Can Hard Water Harm Your Dog? - Dogs Naturally (2024)

What’s in your dog’s water bowl?

If you’re giving your dog straight, untreated tap water to drink, it could affect her health …

… especially if she’s prone to urinary issues.

A recent study by veterinary medical insurance company Trupanion suggests there could be a direct link between hard water and urinary health issues in pets.

What Is Hard Water?

Hard water is water with a high mineral content. These minerals are usually calcium and magnesium.

The following chart from the International Journal of Preventive Medicine shows the difference in mineral content between hard and soft water.

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The main minerals causing hard water are calcium and magnesium. Calcium and magnesium are minerals that are important to your dog’s health … so you may wonder what the problem is.

Is Hard Water Good Or Bad?

There’s been controversy about hard water for years and it gets really confusing if you try to research it online.

Over the years, experts have raised concerns about hard water and its impact on a variety of health issues including heart disease, fertility, Alzheimer’s disease, digestive issues and eczema.

Many formal studies just find that the evidence is inconclusive. This is partly because it’s really hard to isolate water from other factors that influence health, so scientists are reluctant to say that hard water itself causes (or prevents) disease.

A report on Hardness in Drinking Water by the World Health Organization (WHO) concludes that hard water doesn’t adversely affect health, and that the magnesium in hard water may even “have a protective effect on cardiovascular mortality.”

Some articles say hard water is neither harmful nor helpful … but it’s a nuisance because the minerals can build up in your plumbing, it prevents shampoos and soaps from lathering and makes your clothes stiff when you wash them in it!

Most holistic vets recommend giving your dog filtered or bottled water rather than straight tap water, but that’s primarily to avoid chemicals like fluoride that can be very damaging to your dog’s health.

But now, Trupanion has done some analysis that shows there may be a correlation between hard water and urinary health issues in pets.

About The Study

It started when Trupanion noticed they were paying a high amount of medical claims for urinary issues in both cats and dogs. Cats are particularly prone to these issues, with 40% higher probability of urinary issues than dogs.

But dogs also suffer from urinary ailments so this is important information for you as a dog owner too.

When their in-house vets suggested that drinking water could be a factor in urinary illness, and especially crystalluria (crystals in the urine), Trupanion decided to dig a little deeper into their data.

So they mapped out hard water areas across the US, then mapped out their medical payments for urinary issues and compared the two.

Water hardness is expressed in grains of calcium carbonate per gallon (gpg), which is 1 grain (64.8 mg) of calcium carbonate dissolved in 1 US gallon of water.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ratings for hard water are:

Extremely Hard: Greater than 14 gpg

Very Hard: 10 to 14 gpg

Hard: 7 to 10 gpg

Moderately Hard: 3 to 7 gpg

Slightly Hard: Less than 3 gpg

Here are Trupanion’s maps showing the results.

This first map shows the hard water areas across the US.

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Local water authorities are required to provide annual reports on water quality and chemical analysis. If you don’t know whether you have hard water or not, you can contact your local water supplier for the information.

The second map shows Trupanion’s claim payments for urinary conditions, overlaid across the hard water areas.

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The map shows that claim payments are high in areas such as Florida, Illinois, parts of Texas and Michigan. Payments in California were extremely high, at $465,000.

Other cities with “extremely hard” water include Miami, Chicago, Minneapolis, Detroit and Cincinnati.

Trupanion’s study concluded that in areas with extremely hard water ratings, cats – and especially male cats – were three times more likely to have urinary complications, especially crystalluria, than male cats in areas with water ratings of slightly hard, hard or very hard. The areas with most incidence were Santa Cruz and Thousand Oaks, CA, Springfield, MA, Long Island NY, Baltimore MD, Tampa FL and West Palm Beach FL.

While the rates of urinary issues in dogs are lower than in cats, dogs are not immune from these problems.

Urinary Health Issues

Dogs can often suffer from problems like urinary tract infections, incontinence, cystitis and crystalluria.

Female dogs are 2.5 times more likely than males to experience these illnesses.

