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Why is Water Such an Important Part of a Dog's Diet?

Many pet parents are familiar with their dogs running right to the water bowl following a big walk. They'll stand there and lap up plenty of water, spilling a little extra on the floor. It makes sense. After a big workout, you probably crave water too, to quench your thirst and rehydrate. 

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Health-conscious pet parents frequently focus on the various aspects of a nutritious diet, whether it's getting protein from a good source or finding foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, but many can overlook the importance of water when it comes to dogs. It's easy to forget about because many people give their dogs food in controlled portions, but simply leave out a dish of water all day. This can create a mental division between water and other nutrients. But as the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine reminds pet owners, water is the most important nutrient.

Unfortunately, dogs can dehydrate and die fairly quickly. There are stories of dogs overheating and dehydrating when they're tied up outside and tangle themselves in a position where they can no longer get to their bowl. A dog can lose half of his or her protein and all body fat and survive, but losing just one-tenth of his water can be fatal.

It's important for pet parents to know why dogs need water, how to best supply their dogs with water and what warning signs of dehydration (or other hydration issues) look like.

Why do dogs need water?
Like humans, the majority of a dog's body is made of water. But water does more for dogs than just constitute mass - water is essential to nearly every bodily function, according to PetMD. Water plays an important role in digestion by helping with the consumption process as well as the absorption of other nutrients. Water also keeps temperature regulated, joints well-functioning and tissue cushioned.  It's crucial for the waste expulsion of feces and urine. But one of the best indicators of how important water is to a dog is how many organs can be damaged when a dog doesn't receive sufficient water. All organs can become damaged due to dehydration.

How do you make sure your dog has enough water?
Most dogs are able to regulate how much water they require by themselves. As a pet parent, your role is to ensure that your dog always has a supply of clean water. For some people, this can be as simple as cleaning and refilling a bowl a few times a day, but for more rambunctious dogs, you may need to install a holder so that the bowl isn't knocked over.

Dog's should consume about 1/2 to 1 ounce of water per pound of weight they have every day, according to Dogster magazine. For example, a 50-pound dog would need 25 to 50 ounces or 1 to 1.5 quarts. Puppies and older dogs may need different amounts. Exercise, certain diseases, pregnancy and medication can lead to increased water intakes too. Bring water bottles and a bowl with you while exercising with your dog to ensure hydration. Consult your veterinarian if it seems that your dog is consuming too little or too much water.

How can you tell if your dog is dehydrated?
Although not drinking enough water can cause dehydration, dogs can also become dehydrated by losing too much fluid through diarrhea, sweat and vomiting, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Pet parents should look for unusual laziness, loss of appetite, sunken eyes, dry mouth and general sadness. Test for dehydration by pulling the scruff behind your dog's neck up. Hydrated skin will return to place quickly, while dehydrated scruff will take longer. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect dehydration.

Water is very important to dogs. For most pet parents, all you need to do is constantly supply clean water and your dog will do the rest. In case of suspected dehydration, contact your veterinarian.