We all know that an adequate water intake is important for the health and welfare of all animals. However, most people are completely unaware that how the water is offered is also important.
Posted: 19 March 2020
The consequences of getting it wrong can be significant, as a reduced water intake may lead to;
There are two common ways in which we supply drinking water. It’s either provided in an open dish or bowl or is offered in a bottle through a nipple drinker. There are some key differences between these two methods, so below we look at the pros and cons of both.
The main advantages of these are that they are readily available, inexpensive and easily cleaned. They also provide a very natural way of drinking for most species.
They do however have some disadvantages, such as;
In general, most rabbits prefer to drink from open dishes, even if they had been used to drinking from bottle drinkers before. They can also drink at a faster rate which ensures they stay hydrated.
Chinchillas have also been found to favour drinking from an open dish. However, there are some who think that by drinking from a bowl, there is a risk of their fur becoming wet and matted, which may lead to dermatitis. It’s therefore worth discussing this problem with an owner to alert them to check regularly.
These water containers are usually fitted to the side bars of the cage or enclosure, and so take up minimal space on the floor. They generally have a metal nipple which allows water to be consumed without leakage. Unlike bowls, they can’t be tipped over and spilled.
Drinking bottles are, however, a problem for some animals. Consuming water from a nipple isn’t a natural way to drink, and some animals need to be taught how to use them. The water is also harder to flow and drink at a fast rate, so some animals may not be able to drink enough for their needs. As the bottles are narrow, they can also be difficult to clean. In some studies, it’s also been found that faecal output can be less with bottle/nipple drinkers, resulting in the dry matter content of faeces being higher.
Overall, rats and guinea pigs seem to cope well with both bowls and drinking bottles, being able to meet their fluid requirements from either. It’s also possible that the end of the metal nipple drinkers can serve as a release for a frustrated gnawing and chewing rodent, thus offering some behavioural benefits.
With both systems, water restriction can occur in the following situations;
The water content of the food can also have an impact on water consumption. Whilst dry diets stimulate drinking, the total water intake is generally less than when animals are fed diets with a high-water content. The take home message is feed leafy greens to encourage drinking water.
It’s also found that when foods with a low moisture content are fed, water intake is higher with hay or high-fibre foods compared to low-fibre pellets or seed mixes. In other words, diets high in fibre seem to encourage water intake.