Featured ingredient part one: Water
Water and oxygen have something in common, they are both vital for life as we know it. Yet, oxygen is the invisible ingredient of the air around us that we rarely, if ever, think about except when there’s not much of it around. For example when stuck in a small room with lots of
other people, or when climbing a high mountain. Water is a bit like that too because it’s all around us and it’s so common that as to be almost invisible. We wash in it every day, get wet in it when it rains and cool off in it when we’re hot. And it’s in everything we eat and drink as well, yet it’s role as a vital nutrient is often overshadowed by the mighty proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. In this edition of the ‘featured ingredient’ we will celebrate the wonders of water and reinstate its importance in the everyday health, vitality and happiness of our pets and all living things.
H-O-H, or H2O. 1 atom of oxygen and 2 atoms of hydrogen. That’s water and as much as 80% of your pet’s body weight is made of it if he is lean and muscular. Pets with more body fat have relatively less water accounting for around 60% of body their weight. What on earth does all this water actually do? The answer is that it does far more than you may be aware of. Here is a list of some of water’s most important functions in the body.
Your pet’s shape, and good looks, are formed and maintained by water, dehydrated animals lose their shape.
All moving parts of the body such as joints are lubricated and kept supple by water-based fluids.
Water keeps your pet’s mucous membranes moist and healthy so he can see, smell and taste. It is also a vital part of respiration and exchange of gases in the lungs as your pet breathes.
Water pads and protects your pet’s brain, nerves and vital organs.
Everything your pet eats, drinks and breathes is full of chemicals which have to be transported around the body to where they can be used.
Body water is the solvent that does this quickly and efficiently. Body water can carry hundreds of different chemicals dissolved into it all at the same time. Likewise, body waste is removed from the body dissolved in water to form urine and in faeces as well.
Many vital chemical reactions in the body rely on hydrolysis, transformations in water driven by enzymes. The digestion of food, the building, repair and maintenance of muscles, organs and other tissues, and the production of energy all rely on hydrolysis reactions.
Water has a high specific heat capacity which means that it acts like a storage radiator, taking up heat to keep your pet cool and releasing heat to keep your pet warm. Body water also acts as a heat buffer that maintains a constant core body temperature at times when you pet is generating a lot of heat, for example while running around playing with a ball, at agility, or competing at a canicross competition. When your pet is active, he also needs to loose excess heat through evaporation of water, particularly from the mucous membranes of the mouth and tongue. As water has a high latent heat of vaporisation, a great deal of heat can be lost through the evaporation of a relatively small quantity of water.
Always ensure that all pets have plenty of fresh, clean drinking water available at all times. Because of the vulnerability of cats in particular to developing diseases that are associated with, among many other factors, not drinking enough water, here are some tips that may help.
Cats are very sensitive to the taste and presentation of their water.
Drinking water should always be fresh.
Generally cats prefer ceramic water bowls, although well-maintained stainless steel bowls are also fine, but can be noisy and move easily on solid, tiled floors. Plastic bowls can be easily damaged and prone to harbour bacterial deposits and other contaminants which taint the taste of the water.
Deeper, wider water bowls are often preferred so the cat's whiskers do not touch the sides of the bowl whilst the cat is drinking.
Cats may prefer a water bowl that is washed and filled several times a day.
Many cats are attracted to running sources of water and many varieties of commercial water fountains are now available. Alternatively, a tap left dripping near to the drinking bowl can encourage some cats to drink more.
Water and food bowls should always be positioned in a quiet place and well away from litter trays. Never place the water and food bowls together.
Water bowls should be positioned in open areas in order to give the cat a wide field of vision whilst drinking. This can help simulate wild felid behaviour where cats prefer to be able to see what is around them while drinking water.
Placing multiple water stations around the house can encourage cats to drink more because they are more likely to find a water bowl which they are comfortable to drink from.
Dr. Robert Falconer-Taylor BVetMed DipCABT MRCVS
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