All animals need water to survive. Specifically, in the case of dogs, fresh water is needed on a daily basis. Often, this water comes from wells and city water, which contains high amounts of dissolved minerals such as calcium and magnesium. This type of water is known as hard water. Hard water contributes to mineral build up in sinks, drains, and even pet dishes over time. Conversely, soft water is tap water which has been filtered to eliminate many of the minerals. Soft water is considered safe for dogs to drink as well, but there are things to consider before putting your animal on a soft water diet such as the taste, sodium content, and frequency of bathing.
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Taste of soft water for dogs
Water softeners installed in homes remove minerals from hard water and replace them with salt, specifically sodium ions, which is why the process is called an ion exchange. Even though the amount of sodium content is very low, some people and pets might be able to register a salty taste. Although this doesn't impact the water's quality, one thing that pet owners should watch for if they're feeding such water to their dogs is a decrease in water consumption.
Some dogs dislike the taste of soft water, and, in turn, tend to drink less of it. This can have a negative effect on a dog's health as the regular consumption of water is part of the foundation to a healthy life. However, many dogs prefer the taste of soft water, increasing hydration. Note also that pet bowls will appear cleaner, especially stainless steel or ceramic bowls — both preferable to plastic bowls which can harbor bacteria or cause allergic skin reactions.
Health effects of soft water for dogs
Soft water contains a greater concentration of sodium compared to hard water. While a little more sodium isn't typically a big deal in a dog's diet, it can be harmful for dogs whose breeds have a tendency to develop cardiovascular problems, or for dogs that have a history of cardiovascular issues. Generally speaking, the more sodium one consumes, the higher one's blood pressure gets and the more at-risk this person is for heart disease. Dogs are no exception.
Bathing dogs in soft water
Soft water can have an impact on a dog's life beyond consumption. For example, one benefit of soft water is in regard to bathing. Dogs who bathe in soft water tend to have healthier and cleaner looking coats of fur. This is because there are fewer minerals in soft water, compared to hard water, and thereby less mineral build-up on a dog's coat and hair follicles when you're giving him a bath.
Many dog grooming services offer bathing services with soft water. Soft water helps balance pH levels and requires less rinsing, saving both time and shampoo.
Switching from hard to soft water
If you're looking to make the switch from hard to soft water in your dog's diet, it's best to do it gradually. This is because a dog's stomach is used to hard water and the excess minerals and such it's made up of. A sudden change could upset the dog's stomach and cause diarrhea until the animal gets used to it.
While all dogs are different, it's generally recommended that you begin the transition by mixing soft water in with hard water and gradually phasing the hard water out of the bowl. Then simply monitor how much water your dog consumes and if the amount changes significantly. Clean bowls are also important, because dogs are very sensitive to smell resulting from bacteria growth.