Keep plenty of water available for pets

Paul Westfall, County Extension Director, Granville County
Jul. 06, 2014 @ 09:06 AM

Now that we’ve reached mid-year, we are now entering what are known as “the dog days of summer.” I’ve wondered why the hottest time of the year was called the “dog days.” According to weather.com, the dog days of summer were actually named by the ancient Romans, who said that the “dog days” ran from July 1 through the second week of August. Those folks were really into astronomy, and one of the constellations they liked to follow was/is called Orion, also known as the Hunter. A constellation near Orion is known as Canis Major, one of Orion’s hunting dogs. One of the stars in Canis Major is known as Sirius, which is the second brightest star visible to us — the brightest being the sun. The Romans thought that during the summer, Sirius helped the sun create the hottest temperatures of the year, so they coined the phrase “dog days” since one of Orion’s hunting dogs supposedly was helping bring the heat.

Enough history; lets get on to more practical matters. Whatever the cause, it gets pretty warm in July and August. With the rise in temperatures, pets and livestock will need access to plenty of clean, fresh water. That helps them beat the heat and prevents them from dehydrating in the hot weather. The best way to provide the water is to have it available when they want a drink. If that is not possible, be sure to water animals frequently during the day and keep the water bowl or trough clean. Algae can and will grow in waterers that are not cleaned and is a good indicator that the available water may not be fresh. If algae can be seen, rest assured that bacteria are growing well, too. Water containers should be washed frequently. If algae growth occurs, take a few minutes to empty the water container, clean it with soap and water, rinse thoroughly and refill with fresh water.

As to the plenty of water part of the equation, consider that a beef cow nursing a calf can drink 50 gallons of water a day. A mature sheep can drink over two gallons per day, as can a goat. Mature sows need two to seven gallons of water per day, depending on whether they are nursing pigs or not. Horses need up to 10 gallons per day. A flock of sheep or a herd of cows can really place a demand on the water supply.

What about pets? They also will consume more water during the hot days of summer than at other times of the year. Since there is so much variability in sizes of the different breeds, the water requirement for dogs is usually given in ounces per pound of body weight (pets.webmd.com). For dogs, the requirement is about an ounce of water per pound of body weight per day. That means a 10-pound dog will need about 10 ounces, or a little over a pint of water per day. A 50-pound dog will need a bit less than a half gallon of water per day.

The formula for cats gets more complicated. There are certainly different sizes of cats, plus they are given foods that range from dry foods, which are normally three to 11 percent water, to semi-moist foods, which are 25 to 35% moisture, to wet foods, which can be up to 80 percent fluids. The amount of moisture in the food impacts how much water will be consumed per day. For cats, one recommendation is to make sure they drink as much water as their caloric intake per day (pets.webmd.com, ASPCA.org). That gets pretty complicated, so I suggest using the formula of providing about 60 ml of water per kilogram of body weight per day, or about two ounces of water per pound of cat (Merck Veterinary Manual, merckmanuals.com). That means a nine-pound cat eating dry cat food will need to drink around 18 ounces of water per day. Figuring out how much water and/or energy is being supplied in the food can be done, but it will involve knowing just how much food is consumed and multiplying that weight by the percentage of water in the can and other mathematical gyrations to see how much water to have available each day. To me, it is easier to make sure that the water bowl doesn’t go dry for any pet.

For information on why it is important to ensure animals have plenty of clean, fresh water and how dehydration affects animals, contact the Vance or Granville County Extension centers at (252) 438-8188 or (919) 603-1350.