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Bernese Mountain Dog drinking water

The essentials

  • Bone broth dates back ages — It’s made by simmering an animal’s bones and connective tissues, a practice that dates back to prehistoric times.
  • It may help picky eaters or those suffering from dehydration, but research is limited — Bone broth is a mild, liquid-based product that even pets with upset stomachs can usually tolerate. But no scientific evidence proves that bone broth provides pets with health benefits or nutrients.
  • Not all bone broth is safe for pets — Some ingredients in broth intended for humans could potentially be toxic to your pet, including onions and garlic in highly-concentrated forms such as powders. This can lead to vomiting and the breakdown of your pet’s healthy red blood cells, causing them to become anemic.

Reasons you might give your pet bone broth

To entice your picky eater. If your pet is a picky or poor eater, you may be able to stimulate their appetite with a bone broth topper. This product is a dry powder made of bone broth that can be sprinkled on top of your pet’s food to encourage them to eat. However, bone broth toppers should be used with caution, especially if your pet has certain medical conditions. Before trying one, make sure to talk to your vet about an appetite stimulant or prescription food your pet might like more than their current option.

To get elderly dogs or cats to eat. Senior dogs and cats sometimes eat less than they once did and need something more enticing. Again, your vet may recommend easing your pet into a different kind of pet food or trying an appetite stimulant before opting for a bone broth topper.

To encourage sick dogs to eat. If your pet is sick, it’s important to first take them to your local vet to get them the tests and treatments they need. Bone broth can encourage a sick pet to eat, but it can also exacerbate certain conditions and illnesses, so it likely won’t be your vet’s first course of action. If your pet is dehydrated from vomiting or diarrhea, bone broth mixed in with their food or water could encourage them to drink more fluids. But it’s important to check with your vet before making any changes to your pet’s diet.

To boost hydration. If your dog or cat is not drinking enough water to ensure healthy hydration, bone broth toppers can be added to their food to improve its palatability or to their water to encourage fluid intake.

👉 Remember: Picky eaters are different from dogs or cats who suddenly stop eating, which can be a sign something more serious is wrong. Always consult your vet when you notice changes in your pup’s mealtime behavior.

When NOT to give your pet bone broth 

  • Pets with allergies. Bone broth and bone broth toppers shouldn’t be given to pets with certain food allergies.
  • Pets on prescription diets. Bone broth toppers could prevent some prescription diets, such as a urinary diet to treat bladder stones, from working properly.
  • Pets with kidney disease. Bone broth and bone broth toppers should also not be given to cats or dogs with kidney disease. Since broth is high in protein, it can further damage their kidneys.
  • Pets trying to maintain a balanced diet. The contents of bone broth are often high in fat and can add unwanted calories to your pet’s diet.
  • Pets experiencing GI symptoms. The fat in bone broth can worsen GI symptoms, such as diarrhea and vomiting, and in some cases, lead to pancreatitis.

Keeping your pet healthy and properly hydrated

How much water should my pet drink?

Dogs should drink one ounce of water per pound of body weight every day, though this can vary depending on their size, age, and activity level. Young puppies need about a half cup of water every two hours. On an especially active day, your pup may need even more.

Cats need to consume about four ounces of water per five pounds of lean body weight per day. The average 10-pound cat should drink about one cup of water daily.

What happens when my pet’s dehydrated?

Just like humans, water is an essential part of your pet’s health and body regulation. Water facilitates metabolic processes like digestion, breathing, blood flow, and brain activity. It also helps clear the body of harmful toxins while transporting oxygen and regulating your pet’s body temperature. Dehydration can lead to cardiac arrhythmias and neurological dysfunction, among other serious health issues. Without water, your pet’s vital organs simply can’t function the way they should.

What are the most common causes of dehydration?

Diseases that cause increased water loss, such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, or gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea, are common causes of dehydration. Pets with kidney disease in particular tend to urinate more often than healthy pets, which can lead to dehydration without proper water intake. In both cats and dogs, appropriate water intake can help by flushing out the kidneys and urinary tract . This ultimately helps waste products get excreted rather than building up and forming toxins in the bloodstream.

Other causes of decreased water intake may include lethargy, injury, impaired mobility, decreased appetite, dental issues, territorial issues with other animals in the household, and general lack of access to water.

Are cats or dogs more likely to get dehydrated?

Cats are more likely to become dehydrated than are dogs. Because cats are historically desert animals that evolved to get most of their moisture from their prey, they don’t instinctively drink water the way dogs do. They’re also a bit pickier and often benefit from a combination of dry and canned food to give them a boost of daily hydration.

Signs of dehydration in your pet

Head to the vet right away if you notice any of the following signs in your pet:

  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Poor appetite
  • Dry or tacky mucous membranes (the gums are usually the easiest place to look)
  • Eyes that appear sunken into their sockets
  • Decreased skin elasticity

👉 Tip: To check their skin elasticity, gently pick up your pet by the loose skin on the back of their neck and release it. If the tented skin goes down quickly, then your pet is likely hydrated. If it’s slow to do so, your pet is likely dehydrated. 

