Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What Water for Fido and Fluffy?

Keep your pets healthy with the right water
Most of us are dedicated to our pets and we treat them the same way we treat our kids. While we are aware of the food we give them, we’re less aware about the water they drink. We want them to lead long and healthy lives and it’s up to us to do all we can to make this a reality and that includes the water they consume on a daily basis. I was recently asked a series of questions about water and pets for a national pet website. I have expanded the scope of that here for your edification and your animal’s health, be that a cat, dog, bird, cow or anything else.

What are the dangers that could be in our tap water and how does that affect my pet?
First off, our tap/municipal water in the U.S. is of exceptional quality, for the most part. Sure there are contaminants we’ve all heard of that sound really bad - arsenic, lead, uranium and mercury for example, and these occur naturally in our soil. My greater concern for our water and the health of our pets are man-made toxins. Pesticides and herbicides, pharmaceuticals, and fluoride are the most widespread contaminants in our public water supply. This is not meant to induced fear – but responsible stewardship of our pets. Regarding pesticides the Environmental Protection Agency states: “The health effects of pesticides depend on the type of pesticide. Some, such as the organophosphates and carbamates, affect the nervous system. Others may irritate the skin or eyes. Some pesticides may be carcinogens.” Pharmaceuticals are known to be endocrine disruptors. According to the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, “Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife.” And then there is excessive fluoride (which is both naturally occurring and man made). About 70% of the public water supply in America is fluoridated and fluoride is known to affect bone health and bone stability. The Environmental Working Group has advised dog owners to, “avoid dog foods containing chicken by-product meal, poultry by-product meal, chicken meal, beef and bone meal, turkey meal and lamb meal. The ‘meal’ often contains ground bone that is the source of fluoride that farmed animals accumulate.” However, more and more pet food companies are increasingly aware of what they put in pet food and there are many positive changes happening. Read labels carefully. Question your pet food maker if you have concerns.

Jasper and Toby get only bottled water
Do home filters like Britta and Pur take out the bad stuff?
Typical home water filters deal with only basic contaminants, typically around 10-15 constituents, and many only reduce contaminants, they don’t necessarily remove them. There are some very good but expensive filters on the market that will fully (99.99%) remove certain constituents, but you need to do your research to find out which ones. Basic filters like Britta are great for making water taste better and filtering out sediments, but do little else. Other more comprehensive filters tackle more substantial contaminants. There are some filters which remove giardia and cryptosporidium (bacteria from fecal matter often found in rivers and streams) so you may want to consider a travel filter that removes these bacteria if you are outdoor with your dogs a lot, say traveling across the country, or if you take your dog camping. Also, just like with human, don’t let your dog into the ocean after heavy rains as storms cause unsafe runoff into the oceans.

Pet food companies, like what I buy for my cats are using better water and better ingredients
Dogs survive on tap water everyday, and most live a long time. How high is the danger?
The issue with our dogs, all animals frankly, is the accumulation of toxic build up in their bodies over time, and since there are no viable long-term studies of this it’s really hard to know. Chances are the amounts of containments in our water aren’t all that dangerous in small doses, but the growing amount of them in our water is. There are about 60,000 different chemicals used in the U.S. currently, yet less than 1% of those are screened for public water testing. I am concerned with lack of funding for proper testing, lack of oversight, and lack of strict regulation (more to the point it’s about enforcement) concerning public water supplies, and the vast and growing amount of toxins in our water. Additionally, the biggest issue with tap water is not the clean water the treatment plant sends us via our tap, it’s the piping systems which are problematic – a majority of water pipes in the U.S are well over 80 years old, specifically in the eastern part of the country. This is where bacteria can live and pose a threat. Therefore much of our tap water poses a risk due to bacteria that gets in these pipes.

Whether filter or bottled water, every country offers many choices
What is your best recommendation when it comes to water for my pets?
Dogs and cats, like us, are predominately made of water, about 70% in fact. And just like humans they need to keep hydrated. On average a dog should be drinking a ½ ounce to one-ounce of water per day per pound of body weight; with cats the general rule of thumb is ¼ to ½ ounce per pound of body weight per day. Yeah, just try and make that happen! Wet food is a source of moisture whereas dry food means your pet will need to find water somewhere else. As a water expert (not a pet expert) filtered water or pure spring bottled water is ideal and what I always recommend. I give my cats, Toby and Jasper, bottled water which lessens the potential risks in tap water, be that hard or soft water. You need to first know what exactly is in your water, and then chose the correct filter for you. For example, in the Western and Central U.S. there are higher concentrations of nitrates (from farming) and hexavalent chromium (more pervasive due to sandier soil types), and in the Southeast there tends to be greater concentrations of arsenic, mercury, and lead because of more industry, like coal mining. Ask for your Consumer Confidence Report/Water Quality Report from your municipal water supplier which will tell you what and how much of something is in your tap water. Then use that information to tailor a home filter for you. It’s important to purchase a filter that is NSF certified, and not be brand loyal. Many companies make a wide range of filters at various price points, some certified, and some not, even within their own line of filters. It’s about getting the best filter for you and your pet, not the cheapest nor the most popular model.

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