What type of water is best for pets?

Dog and cat nutrition is a popular topic of discussion. However, equally important, and less often discussed is the other thing your pet ingests every day: water. 

Many people think that a Brita or a basic fridge filter provide a good source of filtered water. Some owners give bottled spring water to their pets. All of these are fine but also have drawbacks. These types of water may not be as clean as we would hope.

Let’s take a look at some popular water options and why you may want to think twice about giving them to your pet and drinking them yourself.

Tap Water:  

The most common type of water to give pets comes out of the kitchen faucet. There are a few problems with tap water. Depending on where you live, tap water can vary in quality. Even if the water is disinfected, recent studies have found pharmaceuticals as well as possible endocrine disrupting compounds in tap water. People often discard unused medication and pharmaceuticals into the toilet, not thinking about where it will end up. Some sewage water is cleaned, disinfected and recycled back into our tap water. While this process does do a good job cleaning the water, it does not remove pharmaceutical contaminants. In addition to that, ingested medications not fully utilized by the body are also excreted into the toilet which goes to the sewage and then also ultimately ends up in our water supply. 

Other common contaminants in tap water include chloride, fluoride, chromium-6 as well as the herbicide- Glyphosate, or Roundup. All of these are routinely found in tap water.

You can use this resource to find out what’s in your local tap water (if you live in the United States): https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/

Some pets prefer their “tap water” to come directly from the toilet. You don’t need an article from a vet to tell you why that might not be ideal. 🙂

For all of these reasons, I would avoid giving tap water to your pets on a regular basis. 

Brita (or other similar carbon-based filtered) water:

Many people believe that a Brita filter, or a common carbon filter found at a big box retailer such as Walmart or Target, meets the definition of “filtered water.”

Brita actually does a poor job removing the most common heavy metals, such as lead, uranium, and arsenic. And for some unknown reason, aluminum levels in water increase when you use a Brita filter. Some say that Brita and similar filters are mainly helpful in improving the taste. They remove the chlorine in the water by changing it to the less harmful chloride

Out of all the major brand water filters, it appears that ZeroWater might perform the best when it comes to removing heavy metals such as lead as well as in removing pharmaceuticals.  The reason “ZeroWater” is named so is because it is supposed to bring the TDS, or “total dissolved solids” down to zero. However, there are some problems with removing all the dissolved solids. I thought that this article did a good job explaining them:

“The inherent problem with 0 TDS or demineralized water is that it’s eager to absorb like a dry sponge. Once your water passes through a ZeroWater filter or RO membrane, it’s ready to suck up carbon dioxide in the air, which converts to carbonic acid. For this reason, plain reverse osmosis water is normally somewhat acidic. ZeroWater is the same in this regard. ZeroWater states in its FAQ that its water may start to taste acidic or fishy at the end of the filter life.” Link to full text

While “filtered” water using one of these carbon based filtration system may help a little, be aware that significant levels of heavy metals and pharmaceuticals may still be present.

Bottled Water:

Some people like to give their pets bottled spring water, hoping that this is a clean and healthy source of water for them.

However, there are a few problems with bottled water. One report found that 25% of bottled water is basically purified tap water. On top of that, plastic water bottles, even those that are BPA-free, can leach chemicals into the water when exposed to prolonged periods of heat. Since we can’t control where and how the water was stored before it arrived at the place where we bought it, we can’t be sure that leached chemicals are not already in the water. Many of these chemicals are endocrine disruptors.

Another issue with plastic is that according to some estimates, it takes 450 years for a plastic water bottle to decompose. As many of you are aware, plastic bottles are one of the main sources of waste affecting our oceans and our planet. Recycling does little to help this as even the plastic that you place in your recycling bin, a lot of it may still end up in landfills.

If you are going to give your pet bottled water, it is best to give water stored in glass containers. However, this type of water will be more expensive and perhaps only suitable if you have a cat or small dog. 

Mountain Valley is one of the higher quality spring waters available, although it is a little pricey and not for everyone’s budget (I have no connection to the company- I just think they have high quality water.) This might be an option to consider giving occasionally.

Reverse Osmosis Water:

Reverse osmosis is a process that removes impurities and dissolved solids in water. Many people have installed reverse osmosis filters in their homes. While removing impurities is a good thing, there are similar problems with these filters as with the ZeroWater filters. For one, drinking water with no dissolved solids can make the water acidic. I will talk about acidic vs. alkaline water for pets in a future post, but spoiler alert – acidic water is not great for us or for our pets. On top of it, reverse osmosis water acts like a sponge and can pull minerals out of the body.

Some people add minerals back into the water to decrease this problem. However, I worry that we don’t know the right amounts and what exact minerals are best to add back into water to make up for these losses. We are trying to recreate what nature creates: a river that picks up and absorbs minerals from rocks and dirt as it moves along its path. Are we able to truly recreate this with minerals added back to reverse osmosis water? I do not know.

Reverse osmosis water is quite also wasteful – losing anywhere from 50-75% of the water during the filtration process. This is not a great option for those of us living in more desert and low-water climates, such as in California. For these reasons, I generally do not recommend reverse osmosis water.

So what water is best?

In all of my research on this topic, I have settled on the Berkey Filter as the best and most cost effective filter available on the market today. While the initial investment in buying one of these units is a little higher (~$200-$300), these filters have a long lifespan with inserts that only need to be changed every 2-5 years depending on usage. They also allow you to use tap water as your main water source.

Interestingly enough, the Berkey can even be used to filter dirty river water. Not only does it filter out sediment and rust, but it also removes bacteria, cysts, viruses, parasites, heavy metals, contaminants, pharmaceuticals and chemicals. It comes with a separate fluoride filter as well.

The nice thing about this filter is that it does not remove healthy minerals. By retaining the minerals, this decreases the chances of mineral leaching from the body. By leaving the good minerals and taking out chlorine, it also helps improve the taste.

You can buy Berkey on amazon or through various distributors. I do not sell them, but here is an affiliate link to one you can buy on amazon.

(Click here to learn about affiliate links).

And so at this time, when it comes to water for pets (and for you), I would choose the Berkey filter as the healthiest option for clean drinking water.

This is a topic that interests me. I will update this article if I learn about other water filters that have a good track record of removing toxins while leaving healthy minerals. Feel free to leave a comment if you know of options to consider!

In the next post on this topic we will cover Alkaline water- is it good for pets? Stay tuned and sign up for the mailing list if you want to be updated when new posts are up!

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