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Can Dogs Drink Tap Water?

Can Dogs Drink Tap Water

If your canine friend means everything to you, you’re probably keen to make sure that, as his owner, you can offer him the best quality of life possible. From home comforts to high-quality food, making sure your dog is happy and healthy is probably up there with one of your top priorities.

But while many people focus heavily on their dog’s nutrition, it doesn’t ever cross their minds to assess the quality of their drinking water. City tap water might be “clean” enough for humans, but for animals, consuming the small amounts of hard water minerals and contaminants that our water naturally contains might be damaging to their health.

If you’re interested in learning more about filtered pets water for your dog, this guide will cover everything you need to know.

Importance of Hydration for Dogs

Just like us, dogs rely on water to survive, and they need adequate hydration to maintain their usual perky attitudes. It’s advised that your dog drinks about 1 ounce of water per pound of weight, daily – if they’re barely reaching anywhere close to the recommended daily amount, it’s time to get them seen by a vet.

To check that your dog is hydrated, check his gums. They should be pink and moist in good health – on the other hand, they’ll be tacky and dry if your dog is dehydrated. You can also try gently pulling back the skin on the scruff of his neck. If it snaps back into place, he’s plenty hydrated. If it takes a while to fall back into place, or stays in a tent shape, he’s dehydrated.

Dehydration can be dangerous if not treated. It may cause your canine friend to lose energy and take no energy in food. If left untreated, dehydration can lead to organ failure and even death.

Potential Issues with Tap Water

There’s usually nothing wrong with putting normal hard water from your tap in your dog’s water bowl, but there are a few potential issues that are worth mentioning. Tap water might look and taste clean to you, but it’s often packed with hundreds of tiny contaminants, many of which are colorless, odorless, and too small to be seen with the eye.

Many of these contaminants have come under scrutiny by doctors and scientists, who think that, even in small amounts, they may be dangerous to the health of humans. For dogs, who are a lot smaller and more sensitive to contaminant levels in water, these contaminants may have some adverse effects, from nausea and vomiting to more serious long-term symptoms.

Hazardous Contaminants & Risks with Water from the Tap

Chlorine

Depending on what state you live in, your water may be treated with chlorine, chloramines or a combination of the two. These chemicals disinfect the water and make it safe to drink – but the chemicals themselves may negatively affect a dog’s health when consumed in high quantities. Your pet may also find the taste of chlorine-treated water unpleasant, and may avoid drinking from their bowl because of this.

Hardness

Water hardness varies from state to state, with some states having a higher hardness than others. The calcium and magnesium found in this type of water from our taps can cause illness in some dogs when consumed in high levels. Illnesses include crystalluria, or crystal in urine, which may result in a bladder or a urinary tract infection.

Fluoride

Many states add fluoride to their water as it has some beneficial properties for teeth. But high levels of fluoride can damage a dog’s kidneys, cause sickness and diarrhea, and seizures. There have also been debates about whether fluoride is safe to consume by humans.

Heavy metals

If your city water still runs through lead pipes, this lead will leach into water as it travels into your home. Giving water for your dog that has a high lead content may cause stomach pain, diarrhea and vomiting. Over a long period of time, an excess of lead could cause poor appetite, seizures, and blindness.

Your water may also contain other heavy metals, like arsenic, chromium, cadmium and mercury. These are a result of consumer and industrial waste, and may damage the liver and kidneys of a dog when consumed in high amounts.

Bacteria & parasites

Most people are unaware that water can contain a bacteria called Ecoli, and that most strains are harmless. But when dangerous strains are able to get in, they may be more harmful to a dog, with smaller organs and weaker immune systems, than to humans. Giardia is another parasite that can easily make its way into tap water, and can cause sickness and diarrhea in dogs and humans.

Pesticides

Pesticides enter into drinking water through surface run-off, and, though they’re filtered out in treatment, they’re not fully removed. Dogs react to pesticide exposure in the same way that humans do – they experience nausea and vomiting, rashes, breathing problems, and eye irritations.

Understanding What’s in Your Water

If you don’t have a clue what’s in your water, don’t feel like a bad owner to your dog – the majority of people are oblivious to the fact that contaminants even exist on a small scale in drinking water, assuming that local water is filtered and safe to drink.

It’s easy to find out what’s in your water. Just follow the steps below, and you’ll be much clearer on which contaminants you need to target with a water filter.

Water Quality Report

Water quality reports offer information on the source of your water, plus the contaminant levels in your water over the year, and the health effects that these contaminants can potentially cause. Reading the water quality report for your local area is the simplest and cheapest (it’s free) way to learn what’s in your water. You can check your water quality report by visiting your local area’s water treatment website. If you can’t find it online, contact your water treatment company directly and request one by post or email.

