We all want what’s best for our pets, so if you’ve installed a water softener in your home, you might be wondering whether the softened water from your faucets is safe for dogs to drink.
Here, we’ve answered the question, “Can dogs drink softened tap water?” We’ve also shared some of the scientific evidence that looks at the effects of softened water in dogs.
📌 Key Takeaways
- Soft water is safe for most dogs to drink.
- However, if you have a elderly dog or your pet is on a low-sodium diet, you shouldn’t supply them with water that contains extra salt.
- We couldn’t find any studies that focus specifically on how soft water might affect dogs. Speak to your veterinarian if you need medical advice.
Table of Contents
🚰 Can Dogs Drink Softened Tap Water?
Yes, dogs can drink softened water, just like humans. And – as with humans – there are a few exceptions when you shouldn’t feed your pooch salt-softened water.
If your dog is on a low-sodium diet due to health problems or you have a dog breed that’s prone to cardiovascular problems, you should stick to normal tap water with a low sodium content.
***If in doubt, speak to your veterinarian – they can advise you on the best water source for your dog.
💧 Understanding Softened Water
Softened water is different from water that’s naturally soft.
While soft water is water that has a naturally low mineral content, softened water has been artificially softened by ion exchange – the process of exchanging calcium and magnesium hardness mineral ions with sodium ions (salt).
Water softeners are the best way to protect your home against the effects of hard water. You can get your water tested if you don’t know whether it’s hard or not.
Softened water is just like untreated tap water, except its mineral content is greatly reduced, and it contains a small amount of salt.
However, this salt is only present in trace amounts, so for a healthy dog with no issues with high blood pressure or heart or kidney diseases, softened water is safe to drink.
🐶 The Effect of Softened Water on Dogs
Soft water produced by the ion exchange water treatment process shouldn’t have any effect on healthy dogs.
The low levels of sodium in softened water shouldn’t cause any adverse health effects and should be well below your dog’s daily RDI for salt.
Like humans, dogs actually need sodium in their diets to survive. We’ve been scaremongered into thinking that salt is the enemy, but humans – and animals – need sodium to survive.
Sodium helps to maintain cell structure and prevent them from becoming dehydrated. It also regulates fluids, electrolytes, and blood pressure, and helps the body maintain proper muscle and nerve cell function. The minimum amount of sodium in dog food recommended by the Association of American Feed Control Officials is 0.3%.
Of course, this is all within reason. You don’t need to actively look to add sodium to your dog’s diet, since most pet foods contain low levels of sodium already. And feeding your dog high-sodium human food is definitely a no.
Dogs get their main source of sodium from their diets, and a little bit extra in softened water is unlikely to make the world of a difference.
🤔 Will Soft Water Hurt Dogs?
No, soft water doesn’t hurt dogs. A healthy dog should be fine to drink water that has trace amounts of sodium, in the same way that a healthy dog can eat food containing low levels of sodium.
We couldn’t find any studies that look specifically at the positive or negative impact that soft drinking water might have on cats and dogs.
However, hard water was found in a study to increase the risk of UTIs. According to the study, the number of urinary health claims was higher in hard water regions, suggesting that humans – and pets – are more at risk of urinary health issues if they drink hard water. Therefore, soft water with a low mineral content might actually be better for our pets to drink.
As with humans, there are some instances when adding any extra salt to your dog’s diet could be harmful. If you have an older dog or your dog has health issues that could be worsened by sodium, there’s a potential that soft water could be bad for your pet.
🚱 When Not To Provide Soft Water To A Dog
So, when shouldn’t you feed dogs softened water?
There are a few occasions when you shouldn’t provide soft water to your dog – or you should at least check in with your vet first:
If Your Dog Is On A Low-Sodium Diet
Dogs that have been prescribed a sodium-free diet by a vetinerary professional shouldn’t drink soft water.
Your veterinarian might ask you to restrict the sodium in your dog’s food if your dog is at risk of kidney or heart issues, or has high blood pressure.
Since the softening process adds sodium, it’s not appropriate to feed a softened water supply to dogs on low-sodium diets.
If You Have An Elderly Dog
Elderly dogs are at a greater risk of issues with their blood pressure and cardiovascular systems.
So, even if your dog hasn’t had a poor health report from the veterinarian, you might want to avoid softened water as a precautionary measure in your dog’s later years.
If Your Dog Has High Blood Pressure
If your dog has been diagnosed with a blood pressure issue, you should avoid doing anything that increase their hypertension even further, such as putting sodium-enhanced water in their water bowl.
It’s essential to limit your pet’s sodium intake to keep their blood pressure under control and decrease their risk of a health emergency, like a heart attack. Speak to your veterinarian if you need more information or advice.
If Your Dog Prefers Hard Water
Soft water has a slightly salty taste that most humans and pets are unable to detect. But if you have a pampered pooch with picky tastes, you might notice that they won’t drink softened water because they’re used to drinking hard water.
In this case, you should feed your dog a normal hard water supply, so your canine friend doesn’t become dehydrated as a result of avoiding their water bowl.
🔀 Alternatives To Soft Water For Dogs
Since soft water doesn’t have any specific health benefits for dogs, you might want to consider another water type for your pooch.
Of course, there’s always unfiltered tap water, but if you care about your dog’s health, you might not feel comfortable with your pet drinking traces of chemicals, metals, and other contaminants commonly found in tap water.
You can enjoy filtered water at home by installing a water filter system to remove many of these trace contaminants from your tap water. While plain tap water isn’t necessarily harmful, filtered water is better for human consumption – and, of course, better for cats and dogs.
You could also feed your dog bottled water, as long as you chose a brand of filtered bottled water or healthy natural spring water (as opposed to bottled tap water). But if you don’t want to contribute to single-use plastic waste, we recommend filtering your dog’s drinking water at home.
📑 Final Word
The only difference between soft and hard water is that soft water has a lack of minerals and trace amounts of sodium, while hard water contains excess minerals and less salt.
So, we know that water from a water softener system is unlikely to have any effect on healthy dogs.
But that doesn’t mean your dog should switch to a soft water diet specifically for health reasons, since there’s not much evidence to suggest that drinking soft water will have any positive health effects on a dog that already gets enough sodium from foods.
If you’ve installed an ion exchange system and want to check that your dog can drink soft water with fewer dissolved minerals and added sodium, the answer is most likely yes.
But as always, if you’re uncertain, speak to your vet. They can advise you on the safety of water softeners for your dog given their professional insight into dog breeds and your dog’s health records.