Why dehydration can shorten your dog's life span
After many years working with dogs and their people, one thing became very clear; no matter how technologically advanced modern medicine is, the most effective ways to keep your dog healthy are simple, such as maintaining optimal hydration. But then I got an email from my long-time client and friend, Theo, who wrote that she still sees thirsty dogs without water in backyards, in front of stores, and in vehicles with windows just cracked open. She asked me to use the power of my community to caution people about hot weather dehydration and to remind them to make sure their dogs get enough water in the summer months.
The diversity of life forms on Earth is mindboggling. Some organisms can live without oxygen, others will thrive in deep oceans in complete darkness or the scorching heat of thermal vents. However, despite this incredible diversity, no living organism can survive in the permanent absence of water. This simple compound of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom is a primary condition for life and even a slight form of chronic dehydration may mean the difference between your dog being healthy or sick.
Thirty-seven trillion chemical reactions take place in the body every second and without sufficient water, these reactions come to a standstill. Similar to other processes in nature, water is also a major component in cleansing and regeneration. Without water, the body can’t rid itself of toxins and minerals because they can't be distributed efficiently in and out of the cells.
How dehydration stresses your dog’s kidneys
The kidneys can be seen as the body's water guardian. If your dog does not get enough water or eats dehydrated food, this can put a great deal of stress on the kidneys.
The outside portion of the kidneys, the cortex, is rich in kidney glomeruli, which are small blood filtration units. Each unit can be compared to a ‘yarn of blood vessels’ inside a funnel that collects so-called ‘primary urine,’ which is the product of the first step of filtration.
The second step of urine production happens in the center of the kidneys, called medulla, where a system of superfine tubes called renal tubules regulates the elimination and recycling of electrolytes and water.
When your dog is dehydrated or eats dry food, this puts extra strain on renal tubules that have to work extra hard to reabsorb water to prevent further dehydration. Logically, the harder the kidneys have to work, the more they are prone to fail because such a situation is unnatural.
That’s why it’s very important to offer your dog plenty of clean, fresh and filtered water to maintain metabolic function and protect the kidneys.
The distilled water myth
Some people mistakenly believe distilled water is the ultimate pure water. It’s produced by boiling water and condensing the evaporated steam. The main problem is that distilled water is void of natural minerals and drinking distilled water results in the body losing cellular minerals and reduces the electrolyte balance. According to a World Health Organization report, demineralized water needs to be fortified with minerals to avoid serious health concerns.
Perhaps you are wondering if reverse osmosis filters are any better. Unfortunately, reverse osmosis removes minerals (in addition to harmful contaminants) which leads to mineral depletion. On the other hand, high-efficiency carbon filtration systems that do not use the principles of reverse osmosis are a good choice for your dog in today’s world.
Alkalized water - is it good for dogs?
The common understanding of human nutrition is we should aim for a neutral or slightly alkaline pH in our blood and saliva. Some suggest alkalizing the body by drinking alkaline water. The market has been flooded with alkalizing water filters, however, I do not generally recommend them for dogs, nor do I use them for my own water filtration. My experience is alkaline water causes increased urine production, which may be a sign of kidney strain. When it comes to dogs, the optimum pH of canine blood is slightly acidic and the ideal urine pH should be around 6 - 6.5. This is the main reason why I don’t recommend alkaline water for dogs.
Good mineral balance leads to better hydration
One of the least acknowledged conditions of optimal hydration is an optimal level of essential minerals in the body.
Based on thousands of canine hair samples measured for mineral deficiencies, we have confirmed that all dogs that do not receive plant- based mineral supplements are deficient. Intensive agriculture, soil overuse and the fact that most food and compost does not get recycled back in soil have caused permanent mineral depletion. This is why so many dog lovers see overwhelmingly positive changes after they start their dogs on GreenMin, the plant-based mineral and amino-acid rich superfood.
Besides the fact that plant-based minerals boost metabolism and provide building blocks essential for your dog’s health, minerals also play a key role in maintaining optimal hydration. Think about a salt shaker; if you leave it in a humid environment, the salt inside will absorb water.
When it comes to your dog’s body, a sufficient supply of minerals is essential to maintaining optimal hydration. Without a sufficient amount of minerals, the kidneys are forced to release more water in the form of urine to preserve the right osmotic balance (thickness of blood), which has to be precise. If the osmotic balance is disturbed with a low mineral to water ratio, cells will swell and eventually start dying off.
By adding broad-spectrum, plant-based minerals in food, the body can retain more water to maintain optimal hydration, the primary condition for your dog’s health and longevity.
What is the optimal water intake for your dog?
An average dog should consume approximately 1/2 to 1 oz of water per lb (30-60 ml/kg) per day. However, this number is not absolute because many external and internal conditions can dramatically change your dog’s water requirement. Some examples include hot weather, vigorous exercise water loss and excessive water loss due to panting. Excessive drinking may be a sign of a medical problem such as diabetes, kidney disease or adrenal gland disease.
Biking and running with dogs
These activities deserve special attention when it comes to hydration and water. Many people enjoy taking their dogs for a bike ride, however, if you put yourself in the place of your dog by running after your biking friends, you’ll learn it’s very easy to underestimate the degree of effort your dog needs to keep up. In fact, biking with dogs is one of the most common causes of stubborn, hard to treat urinary incontinence in dogs. Jogging with dogs, on the other hand, is usually beneficial, unless you are a long-distance marathon runner or your dog is still growing.
Kibble as a major cause of dehydration
One of the most common causes of dehydration is kibble and other dehydrated foods. Dogs have evolved eating predominantly fresh and well-hydrated food. Dehydrated and processed food absorb larger amounts of liquids from the stomach and intestines, which naturally leads to a chronic state of dehydration and excessive kidney strain.
This is one reason why dogs on kibble drink so much. Considering that good hydration is the key to good health and longevity, this is one of the main reasons to keep your dog away from kibble. Dehydrated raw food that is rehydrated before feeding may be the one exception, however, it is still nutritionally less valuable than raw food.
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Carry an insulated water bottle for you and your dog
Over the years, I’ve come across many water bottles for people and dogs but many are made from plastic which leeches undesirable estrogen-like substances in the water. I personally like using the Hydroflask brand because it is made of stainless steel, comes in a variety of sizes and keeps your dog’s water cool for the whole day.
Should dogs be reminded to drink?
Personally, I feel encouraging your dog to drink is a good idea. Similar to us, dogs sometimes get busy and forget they should drink until they are very thirsty. When you see your dog drinking, perhaps start using the cue “water” or “drink” to train your dog to drink on command.
Some people are still unaware that leaving a dog in the car even with the windows cracked open may be unsafe or even life-threatening. Don’t be fooled by outside temperatures because a car can turn into a deadly oven, even when the outside temperature does not seem too bad.
Thank you for caring, reading and sharing this article.
This article may leave you surprised at how deeply your dog’s hydration connects with his or her health and longevity.
Just remember that carrying a bottle of fresh, cool water, feeding fresh food instead of kibble and ensuring that your dog’s diet includes full-spectrum minerals can make a great difference in your dog’s health and longevity.
PS: One more thing! Make sure you clean your dog’s water bowl daily and wash it in a dishwasher regularly to prevent bacterial growth and contamination.
© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM