Dogs and cats drink approximately 40-60mℓ of water per kilogram of body weight per day. That means a dog weighing 10kg will drink about half a litre of water per day. This can vary due to environmental factors and the amount of exercise the pet gets.
When your dog or cat suddenly starts to drink much more than the average amount, you have to take your pet to the veterinarian. The veterinarian will need to rule out the most serious causes by testing your pet’s urine and blood. The most important and serious causes include diabetes mellitus, renal failure, liver failure and Cushing’s disease. Cushing’s disease is caused by an adrenal gland producing too much cortisol in an animal’s body.
Clean water is of utmost importance and you need to change your dog’s water daily. Purification systems are not necessary, except if the tap water is not safe for human consumption. If the water is safe for you to drink, it will be safe for your pet to drink as well. Dirty water can cause pets to become very sick. The highest risk for pets to get sick from water is by drinking from stagnant water when you take them for walks.
The following diseases can be caused by drinking contaminated water:
- Parvovirus can survive for an extended period of time in water that was contaminated by faeces of a dog carrying the virus. This causes a fatal disease (‘cat flu’), especially in puppies who have not been vaccinated. It is recognised by vomiting and bloody diarrhoea.
- Leptospira is a type of bacteria which is shed in the urine of infected animals, and animals become infected by drinking contaminated water. These bacteria can damage your pet’s liver and kidneys. The signs that you might notice are fever, muscle weakness, vomiting, lethargy and abdominal pain.
- Giardia is a protozoan that can live for a long time in stagnant water. It causes watery or bloody diarrhoea. This disease is highly contagious to humans as well.
- Coccidia is a single-celled organism which is also transmitted through water that is contaminated by faeces. This causes watery, voluminous diarrhoea with or without blood.
- Other bacteria or organisms found in contaminated water which can also cause gastrointestinal inflammation and infection are Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, coli and Salmonella. Your pet can also get infected with worms by drinking from contaminated water.