.9% of harmful pathogens, viruses, and bacteria to protect your home against disease-causing microbes in water.
If you need help choosing a specific system or want to learn more about the different water treatment systems and technologies we offer, please call us at 800-589-5592 or message us. One of our friendly experts will be there to answer your questions and concerns.
Our pets are not only our friends but also our responsibility. So, we have to do everything we can to ensure their safety and comfort. That includes providing the highest-quality water for them to drink and stay happy and hydrated.