Crystalluria – crystals in the urine – is the primary condition that Trupanion found can be aggravated by hard water.

While crystals in the urine don’t necessarily lead to kidney stones, they can sometimes be a warning sign that your dog may be at increased risk for struvite or calcium oxalate stones (the two most common types of stones in dogs).

Crystals can also irritate the bladder wall and lead to bladder or urinary tract infections.

According to Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) expert Dr Chris Bessent, dietary magnesium can be a contributor to the formation of crystals and struvite stones.

So it makes sense that high magnesium in hard water could increase the likelihood of your dog getting painful urinary crystals.

If you live in a hard water area, what should you do?

Avoiding Hard Water For Your Dog

Since most holistic vets recommend not giving dogs tap water because of chemicals like fluoride or chlorine and contaminants like heavy metals, the easy solution to avoiding hard water as well as other toxins is to give your dog filtered or bottled water.

If you opt to use bottled water for your dog, check your source carefully and do your research on the brand you choose. Some bottled waters have been found to contain chemicals and other contaminants.

A good place to start your research is with the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG)Bottled Water Scorecard 2011. Even though it isn’t completely up to date, EWG says that not much has changed since they published this report.

You can also buy water softening systems. These systems usually increase sodium in the water, while lowering the levels of calcium and magnesium.

Softening systems don’t remove other contaminants from the water. They work via a flushing or backwashing cycle that uses a lot of water and releases brine into the environment; some communities have banned them because of this.

Reverse osmosis filters may be a better way to eliminate contaminants as well as soften water.

Reverse osmosis units force water through a semi-permeable membrane under pressure, leaving contaminants and minerals behind. However, they are wasteful because they use approximately three times as much water as they treat.

There are also steps you can take to help protect your dog from urinary issues.

Herbs To Prevent Urinary Disease

Dr Chris Bessent recommends a variety of Chinese herbs to maintain bladder health. If you’d like to use any of these herbs, assume the dosing directions are for a 150 lb person and adjust for your dog’s weight.

Akebia is a flowering plant known for its draining and cooling abilities. It aids in eliminating damp heat from the bladder and promotes healthy urination.

Plantago seed promotes healthy bladder function and drain damp heat.

Rhubarb root is known for its natural ability to empty the system of waste. Its fiber content supports colon function along with healthy bowel movements.

Another supportive Chinese herb is rush pith. Besides clearing heat from different areas of the body, rush pith is a mild diuretic, which is especially helpful in treating painful dribbling.

Cranberries acidify the urine, making it an unfavorable environment for most types of bacteria to survive in. Cranberries can also attach to bacteria and prevent them from attaching to the bladder wall. Cranberries also contain salicylic acid, a natural anti-inflammatory.

D-mannose is a simple sugar that works similarly to cranberries by decreasing bacteria’s ability to stick to the bladder wall.

Dr Bessent also recommends you avoid feeding your dog grain carbohydrates which are high in magnesium.

A meat based diet, which is low in magnesium, promotes healthy bladder and urinary function.

Read more about bladder and urinary tract health in this article by Dr Bessent.

There’s still more research to be done before the effects of hard water on your dog’s health (and yours) are fully known.

But this new information from Trupanion suggests you should be cautious about what your dog drinks until more definitive information is available.

Can Hard Water Harm Your Dog? - Dogs Naturally (2024)


Can Hard Water Harm Your Dog? - Dogs Naturally? ›

Dogs aren't exactly free and clear from problems caused by the additional minerals in hard water, though.

Does hard water affect dogs? ›

Most experts believe that there is no major risk in giving dogs and cats hard water. While hard water does have elevated levels of minerals like magnesium, iron and calcium, there might not be any health impacts as a result of consuming higher levels than usual.

What type of water is best for dogs? ›

Other types of water like spring water that has undergone filtration or well water from your faucet should be your dog's main water source as they provide minerals and nutrients like magnesium and calcium.

Is it bad to give dogs tap water? ›

In short – your pet should be able to drink the same water you do, tap, filtered or other.

