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Tuesday 21 January 2020

Is your pet drinking more than normal?

It’s easy to measure how much your pet drinks every day
It’s easy to measure how much your pet drinks every day

Pete Wedderburn - Animal Doctor

After the busy social times of Christmas and New Year, many people give up alcohol for the month of "Dry January".

Fortunately, pets don't drink alcohol, so there's no need for them to drink less. In fact, if anything, it may be a good idea to encourage pets to drink more. Of course I don't mean drink more alcohol: I am talking about drinking more water.

Most owners don't pay too much attention to their pets' drinking habits: they make sure a bowl of water is within reach, and they leave it at that. And in fairness, this is all that most pets need. If they need water, they get thirsty, and as long as water is within reach, they will drink enough to keep them fully hydrated and healthy.

Having said that, I am sure that many pets would be grateful if their owners focussed more on water bowl hygiene, ensuring that bowls are cleaned and rinsed thoroughly at least every couple of days, using hot soapy water or a dishwasher. Ideally, you should treat your pets' bowls in the same way as you would treat a glass that you were planning to drink from yourself. Pets have better senses of smell and taste than we do, so it's especially important that their drinking water is as fresh and clean as possible.

Many people worry about putting pet bowls into the dishwasher alongside human tableware, but I don't see this as an issue: just make sure that you use the high temperature washing cycle to ensure that any bacteria on pet bowls are killed, as well as the bowl surfaces being thoroughly cleaned. Oh, and do check that the bowls are dishwasher-safe. My favourite pet bowl is the stainless steel type: these are easy to keep sparkling clean and are definitely safe for dishwashers.

If you feed your pets a raw type diet, it's even more important that food and water bowls are thoroughly cleaned every day: a high percentage of these food utensils carry pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella and Campylobacter. Regular cleaning, and even disinfecting, of food and water bowls is the best way to limit the risk of any pets or humans picking up an accidental infection.

Once the water bowl has been thoroughly cleaned, make sure that you top it up with fresh, cool water. It's useful to make a habit of measuring how much water you add every day, and then measuring how much water is left after twenty four hours. A normal pet drinks 10 - 70ml of water per kilogram every day, making it easy to work out if your pet is drinking the expected amount of water. So a 5kg cat should drink 50 to 350ml per day, a 10kg terrier should drink 100 to 700ml, and a 30kg Labrador Retriever should drink anything from 300ml to 2.1 litres. This is a wide range, because a pet's fluid needs vary dramatically for a number of reasons. Are they fed moist food or dry food? How much exercise do they do? What is the ambient temperature of their environment?

Vets don't tend to worry if pets are drinking less than the normal range: after all, it's sometimes difficult to know if they are getting water elsewhere, such as in puddles outside. As long as pets are bright, active and behaving normally, they are unlikely to suffer from not drinking enough. If they are sick, very elderly, or in some other circumstances, reduced water intake could become a problem, but this is not common.

If pets drink more than the upper limit of their recommended range, it's always important to speak to your vet. Increased thirst is a key warning sign about a number of common diseases, such as diabetes, hormonal abnormalities, and liver or kidney disease. Early investigation and treatment of these types of problems is the best way of ensuring that they are dealt with effectively. If you take your pet to the vet as soon as you notice their increased thirst, it's far more likely that the problem can be promptly identified and cured. And to make the most of that visit to your vet, make sure that you bring a urine sample from your pet: this will give the vet a great deal of useful information.

How do you collect a urine sample? Most pets refuse to urinate on command into a sample pot. The collection technique is different for dogs and cats.

With dogs, you need to follow them around outside with a small container, then as they crouch to urinate, slip the container beneath them quickly and quietly. You only need a tiny amount - one teaspoonful, or 5ml, is plenty. Once you have the sample, transfer it into a sterile sample pot: your vet can provide you with one of these.

With cats, the easiest way is to ask your vet for a special litter tray substrate made from impermeable beads: after the cat has used the litter tray, you can literally pour the urine sample out of the tray into your container. If you can't collect a sample, vets are able to use a technique known as cystocentesis to take urine directly from the bladder using a sharp needle. This sounds uncomfortable to us humans, but cats don't even seem to notice the needle going in, and it's an effective way of collecting a sterile urine sample quickly and effectively.

Drinking fresh water is one of the joys of life, for animals just as for us humans. You can get special pet fountains, giving pets the pleasure of lapping from the equivalent of flowing water. But a clean, freshly filled water bowl within easy reach is really all that's needed for most pets.

Wexford People

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