Essential tips for keeping animal companions hydrated in Southern Utah

ST. GEORGE — Dying of thirst? That’s a real thing, for both humans and their pets. As warm weather opens up the door to more outdoor activities, it’s important to remember: getting enough water is essential for health.

Dog at Modern Pet Store | St. George, Utah, March 2021 | Photo by Adele Park, St. George News

Doggie dehydration

Dehydration isn’t just about being parched; it’s a physical malady that is potentially fatal. When dogs don’t get enough water, it can cause fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea and even organ failure. How can owners tell if their dog is drinking enough? Gently pull up the skin between the shoulder blades. It should fall quickly back into place. If dehydration is setting in, the skin will return slowly or even stay up for a time. Other signs of dehydration include sunken eyeballs, and dry nose, mouth and gums.

Just how much water is needed to keep a dog healthy? Zoie Hansen, manager and certified pet nutritionist at The Modern Pet, said a good rule of thumb is 1 fluid ounce of water per pound every day. Hansen said feeding a dog raw or canned food adds moisture to the diet, noting most of these foods contain 60-80% water.

“Because raw and canned food holds in all the natural moisture, that’s going to be feeding into their hydration,” Hansen said.

While dogs should be encouraged to drink as much water as possible, the toilet is not a good option. Hansen said even though the water may be clean the toilet has a lot of residual bacteria, making it potentially dangerous for a dog to drink from.

“Of course it happens every once in a while, but keeping clean water bowls around would be my top recommendation,” Hansen said.

Dog owners should be wary of letting their pets drink out of any non-potable water source. In Zion National Park harmful levels of cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins have been found in three major tributaries of the Virgin River. These include the North Fork of the Virgin River, North Creek and La Verkin Creek. Cyanobacteria is thought to have killed a dog who was playing in the North Fork of the Virgin River last summer.

Dogs are required to be on a leash in Zion National Park and other public spaces. If a dog breaks away and jumps in the river, their fur should be rinsed off immediately. Visit the Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s website for more information about waterbodies affected by harmful algal blooms.

No kitten – drinking takes energy for cats

It takes a lot of work for a cat to slack their thirst. These furry friends have flat tongues, which only allows them to get about 1/8 teaspoon of water per minute of lapping. As with dogs, Hansen recommends feeding cats raw or wet foods to supplement their water intake.

Nulo Hydrate pet product, St. George, Utah, March 2021 | Photo by Adele Park, St. George News

One way to tempt cats to drink more is by flavoring their water with tuna juice or sodium-free chicken broth. Hansen said water enhancers like Nulo Hydrate can also help.

“It has tons of electrolytes, amino acids, vitamins and minerals,” Hansen said.

Hansen said if pet owners are concerned about their animal’s hydration or diet, they can take advantage of free nutrition consultations at The Modern Pet. 

Don’t horse around with hydration

Horses need a lot of water to stay healthy. On average, these majestic animals slurp up a whopping  10 to 25 gallons of water a day during the summer. A horse that has been deprived of water can usually only survive between three and six days, making proper hydration an issue of life or death.

Karl Hutchings at Gold Diamond Ranch, St. George, Utah, March 2021 | Photo by Adele Park, St. George News

While it’s true you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink, there is a work around. Karl Hutchings, owner of Gold Diamond Ranch, has a few ticks up his sleeve when it comes to getting a finicky horse to drink. Hutchings said when dealing with a dehydrated horse, he puts sea salt and a little baking soda in the water trough to entice the animal to drink.

“I’ll set it next to a regular trough and 90% of the time they’ll drink the salt water before they’ll drink the other water,” Hutchings said.

Hutchings said sometimes his show horses resist drinking when they are traveling. When that happens, Hutchings gives the horse a bite of apple and puts the remainder of the fruit in the bottom of a bucket of water. Horses like apples so much they’ll usually drink the entire container just to get to the apple.

Hutchings said dehydration typically doesn’t affect horses living off native grasses in irrigated pastures.   

Drink to your health

People and pets alike need plenty of water to thrive in the desert climate of Southern Utah. When out enjoying the nice weather, people should make sure to not just bring water for themselves for their pets as well.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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