Pets are part of the family, and just like human members of the family, pets need access to clean water. But what kind of water is best for your furry friends?
Softened water is harmless for most pets to consume. The usual exception is certainly exotic, tropical, or decorative fish. According to the EPA, soft water is safe for animals, but not fish.
Some animals may be sensitive to hard or softened water if they have a chronic health condition. For example, swimmers may notice dry skin after swimming in chlorine pools. This happens because of an overly alkaline pH level in the pool’s water that irritates pets’ skin and hair.
If your pets drink softened water and you notice their bodies or fur become dry, this may indicate that they need a change in their diets. Your pets may also develop dry skin if their coats get too much exposure to chlorine from city tap water or dish soap.
It is also important to be aware of the chemical composition of any supplements such as vitamins and minerals that you give your pets – some minerals can cause adverse reactions when mixed with certain chemicals like salt.
Is water softener salt harmful to animals?
The salt crystals in water softener salts are not suitable for human or animal consumption. Small animals would be unable to ingest the salt crystals, and some water softener salts may contain hazardous chemicals that are harmful to pets.
If you know that your water is hard, and your pets normally drink tap water, they’re most likely already used to drinking hard water.
Be aware that some people choose to give their dogs or other pets filtered or distilled water. Ask your vet to be sure what’s best for your pet, and know that most animals can safely drink softened water.
You should avoid allowing your pets access to water that contains water softener salinity or any other chemicals that may have been introduced during the softening process, but there are no specific health risks associated with softened water.
Is softened well water safe for dogs?
Yes, soft water is safe for pets. According to research by the EPA and other environmental groups, such as Environmental Defense and Greenpeace, softened water is just as good for your pet’s health as normal tap water.
The key thing to remember when thinking about using softened water for your pet is that you should watch for any possible side effects. If your pet seems to be having an adverse reaction to the water, you can import water from another source.
A properly maintained and installed water softening system won’t introduce any significant amount of sodium or potassium into your water. Since these ions are the major components of salt and plant nutrients, your pet’s food will likely contain more sodium and potassium than your water supply.
Can a water softener make a dog sick?
A salt-softened system does not harm animals with an appropriate diet. However, if the animal is fed a low-sodium alternative diet due to a medical condition that requires a low sodium diet, then extra care must be taken in choosing the proper balance of minerals.
Although soft water is harmless for your pet, you should make the switch from hard water to soft water gradually. Changing from hard water to soft water can cause stomach upset in some animals.
It’s a good idea to mix the new water with the old until your pet acclimates, then gradually increase the amount of soft water until your pet is drinking only soft water.
Be sure that if you use softened water for your pets, there are no adverse side effects.
What are the side effects of drinking soft water?
Like hard water, drinking softened water on a regular basis can lead to buildup on your plumbing and appliances as well as packaged food products.
Soft water can also have a laxative effect if over-consumed, but this is more of a problem with the actual salt content of the water than with its “softness.” But overall, there are no adverse effects for humans or animals from using softened tap water.
What to look out for as a pet owner:
- If your pets are on a special diet, or if their coats get too much exposure to chlorine from city tap water or a chlorinated pool, you may want to get them drinking softened water.
- Chlorine can strip your pet’s coat of healthy oils and subsequently cause dryness, breakage and matting.
- Fish tanks are another concern for pet owners, since fish can be more sensitive to chemical changes in the water supply.
- However, if your pets are not on a special diet and are not particularly sensitive to chemicals in the home, they can drink softened water.
Emergency first aid
- If your pet is on a special diet and you’ve been giving him softened tap water, watch for signs of adverse side effects. If there are no adverse side effects, your pet should be fine to keep drinking the softened water.
- If you don’t know if your pet is on a special diet, watch for signs of dehydration.
Common symptoms include loss of skin elasticity, sunken eyes, and dry mouth and nose.
If your pet is showing any signs of dehydration, contact the veterinarian immediately. Dehydration in pets can lead to serious health problems, including renal failure.
Are there any health benefits or risks of drinking softened water?
According to some pet owners who had their pets drink only soft/distilled/filtered water for at least 3 months straight, they largely remain healthier than pets who drank only hard water.
The health benefits of softened water are largely anecdotal, but there are no significant risks associated with drinking soft or distilled water.
The important thing to bear in mind is that softened water does not have the same cleansing properties as hard water, so it’s important to keep your plumbing and appliances clean.
This is mainly because the minerals in hard water help to break down and flush out deposits of dirt, limescale, and other minerals that come from the pipes. Since softened water is much softer, it can leave dirt and minerals behind.
If you drink softened water (or any other type of softened water), make sure that you keep your pipes clean and clear of any scale buildup. If you’re not sure how to do this, contact a plumber.
Although the health benefits of softened water are largely anecdotal, there are no real risks associated with drinking soft or distilled water.
However, it’s important to consider the potential effects of softened water on your pets, especially if they have health problems.
If you do use a water softener, it’s advisable to check the salt level and water hardness periodically and to limit your pet’s exposure, even if it seems as though there are no detectable levels of salt.
If you have any doubts, ask your water company or veterinarian for guidance on how to best configure your system for use with pets.