Should I give my dog tap water or bottled water? ›

Bottled water is safe to share with cats and dogs. Opt for spring water or bottled tap water varieties. Some veterinarians, including those at the Locust Valley Veterinary Clinic, are skeptical of the quality of distilled water for pets and its effects on urinary and cardiac health.

How does hard water affect pets? ›

In most cases, experts say giving your pets hard water probably won't cause any problems. The minerals in hard water (calcium, magnesium, and iron) shouldn't lead to any health issues.

What are the side effects of hard water? ›

Hard water can cause dry skin and dry hair that doesn't feel silky. It may feel like you're washing the soap away, but hard water does not remove soap from your body. This causes the soap to be left behind, absorbing the natural moisture and oils from your skin.

What is the safest water for dogs to drink? ›

Though the controversies regarding tap water may have been exaggerated in many cases, it's safer for your dog to drink filtered tap water over direct tap water or bottled water. The bottom line is if you won't drink that water then don't give it to your dog either.

Is hard or soft water better for dogs? ›

Animal experts agree that serving hard water is safe because the minerals present do not cause any known health issues. But, in certain cases, a veterinarian may advise a dog owner to avoid serving untreated tap water to their pets.

Should I put anything in my dogs water? ›

Owners can improve their dog's water intake by adding flavor. You might sneak in a tablespoon of low-sodium chicken or beef broth. Stir in some sugar-free peanut butter powder without xylitol. Mix in a few drops of lactose-free white milk.

Do dogs need filtered water? ›

Yes! In fact, filtered water is ideally what you should be giving your dog to protect them from potentially harmful contaminants. This may be especially recommended if you live in an area without safe tap water. Once it has been filtered, water still has the minerals that your pup needs.

Why dogs should drink filtered water? ›

Quality filtered water is fresh and free of contaminants and our pets like the taste of it too. Water carries important nutrients in and out of the cells of your pet's body, helping it to digest and absorb them. In fact, water is the single most important factor in your pet's proper nutrition.

Should you free water your dog? ›

Julie and our team recommend providing clean water and free access to your puppy throughout the day to keep them hydrated. However, you'll need to supervise their water intake. Can a puppy go 8 hours without water? Most adults dogs can go up to 8 hours without water.

How do you make tap water safe for dogs? ›

6 ways to make tap water safe for your dog
  1. Boiling. This first option is one of the simplest and best-known methods. ...
  2. Standard filtering. Filtered water helps remove contaminants of a more mineral type. ...
  3. Distillation. Distilled water is water in its purest form. ...
  4. Natural filtering. ...
  5. Fountain drinking bowls. ...
  6. Quality test.
Oct 11, 2022

What Can dogs drink instead of water? ›

So, what can dogs drink besides water? You can add some Pedialyte, coconut water, fresh fruit or vegetable juice, unsalted broth, and nut milk to their liquid intake. Your pup will love new beverages as a treat!

Should I boil tap water before giving it to my dog? ›

Veterinarian, Dr. Mary Manspeaker with The Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County says it's likely any waterborne contaminant that could hurt us could also hurt our four-legged friends. She recommends either boiling water for your pet's bowl or filling it with bottled water.

Can hard water make dogs itch? ›

Hard water absorbs magnesium and other minerals, like calcium, from the soil or stony outcrops near the water's source. Tap water high in minerals can cause wear and tear on your appliances, but it can also contribute to dry hair and skin, giving pets a severe case of itchy skin.

Is hard water safe for animals? ›

Is Hard Water Safe for Cats and Dogs? According to most experts, giving your pet hard water shouldn't cause them any health issues. The consumption of minerals in hard water such as calcium, iron, and magnesium shouldn't be harmful to your pet.

Can dogs get bladder stones from hard water? ›

Dogs aren't in the clear, however. While dogs don't develop kidney stones from hard water, they can be exposed to struvite or calcium oxalate stones. These stones can harm the bladder and lead to your dog getting a urinary tract infection.

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