With all the concerns about what’s in our food and water, many of us are paying more attention to what foods and water our dogs consume.
For many households, having multiple cartons of bottled spring water, filtered water or flavoured water is the norm. In other homes, depending on where you live in the world, consuming tap water is perfectly normal and not considered in any way a health risk.
So what about our dogs?
Is it better to give dogs tap water, bottled water, filtered water or spring water?
A high profile pet food recall tends to alert dog owners to concerns about chemical contamination in the food or treats we give to our dogs.
Do dog owners have every right to wonder whether we should resort to bottled water for our canine companions?
Let's establish something right off the bat. For those dog owners wondering if bottled water is better or healthier for dogs, the answer is: studies have shown that in a like for like comparison against fresh, clean tap water - bottled water is not better or healthier for dogs. If tap water is clean, it is perfectly safe for dogs and of equal quality to bottled water for a dog's health.
According to a study in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, that won’t be necessary.
Is tap water safe for dogs to drink?
Tap water, the study suggests, doesn’t cause bladder cancer in dogs.
Long-term consumption of disinfected tap water — the stuff that flows from our faucets after being treated with chemicals such as chlorine — has been associated with bladder cancer in people.
But the study, which was led by Dr. Lorraine Backer of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that there is no such association in dogs.
There may be more than one reason why dogs that drink tap water don’t have an increased risk of bladder cancer, even though people apparently do.
First, a dog’s exposure to drinking water disinfection by-products — the chemicals that are produced when things like chlorine interact with natural organic matter — is different from that of its human owners.
Dogs don’t gulp down a big glass of water like people often do.
Their water usually sits in a bowl for hours, which allows the chemical concentrations to decrease over time.
Second, dogs don’t take long showers or baths as people do. Showering and bathing are important routes of human exposure to chemical by-products of tap water. The study focused on 200 dogs living in residential settings, 100 of which had bladder cancer and 100 of which did not.
While the results showed that dogs with bladder cancer were exposed to higher total chemical by-product concentrations than the control dogs, the difference wasn’t significant enough to draw a connection between tap water consumption and bladder cancer, the study says.
Tap water in many parts of the world is safe enough for people to drink and if that's the case, it's OK for dogs to drink tap water in those regions too.
Areas of the world with the least unsafe drinking water
Is bottled water safe for dogs to drink?
One of the most surprising things we learn when we get dogs is that even in the lushest parts of the world, it can be difficult to find water that is good for drinking. So what is filtered water and is it safe for a dog to drink?
In the U.S. alone, the nonprofit organization SafeWater.org estimates that between 75 and 75 million people don't have access to safe drinking water.
If you have been to a water park where a drinkable water fountain is conveniently located, chances are that the drink is filtered water. It's a method of maintaining a drinkable water source that has been used for a very long time.
If you are currently serving bottled water to your dog or dog-friendly-located dog bowl, then this is safe because you are providing the drink with filtered water, right?
Well, not exactly. The bacteria in the water may be reduced, but your dog can still get parasites from drinking that water.
For many parts of the world, bottled water is a safer choice since it is tap water that has been filtered.
The chemicals and contaminants that appear in tap water are removed from bottled water.
Some areas of the UK have read more than 300. When water is filtered through the Zerowater filter it will score 0, Meaning you can be confident the water you and your dog are drinking is cleaner.
Video: How dogs drink water
Is spring water good for dogs?
Since spring water is likely to be fresher and is easier for your dog to drink, there are fewer bacteria in the water and thus, your dog's body is less likely to get ill from drinking it.
Although the majority of dogs do drink bottled water, it's often not as good as spring water and is usually made from tap water that has been treated and then packaged.
So, is filtered water good for a dog to drink?
Most health experts agree that filtered water is safe for dogs to drink and in some areas, experts advise that dogs should not drink unfiltered water. According to the ASPCA, uncapped unfiltered water can contain:
- Reducing agents, which are substances that reduce the turbidity of water.
- Chemicals, which contain toxic chemicals that can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, bloody stool, hypocalcemia (low calcium levels) and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- Chemicals, which contain toxic chemicals that can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, bloody stool, hypocalcemia (low calcium levels) and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) Natural chemical substances, which can be toxic to dogs
The advice against drinking unfiltered water may be particularly pertinent to dogs with kidney problems according to one vet we heard from:
"A big problem with unfiltered water is that it contains excessive amounts of aluminium and iron. An excess amount of these substances can cause kidney problems, especially in dogs with crystals of iron,"
"In my experience as a veterinarian, I have found that unfiltered water may also contain high levels of bacteria, both airborne and microbial, which can lead to gastrointestinal upset or other illnesses."
What kind of water is best for my dog?
Because dogs tend to drink less water than cats, spring water is often recommended for dogs as it is generally fresher and easier to drink.
"Whenever you go to a pet store, it's important to look at the water they're selling," according to the manager of US-based veterinary practice we heard from.
Are plastic water bottles safe for dogs?
If you do not have the luxury of a water bowl or a water fountain that offers filtered spring water, there are other options for dog water, including plastic bottles.
The plastic, usually coated with some sort of substance to keep bacteria from growing, also prevents the spreading of dangerous bacteria, such as Giardia.
How to give your dog water from a bottle
To use a plastic bottle to make your dog's water, fill it with water from your tap, then rinse the water container to remove any chemicals and then put water in the container for your dog.
Just be aware that if your dog is not hydrated or does not eat properly before going for a walk, then he or she is more likely to have an upset stomach when he or she gets back home, so it's important to be sure that your dog is properly hydrated before taking him or her for a walk.
Summary: Best water for dogs (tap, bottled or spring water)?
Evaluating the benefits and risks of whether tap water or bottled water is best for your dog, there are some important factors to consider.
- Experts say that tap water is generally safer than bottled water and has fewer toxic chemicals.
- In some countries, there are no rules regulating the safe composition of tap water, so there are more options for choosing what is in your dog's drinking water if you provide filtered/bottled or pure spring water
In short, if you live in a country where it is safe to drink tap water, then it's safe for your dog to drink tap water.
If you live in an area where the tap water has known illness-causing properties, then your dog may be at risk too. In which case, either purchase bottled water for your dog to consume or consider investing in a home water filtering product.