10 tips to prevent dehydration in your pet

  1. Use a water fountain — A water fountain can be beneficial when it comes to increasing water intake, especially for cats. A few vet-recommended cat water fountains include the PETLIBRO and Petsafe Drinkwell Platinum.
  2. Try moving their water bowl — If you notice your cat avoiding their water bowl, try moving it. They might just be sensitive to the sounds or smells in the original area.
  3. Place a water bowl next to their food — Keeping a water bowl next to your pet’s food can encourage them to drink more while eating. In fact, if you keep your cat’s kibble in a timed feeder with a water bowl right next to it, your cat will likely drink water while waiting for their food.
  4. Try changing your water dishes — For choosier cats, try switching out their food and water dishes for bowls of different sizes, shapes, and materials. You might be surprised by what they gravitate toward.
  5. Increase water access — Adding extra water bowls or allowing your pets to have access to water throughout the house can encourage them to drink. But, if you have trouble keeping track of water intake in a multipet household, you might want to make sure each pet has an assigned bowl.
  6. Wash water bowls and replace water frequently — This is especially true for cats, as they tend to be hypersensitive to the smell, taste, and temperature of their water. Try washing and changing their water bowls daily to avoid bacteria and keep their water fresh.
  7. Fill the water bowl to the top — Because cats’ whiskers are sensitive to touch, they may avoid a bowl that causes their whiskers to graze the water. To avoid that problem, consider filling their bowl to the very top. This tip also works for thirsty pups!
  8. Give your pet ice cubes — Dogs in particular love chewing on ice cubes. Giving your pet an ice cube to chomp on now and then may help increase their water intake.
  9. Try switching to or adding wet food — Wet food may be recommended to increase water intake, but you should consult your vet before making the switch from dry to wet food. For dogs, but especially puppies, dry kibble is generally regarded as the best option to help maintain healthy gums and prevent plaque buildup.
  10. Use bone broth as a hydrating treat — Mix cold or warm broth into your pet’s food or serve it on top of their favorite kibble as a way to add moisture to their diet. You can also add some broth to your pet’s water bowl to encourage them to drink. During the warmer months, try freezing bone broth into ice cubes for a summer day’s treat.

Our vet-approved recommendation

Bone broth toppers, which can be served with water or on top of your pet’s favorite dry food, can improve palatability and treat mild cases of dehydration. Before adding it to your pet’s meals, make sure to consult with your local vet to ensure the product you’re introducing is safe.

Native Pet’s Chicken and Beef Bone Broth Toppers are safe for your pets unless they have a food allergy to one of the ingredients or have a pre-existing condition such as kidney disease. Sick pets in need of a bland diet should avoid bone broth and should instead opt for specialized diets and vet-prescribed medication.

Is there such a thing as too much water?

Yes, but it’s not very common. Drinking too much water — also called water intoxication, hyperhydration, or water poisoning — can be a sign of more serious health issues, like diabetes or Cushing’s disease. Hyperhydration can occur when pets go swimming or when they play-bite streams of water like garden hoses or sprinklers. Toy breeds and small dogs are at greater risk than larger breeds because their small bodies have to work harder to get rid of excess water in their system.

What happens when my pet is hyperhydrated?

When your pet is overwhelmed with excessive hydration, blood sodium levels outside the cells can be depleted and force the body to rebalance itself by swelling and increasing fluid intake inside the cells. Not every organ, including the brain, can accommodate that swelling. If the pressure on the brain continues to increase and cells start to die off, this can lead to seizures, difficulty breathing, and can ultimately be fatal.

Signs of hyperhydration or water intoxication in your pet

  • Lethargy
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Stumbling and general loss of coordination
  • Bloating
  • Restlessness
  • Excessive drooling
  • Dilated pupils
  • Glazed eyes
  • Pale gums

🚨 If you notice signs of dehydration or hyperhydration in your pet, head to your vet’s office immediately.

Frequently asked questions

When and how should I give my pet bone broth?

Bone broth can be a useful addition to your pet’s meals if they are struggling to eat or are dehydrated. That said, if your pet isn’t eating, your vet will likely recommend a special diet or medication before they’d suggest giving your pet bone broth. To feed bone broth to your pet, try mixing some cold or warm broth into their food or serve it as a topping as a way to add moisture to dry kibble. You can also add broth to water to encourage water consumption. During the warmer months, freeze bone broth into ice cubes for a summer day’s treat.

Can I give my pet bone broth from the grocery store?

Most broths in grocery stores contain garlic and onion, which are toxic to cats and dogs. If the bone broths in your store are specifically intended for pet consumption and your pet would benefit from the product, then yes. However, it’s important to consult your vet before making changes to your pet’s diet.

Does bone broth upset a dog’s stomach?

Bone broth is generally mild enough that even dogs with upset stomachs can handle it. However, bone broth can be high in fat, which can worsen gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting, and in some cases, even lead to pancreatitis.

Does bone broth for dogs go bad?

Unopened cans of bone broth, when stored properly, can last for years after the best-by date, but both commercial and homemade products should not remain in the fridge for long. Once opened and refrigerated, store-bought broth is safe to consume for an estimated 4-5 days. It’s best to let homemade broth sit in the fridge for no more than 3-4 days. To avoid the issue of spoilage, we suggest using a bone broth topper rather than homemade or store-bought broth for your pup.

Is all bone broth safe for pets?

No. Not all commercial broth products are recommended for pets. You’ll want to check for ingredients that could potentially be toxic to your pup, including onions and garlic in highly-concentrated forms such as powders. This can lead to vomiting and break down healthy red blood cells.