Rain, snow, sleet, hail, gropple (yes, there really is such a weather term!) all forms of water, more precisely precipitation at one locale or another during winter. The tendency may be to think that our pets have decreased water needs in winter. The fact is they need fluids in the depths of winter just as in the height of summer. Frigid air and heated homes result in loss of hydration. Freezing temperatures can even pull the moisture right out of wet laundry! So I thought I would revisit the third Naturopathic Law of Health – Water.
This is the first truly cold winter with animals in our care (as adults, anyway.) It’s a learning experience!
Although the dogs seem to enjoy eating snow as much as they love playing in it, snow should never be the main source of water for any animal. It lowers their body temperature thereby increasing their need for feed to keep warm; and they simply can’t fill their water needs in that form, period. Have you ever melted a big pot of snow to see how much water you get in the end? Barely a fraction of what you collected! We keep our dogs’ water bowl inside the house filled at all times. They drink as much at 10 degrees F as at 100 degrees. Kitty shares the bowl with them so I have to makes sure there is always enough for her winter water consumption too, which seems to increase slightly probably due to the dry wood-heated indoor air.
Cattle maintain a high need for water in winter. For one thing, they are eating hay which has very little moisture compared to fresh grass. Second, water is absolutely essential to healthy rumen function, thus complete nutrient usage as well as warmth. Third, a lot of water is needed for milk production. Oftentimes cow and calf visit the water trough two to three times more than the rest of the herd. Watering the herd in freezing temperatures is quite a challenge. We can’t bring them inside! A bovine can slurp down a couple gallons of water at a time! If the ice in the water trough is fairly thin they break it themselves, but on really cold days when it’s much thicker we need to help. Some folks utilize a tank heater and/or automatic waterer which can be real work savers. However, our Ranch uses little electricity (soon to be exclusively solar powered), so we have to think of alternative methods.
The same applies to our rabbit herd; winter water needs remain constant. Rabbits have an interesting instinct to adjust their water consumption rates in freezing temperatures. After we knock the ice out of a dish and refill with room temp water, they gulp it down and know to drink as much as possible before it freezes again. Smart bunnies!
Do the animals in your winter care a favor; always make sure they have plenty of fresh water. They’ll thank you for it with vitality and a happy disposition!
Good health to you!
Monthly Off-Grid Country Living Column by Krystal Beers. Visit Krystal’s website at EnglishShepherds.webs.com
and her blog at www.journeyintothecountry.blogspot.com.
Brought to you by Animal Naturopathy News Blog
PHOTO ATTRIBUTION: Photo of Great Dane puppy, Meshach by ACAN Co-Founder, Dr. Kim Bloomer.