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Dirty Water Dangers: How to Keep Pet Water Clean

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Pets need water to survive, but dirty water can harbor some harmful things, like parasites and bacteria. Find out how to keep your pet hydrated and healthy.

Benefits of Water

A large percentage of your pet’s body is made up of water. Good old H2O supports the body’s ability to function in many ways. For instance, water:

  • Helps regulate body temperature
  • Supports skin and joint health
  • Keeps the eyes, nose, and mouth moist
  • Flushes out toxins and waste products
  • Aids in digestion and transporting nutrients throughout the body
  • Provides protection for body organs and tissues
  • Increases energy and mental focus

With all that water does, it’s important to make sure your pet is getting enough clean and safe water to drink.

Types of Drinking Water

There are different kinds of water you can offer to your pet, including:

  • Distilled water: When water is distilled, it goes through a rigorous filtration process to remove contaminants and minerals.
  • Purified water: This water can be from any source, and it’s purified to remove chemicals and contaminants.
  • Spring water: Most bottled water is spring water. It comes from underground sources that are not always listed on the label. It may or may not have been treated or purified.
  • Tap water: This is the water that comes right out of your faucet. Some bottled water may be tap water. If the bottle label says it’s from a municipal source or community water system, it’s definitely from the tap.

All these water types are generally safe to put in your pet’s water bowl. Surprisingly, distilled and purified water may not be the healthiest choices for your pet. While these waters are processed to remove bad stuff, it also takes out minerals that are beneficial to the body.

About Bottled Water

States are responsible for bottled water packaged and sold within its borders. The US Food and Drug Association (FDA) regulates bottled water sold nationally using standards set by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). And, the EPA suggests reading the label to learn about the source and how the water was treated. For additional details, you can contact the company directly.

jack Russell terrier dog drinking out of a metal bowl

Can Tap Water Make My Dog Sick?

Fresh, clean water from the tap should not make your dog sick. Municipal water companies filter, treat, and test water to meet standards for concentrations of minerals, salts, and metals.

 That said, there have been serious issues with tap water in places like Flint, Michigan. In Flint, lead leached out of the pipes into the water supply. You can check with your municipality or refer to the EPA for information on your municipal drinking water.

Are Plastic Water Bowls Bad for Dogs?

Plastic water bowls are not the best choice for your pet. They’re susceptible to micro-scratches that can harbor bacteria. These scratches can be so tiny that they may be hard to see with the naked eye. Some pets are also allergic to plastic, which can cause their lips to redden and swell. Stainless steel is a much better option.

How to Keep Dog Water Bowl Clean

You should wash your pet’s water bowl at least once a day and sanitize it every week. For daily rinses, you can wash it with hot soapy water and then let it air dry. For deeper cleaning, put it in the dishwasher on the highest setting or a sanitizing cycle. It’s safe to put your pet’s water bowl in the dishwasher with your dishes.

How to Keep Pet Water Fountain Clean

A pet water fountain can be a great way to help increase your pet’s water intake, especially if they don’t enjoy drinking from a stagnant water bowl. It’s also a perfect option for cats who prefer to drink running water from the tap. They can drink from it anytime, saving you the annoyance of constantly having to turn the faucet on for them.

Algae build-up is a common problem with pet fountains, and you may be wondering how to keep algae out of pet water. The best way to do this is to clean your fountain regularly. It can also help to place it somewhere out of direct sunlight. Algae thrives in bright, sunny places.

To clean a pet fountain, you should follow the instructions that came with your product. Generally, you’ll need to unplug it, drain the water from the main tank and canals, and then carefully disassemble it for a thorough cleaning.

longhaired tabby cat drinking from a stream of water

Why Do Cats Drink Dirty Water?

Cats have some weird behaviors. It’s not uncommon to catch them drinking water from freshly watered houseplants, an open toilet, or puddles on the screened-in porch. This habit may come from their big cat ancestors, who drank from multiple water sources wherever they found them. 

Some cats will seek out alternate water sources if they’re unhappy with their assigned water bowl. Maybe it’s been sitting around too long and smells funky to them. Or it might be too close to their food for their taste. Cats may enjoy the more natural smell and taste of water they find outside of a stagnant bowl.

Cats can also be finicky about the size and shape of the bowl. They might not like to get their whiskers wet or rubbed in the wrong way, so they may avoid water bowls that are too narrow or deep.

It’s important to pet-proof your home by doing things like closing toilet bowl lids. Toilet water can contain bacteria and remnants of cleaning products.

Can a Cat and Dog Share Water Bowls?

You may not be able to stop your dog from lapping out of your kitty’s bowl or vice versa. If they’re both healthy, it’s fine for them to drink out of the same bowl. However, cats might not like sharing a bowl, and they may stop drinking in protest.

They also might not like the typically larger size of a dog’s bowl. It’s best to leave out separate bowls in different places for your dog and cat.

Can My Dog Get Sick from Drinking Pond Water?

You should never let your dog drink pond water or water from other natural outside sources unless your absolutely sure they’re safe. Pond water can be contaminated with disease-causing bacteria and parasites, such as:

  • Blue-green Algae: Despite the name, this substance isn’t algae. It’s a type of bacteria that can accumulate in a bright-colored foam or layer of scum on ponds. It can cause vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, loss of consciousness, and damage to the liver and kidneys. If your dog ingests blue-green algae, seek medical assistance.
  • Giardia: This tiny parasite causes gastrointestinal distress with symptoms including diarrhea, cramps, bloating, and bloody stool.
  • Coccidia: These parasites can lead to watery diarrhea and vomiting. Left untreated, they can permanently damage the intestinal tract.
  • Leptospira (lepto): This bacteria thrives in warm and stagnant water. An infection can lead to fever, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, and muscle pain. It can also result in liver and kidney damage. There is a vaccine for certain strains of lepto. Talk to your veterinarian to see if it would be beneficial for your dog.

Lepto and other parasites, bacteria, and fungal infections can be transmitted from pets to humans. They’re known as zoonotic diseases.

Pet Insurance and Water-borne Diseases

If your pet contracts a parasitic or bacterial infection from dirty water, pet insurance can help you manage the costs of their care. It could even cover hospitalization and follow-up visits. Check out our pet insurance buyer’s guide to learn more.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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