A thoughtful pet parent will spend some time wondering what sort of water they should give to their dog, particularly if it is their first dog.
Would cold water harm the dog in any way? Is it OK to give a dog warm water to drink, especially on a cold day when most of us humans reach for a hot drink of some sort? What kind of water do dogs prefer?
And yes, there is an answer to this last question. In this article we’ll be looking at all the possible options you have regarding the water you should give your dog, what other drinks you can use to keep your pet hydrated and, also, the dangers of your canine friend drinking too much water.
What temperature water is the best for dogs to drink?
‘Hey, Fido, would you like a glass of cold water?’ You might think no one ever asked such a question, but they did. Well, not exactly asked, but quite close.
In 2005, a group of Australian scientists published the conclusions of an experiment meant to establish what sort of water do dogs prefer.
Each day, the canine volunteers were presented with three bowls of water – one with cold water (4°C), one with water at room temperature (24°C) and a third with warm water (40°C).
There were no changes in the placement of the bowls to influence the dogs in any way. The experiment showed that given a choice most dogs would prefer cold water, no matter the outside temperature or other external factors.
Just a few dogs went straight to the bowl with water at room temperature. Those who chose warm water were a minority and they had one thing in common, they all tended to have a lower than normal core body temperature.
Should dogs drink cold water in the summer and warm water in the winter?
The Australian experiment proved that dogs are smart enough to drink something warm when they’re cold, but should you do that with your dog?
A healthy dog should not have any problem regulating his body temperature in winter or in summer. Dogs do not sweat like humans do, through the skin. Instead, dogs have sweat glands in their paws to eliminate warmth and they use panting as a cooling mechanism.
Their coat, short or long, keeps them warm in winter, but cool in summer, so you needn’t worry too much about your dog even on a hot day.
Basically, the temperature of the water should not make much of a difference.
However, this is where common sense should kick in. Just as humans want something cold to drink on a hot day and feel that it cools us down a bit, your dog would also appreciate some cold water. How cold, that depends on your dog’s preferences, because they do have preferences, just as the experiment showed.
Many pet owners give their dogs ice cold water or put ice chips in the dog’s water bowl. If the dog laps it up you’ll know that he enjoyed it, just as he probably enjoys playing with a frozen toy.
You might have come across articles saying that ice water is dangerous for dogs and can even kill them, but that’s just an urban myth.
The idea behind this story is that ice cold water might cause bloating, and this is linked to Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus, which is indeed a very serious condition and can be fatal.
However there are no studies proving that very cold water can cause GDV, but drinking or eating very fast might indeed pose a risk.
Bottom line, if a dog drinks some cold water it won’t cause any problem. What you should focus instead is whether the dog likes it, as it is important to keep your pet well hydrated at all times, and especially in hot weather.
However, putting ice cubes in the dog’s water is not a good idea as they pose a choking risk. Give him water from the fridge or put some ice chips in it.
As for warm water, that might be a good idea on chilly days, provided the dog doesn’t find it funny. If your dog usually drinks water at room temperature he might find it odd that his water is now warm and refuse to drink it. If he does that, apologize for the inconvenience and give him his normal water back.
In any case, under no circumstances should you give your dog hot water or any other hot drinks. A dog’s mouth and esophagus are pretty sensitive and they could easily get scalded by the hot water.
Tap water vs distilled water. Which is best for our dogs?
A dedicated pet owner would do anything to keep their pooch safe, including buying special water for the dog, but is that necessary? No, not really.
The rule of thumb that applies in this case is that if you’re OK drinking tap water, you should give it to your dog, too. Obviously, that depends on the quality of the water in your area.
If there’s too much fluoride or chlorine in your tap water it might not be very safe for your dog, but it’s not very safe for you either. If you’re using tap water, see that it is filtered.
As for distilled water, that’s completely unnecessary and potentially harmful long term.
Distilled water lacks minerals completely and drinking only that will lead to an electrolyte imbalance, which can pose serious health risks.
Bottom line, the most important thing is that the water your dog drinks is fresh and clean. Never allow your dog to drink water from puddles or lakes as it might contain various pathogens. Change the water in his bowl every day and make sure to wash the bowl each time.
Can dogs drink warm tea, or milk or coffee?
If your dog seems to enjoy warm water there’s no reason why you shouldn’t give him some warm tea or milk, but definitely no coffee, as it is dangerous to dogs because of its caffeine content. Also, keep in mind that most decaffeinated coffees still contain traces of caffeine that your dog doesn’t need.
Obviously, never offer your pet not even a sip of an alcoholic beverage, not even beer.
As far as tea is concerned, never give your dog green or black tea as they also have caffeine. Try herbal teas, like chamomile or peppermint which also help with digestion.
Milk is generally safe for dogs, but only drank in moderation and if your dog is not lactose intolerant. Never fill your dog’s bowl with milk, but a little bit once in a while won’t harm your dog.
What else can I give my dog to drink apart from water?
A dog only needs water to stay hydrated. Store-bought fruit juices usually contain added sugars, which are bad for your dog. On the other hand, if you’re making fresh orange or apple juice, your dog can totally have a few sips, but not more as it might upset his stomach.
How do you hydrate a dog that won’t drink?
If your dog is unwell and refuses to drink water, consider this as an emergency and try to get him to have a few sips every hour to keep him hydrated. If he refuses his regular water, try adding chicken broth to his bowl and he might find the flavor more enticing.
Another useful trick is to take a bit of sauce from his favorite canned food and stir it in the drinking water.
If the dog still refuses to drink, use a syringe without a needle or a turkey baster to squirt some water into his mouth.
What is the best way of warming up a cold dog?
If your dog spent too much time out in the cold, there’s a risk he might develop hypothermia so you need to warm him up quickly. Here’s what you can do:
Put a blanket on a radiator for a few minutes, then wrap your dog in it.
Prepare a warm water bottle for your dog. Don’t use scalding water as your dog might chew through the bottle and burn himself.
Give him something warm to drink, water, tea or milk.
Can dogs drink too much water?
Water is essential for a dog, just as it is for any other animal. Too much water can pose significant health risks. You might have heard of water poisoning, and this can happen to dogs, too, although it is rare that a dog would drink enough water to make him sick.
However, keep in mind that drinking too much water can lead to dangerous electrolyte imbalances in the body. The most serious problem is hyponatremia, which translates as dangerously low levels of sodium in the blood. This can lead to water infiltrating the cells, and making them swell. Should this swelling occur in the dog’s brain cells this can cause brain damage or even death.
Warm water poses no health risks to a dog, if he happens to like it. It can even help warm up a dog who spent too much time in the cold. However, studies show dogs prefer cold water and you should offer your pet some on a hot day. Even ice cold water can be good, provided there are no ice cubes in it.
Being well-hydrated is essential to your dog’s health, but keep in mind dogs do not need a variety of drinks, like we do. Herbal teas are OK, but milk should only be given in moderation. Never give your dog any caffeinated or alcoholic drinks.