Is Tap Water Safe for My Pet to Drink?

There have been multiple reports of tap water being unsafe for human consumption in certain cities. You may live in one of those cities, or not trust that your water supply is as clean as it should be.

A white little cat drinking water from a glass
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So instead of drinking from the tap, you buy bottled water and put a filter system on your faucet. You don't know what's in the water, and you don't want to take any risks when it comes to your health. But should you do the same for your pet? Perhaps Fido should be drinking Fiji water, too.

Are there risks associated with tap water?

You need water to live, and so do your pets. While you need eight glasses of water per day, your dog, for instance, needs one ounce of water per pound of body weight. Water helps your dog maintain a healthy body temperature, digest food and absorb nutrients.

If you have a cat, she needs 3.5–4.5 ounces of water per five pounds of body weight per day. Along with dogs and cats, birds and other types of pets should always have access to clean water when they need it.

But what constitutes clean water, especially in a time when it feels like the media is reporting on contaminated tap water so often?

Dog drinking water from a bowl - Jack Russell Terrier
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Usually, tap water in the United States is clean. The Environmental Protection Agency sets up standards for the water supply that must be strictly followed. When that fails—as it did in Flint, Michigan—humans and pets alike are at great risk.

The EPA may say your tap water is clean, but make sure you do outside research as well. For instance, look up reports on the cities with the worst tap water to see if yours made the list. Make sure you pay special attention to the lead levels that are reported. Contact your city council members to enquire about the quality of your tap water, and make sure you follow the local news for any updates on the tap water situation.

Giving tap water to your pet

If you're feeling uncomfortable about drinking your tap water because your city made the list, or because you found out about high lead levels in the water, you may want to refrain from giving it to your pet. Any water that is unsafe for humans is unsafe for pets as well.

However, generally speaking, if you live in the United States and have not read anything to the contrary, the tap water in your city should be safe for both you and your pet to drink.

Alternatives to tap water

If you need to, instead of giving you pet water directly from the tap, you can buy a filter or bottled water instead. Note, however, that bottled water generates much more waste and is not environmentally friendly. Also, the harmful chemicals in plastic may not be good for your pet, either. You should opt for a five-gallon refillable water jug instead. Preferably, the jug should be made of glass, not plastic, and you should be refilling it from a local clean source of water.

Two Golden Retriever Puppies Share Water Dish
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If you see that your pet likes filtered or bottled water more than tap water, then you're on the right track. Some vets may advise avoiding distilled water, for example, because it doesn't contain the necessary electrolytes and minerals that your pet needs to function.

Of course, you should always consult your veterinarian before switching over to a different kind of water. You want to make sure your pet is still going to be healthy and love the water he's drinking.