At Home Test Kits

Water quality reports are handy, but they won’t provide you with information on what might be getting into your tap water on its journey between the treatment center and your home. This is where an at home test kit can come in use.

Most water test kits require that you take a tap water sample and dip a test strip into the water, leaving it for several minutes. The strip will then change color, and you can compare the color to a provided color chart to determine which contaminants it contains.

Common contaminants that can be detected by at home water tests include lead, iron, pesticides, chlorine, bacteria, copper, and nitrates. There are also at-home kits that test for water hardness minerals, namely calcium and magnesium.

To learn even more about testing your water quality at home, check out this guide.

The Best Water for Dogs to Drink

So now that you know why tap water isn’t the best for the furry member of your family, you’re probably wondering what is best to give your dog. This section of the guide will weigh up the drinking water options for your dog, including bottled water, reverse osmosis, filtered water, and distilled water.

Is Bottled Water Safe for Dogs?

You might assume that, because bottled water is filtered to remove common tap water contaminants, giving your dog bottled water is the better alternative. In some ways, this is true. Bottled water should taste nicer to your dog, which will encourage him to drink more. But it all depends on the brand you’re buying from. Some bottled water companies treat their water exactly the same as tap water is treated, so the same level of contaminants will still be present.

There’s also the issue of hard water in bottled “mineral water”. This type of water is marketed to provide extra health benefits to humans, but high levels of hard water minerals like calcium and magnesium can lead to the formation of urine crystals and bladder infections for dogs.

In short, bottled water for dogs is better than tap water, but giving your dog water from the bottle doesn’t automatically guarantee that it’s any better off than tap water.

Better Alternatives to Bottled Water

The best way to make water safe for your dog is to filter it yourself. Here are some of the best alternatives to bottled water for your dog.

Filtering Your Tap Water

There are a number of different ways that you can produce filtered water for dogs. Filtration ensures water is safe for your pet to drink by removing or greatly reducing contaminants in water, and, in some cases, minerals that cause hard water.

The best methods of water filtration for your dog are as follows:

Reverse osmosis

Reverse osmosis is widely known as one of the most thorough and effective water filtration methods. You typically install a reverse osmosis system beneath your kitchen sink, where it filters tap water with several filtration methods: a pre-sediment filter stage, one or two activated carbon filter stages, a reverse osmosis membrane, and a post-filter stage. RO systems aren’t cheap to install – they start at around $400 but sometimes cost well over $1000 – but they’re one of the best options for removing all hard water minerals, chemicals, heavy metals and microorganisms, ensuring water is safe for your dog to drink.

Water filter pitcher

On the other end of the price scale are water filter pitchers. These pitchers are simple and cost-effective to use – they cost around $20, with their filters costing around $5-$6 and lasting for around 2 months. You add tap water to the pitcher, then wait for the water to filter, which usually takes 10-15 minutes. You can then pour the filtered water into your dog’s water bowl whenever it needs a top-up.

Filtered Pet Water Bowls

An even simpler option to provide dogs with water that’s clean and filtered is to buy a filtered pet water bowl. These bowls use filters, typically made from activated charcoal, that trap health-harming contaminants in tap water and make water much safer for your dog to drink. You simply fill the fountain with hard water from your tap and allow for it to pass through the filter and into your dog’s bowl.

Because many filtered pet bowls are BPA-free, they don’t pose a risk of addition contamination. You can generally use them in both indoor and outdoor conditions, and they’re offered in a range of sizes to suit your dog’s drinking requirements. Filters generally require replacing every 3 to 6 months, and they’re relatively cheap to buy. The systems themselves cost around $40 to $60 for a good-quality filter.

What Not To Give Your Dog

You might be wondering, can dogs drink distilled water? The answer is yes – but you shouldn’t use it as a long-term solution. Distilled water is produced by boiling, evaporating and condensing water to a point where nearly all contaminants are removed.

Like reverse osmosis, distillation is also considered one of the most effective means of water purification. But the problem with distillation is that it’s too effective – it gets rid of all the beneficial minerals that dogs need to thrive. Drinking distilled water for a long period of time may cause a dog’s sodium and chloride levels to dip, and they may even experience adverse changes to their internal organs. It’s best to only give your dog distilled water once or twice a week, if at all.

So, Should I Give My Dog Tap Water?

If you care about your dog’s health, providing your furry friend with clean drinking water is a step well worth taking. While tap water contaminants aren’t guaranteed to lead to ill health in your dog, he’ll benefit much more from drinking water with a low level of contaminants, or no contaminants at all. The best thing about many of these water filtration options for your pet is that you should be able to benefit from drinking clean filtered water, too – so it’s a win-win situation for your whole family.