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How Clean Should Water Be for My Pets?

by Jennifer Bellini

Marketing expert, Business guru

> 2 min read

Beagle dog drinking water to cool off in shade on grass hiding from summer sun . Summer background. Tired of summer heat.

Pets are loyal companions, providing love and joy, and taking care of them needs to be one of your top priorities. While new and improved pet foods find their way into homes, rarely is the water in their dish considered equally. While you know your pet needs water, many fill the bowl with tap water and only occasionally clean the bowl thoroughly to remove debris and germs.

To keep your pets as healthy as possible, provide them with the cleanest water you can. Clean not only in appearance but also free from hidden contaminants detrimental to their health. The best way to achieve this is to use only filtered or bottled water.


A cat drinking from a tap in a kitchen

What’s Wrong With Tap Water?

Whether your tap water comes from the public water system or your own well, these days, it's a toss-up over what it might contain. A various mixture of bacteria and parasites swirl in our water sources, adversely affecting human and animal health. Tap water sources also often contain dangerous elements like nitrates, iron, or magnesium. Both you and your pet can suffer from an overabundance of these chemicals in the body.

Giardia, a parasite, is a single-celled organism found in water. Once ingested, it finds its way to the intestine’s mucous lining, living there contentedly. The parasite is transmitted by fecal wastes discharged in the soil, food, water, and various surfaces. Its effect on your pet can be severe. Diarrhea, just like in humans, can lead to malnutrition, especially in kittens or puppies.

Other substances found in unfiltered water may even cause cancer, such as arsenic. Holistic veterinarians recommend avoiding tap water at all costs for your pets. Municipalities add chemicals, such as fluoride and chlorine, to public water, which, while safe for humans, can be dangerous for pets to consume. As for wells, it’s important to have the water quality tested each year, even if you do filter it.

The fact of the matter is if the public water systems are not safe for you, why take chances with your pet’s health? When it comes to answering how clean should water be for pets, the answer is it should be as clean as the water you consume yourself.

Our pets, like us, need water to survive, and lots of it; their bodies are made up almost entirely of water, up to 80%. Since this is the case, and we continue to filter our own water or drink it from a bottle, shouldn’t our pets receive the same amount of care?

If you have cats, you most likely already know how finicky they are about fresh water. If you notice your cat avoiding the water dish, the water most likely is not healthy for them, and so they steer clear. While this may protect them, it also can lead to dehydration. Both dogs and cats are prone to urinary tract disorders, and drinking clean water can help prevent these.

Just as essential as the water you put in the bowl is the cleanliness of the bowl. Contaminants can occur from bacteria, viruses, fungi, and mold in the air, so regular cleanings are essential.

Amphibious pets absorb water, and fish naturally live in it, so higher quality water is imperative to their survival. Fish are highly sensitive to chemicals in the water, including ammonia and chlorine. Poor quality water can also lead to harmful algae growth.

Does It Matter if it’s Hard or Soft Water?

Knowing the difference between your hard and soft water can help you determine what to do when it comes to your pet’s bowl. While no definitive answer is available as to whether hard water is dangerous, it does often contain minerals like calcium, iron, and magnesium. Some believe this can lead to higher levels of urinary tract issues in pets, as calcium deposits can build up in the kidneys, leading to kidney stones.

With a water softener installed, these minerals are removed, and sodium ions take their place. While this may not be harmful to pets, those requiring a lower-sodium diet by a veterinarian may want to consider this. Also, note that softened water tastes different, and many pets will turn their nose up at it. Watch closely and resort to bottled water if this is the case.

Is Your Pet Dehydrated?

To check for dehydration in your pet, check their gums. Gently lift the lips of your pet and peer in. The gums should be moist, so check for that first. If your finger sticks to them, they are too dry, and your pet is most likely already dehydrated.

Next, use your index finger to slightly press on the gum. This slight press squeezes the blood out of that spot temporarily. If the coloring returns within a few seconds of you removing your finger, your pet is likely fine. If not, dehydration has set in.

Look for other signs that your pet is dehydrated. These include lethargy, constipation, sunken eyes, poor skin elasticity, and increased heart rate.

Good Practices for Your Pet’s Water

Make it a habit to put the following best practices in place when it comes to your pet’s water.

  • Always have water available for when your pet is thirsty. Dogs, in particular, need access to clean water. With the inability to sweat to remain cool, moisture is continually lost through the panting process, where water is evaporated from their tongues and mouth.
  • Use a bowl large enough for the size of your pet. This lessens the chance of it becoming highly polluted with germs from your pet’s mouth. Best practice is to use an oversized bowl, especially for dogs.
  • Empty and add new water to the bowl twice a day. Another option is to add filtered water to the pet's fountain, which contains its own filter.
  • Keep the water level high in the water dish. Low levels can lead to a high germ concentration that can cause disease.
  • Always provide a clean water bowl. Wash your pet’s bowl daily.
  • Check water bowls a few times a day and wipe away any slimy biofilm that gathers on the inside.
  • Carry fresh, filtered water with you when you travel, whether to the beach or just a trip to the vet.
  • Invest in the best water filter devices you can afford. Whether this is a whole house filtration system or a portable filter, both you and your pets will benefit. When determining how important clean water should be for pets, remember your role in keeping them safe and let this include what goes in their bodies.
  • Monitor aquarium water for ph as well as levels of chlorine or ammonia.

The Bottom Line

Clean water can help detoxify and cleanse your pet’s insides and is a simple way to show how much you truly care for their health. As a result, your pet can live a long and healthy life right by your side.

Jennifer Bellini

About the Author

Jennifer Bellini is a business guru who’s spent most of her life working in her home state of Wisconsin where she still lives with her family. Her experience lends itself best to sussing out the unique problems a business may face with their water quality. She is also our lead market analyst and is the driving force behind site growth.

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