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How to Choose the Best Dog Water Dispenser

Alison is a freelance writer on health, nutrition, skincare, and pets, especially cats and dogs.

Dogs need a few basics in life to keep them happy and healthy. A warm, safe, loving home and a nutritious diet are vital, but when it comes to water, we often fall short of what our pets need.

Often, we just place a bowl of water for our dog and leave it until it needs refilling. During this time, it can become stale and possibly contaminated. However, by using a water fountain, your pet has access to cool, clear, fresh water at all times to keep him hydrated and healthy.

What Are the Benefits of Dispensers?

  • They ensure your dog does not contaminate his own drinking water supply.
  • They let you monitor your pet's fluid intake.
  • They help you keep your pet hydrated whilst traveling.
  • They give you a convenient way of providing your dog with a drink ‘on the go’.

Find the perfect dispenser for each of these situations with our guidelines and recommendations. Also, learn more about the health benefits of water dispensers for your dog, along with why they're more convenient for you—and why I especially recommend the Drinkwell pet water fountain range.

Recommendations at a Glance

SituationRecommended Product(s)

Indoor dog

Drinkwell Pet Fountain or water bottle and stand

Dog confined to crate during illness or car journeys

Lixit No-Drip 44-oz water bottle dispenser

Dog out on walks and outings

Gulpy water dispenser

Providing your dog with fresh, clean drinking water is one of the basic essentials of care. We show you how to choose a dog water dispenser for all your dog's needs.

Providing your dog with fresh, clean drinking water is one of the basic essentials of care. We show you how to choose a dog water dispenser for all your dog's needs.

How Much Water Do Dogs Need?

If your dog is pretty healthy and fit, he will normally monitor his own water intake. Every day, he will consume anywhere between half an ounce and one ounce of water for every pound of his body weight.

So, my little 15-pound Jack Russell terriers drink around three quarters of a pint a day in winter and a little more in summer. I keep a close eye on the older one, Murdoch (who is now almost fifteen years old), as he has recently started drinking more. I am checking when and how much he drinks so I can report it to the vet because over- (or under-) drinking can be a sign of a health problem—although in Murdoch’s case, he seems otherwise very well.

Weather, Activity and Diet Also Impact Water Requirements

Remember, too, that water requirements will increase in warm weather and with increased activity. In addition, dogs fed on a dry diet will need considerably more water than dogs fed on fresh meat or canned dog food.

How To Choose The Best Indoor Dog Water Fountain

The best dispenser for you mainly depends on the size and number of dogs you have because water capacity is an important factor. There is no point in having a dispenser if it cannot hold enough to provide your dogs with fresh water all day long.

Choose an Easy-to-Clean Model

After taking into account the capacity (remember, each dog will consume up to one fluid ounce of water per pound of body weight), ease of cleaning is the next big deciding factor.

You need a model that is robust and made of an easy-to-clean, non-scratch material. It should be easy to take apart for cleaning, and replacement filters should be both readily available and inexpensive.

Dogs love drinking running water, and a Drinkwell Big-Dog Fountain provides an ample supply for larger dogs.

Dogs love drinking running water, and a Drinkwell Big-Dog Fountain provides an ample supply for larger dogs.

Why I Recommend the Drinkwell Big-Dog Fountain

For large dogs or for households with more than one dog, I recommend choosing the Drinkwell Big-Dog Fountain. This model is veterinarian-designed and holds more than two gallons of water. It scores top marks on all counts:

  • It is easy to clean and care for.
  • The charcoal filters are readily available and keep the water tasting and smelling sweet and fresh.
  • If it does not need refilling, no worries—the water will remain healthy and fresh-tasting for your pet.
  • The pump is very reliable and quiet in operation. The fountain has to be indoors (in the kitchen, in my case), so it's important that the sound isn't intrusive for other members of the family!

Video: Cleaning Demonstration

What If I Have a Small Dog?

For smaller dogs or a single dog, I recommend the Drinkwell Platinum Pet Fountain. This smaller capacity (168 ounces) pet fountain has all the same great benefits of the Big-Dog model described above.

Why Is a Dispenser Better Than a Bowl?

If you place a water bowl on the floor where your dog eats, he will normally have a drink after he has eaten, and particles of his food will get into the water. Just imagine having a drink after your breakfast, then coming back later to take a drink from the same glass—which had been left in a warm kitchen all day—and finding particles of your breakfast floating in it.

You would throw it away, wouldn’t you? It wouldn’t be safe, hygienic or palatable to even consider drinking it. Yet millions of pet owners put their dogs in this position, and often the dog is thirsty and has no choice but to consume water that is really not healthy for him to drink.

Filtration Is Key

A dog drinking fountain provides running water that is constantly filtered, eliminating any worry over contamination. It will also provide your dog with fresh, running water whenever he needs it.

This can be a big advantage for fussy feeders who often need to be encouraged to drink an adequate amount. It can be especially beneficial for dogs who consume a mostly dry diet, for whom an adequate and constantly available supply of water is absolutely vital.

What If I Don't Want a Water Dispenser?

If you don’t want to get a water dispenser, which solves the problem by continuously filtering the water, you should at the very least provide water in a hygienic, stainless steel or ceramic bowl. Don’t choose plastic because it can become scratched and harbour bacteria in these scratches.

Make sure this bowl can be thoroughly cleansed by popping it in the dishwasher or a basin of hot water. Also, always check whether your dog has had a drink after his meal. If so, pick up the water bowl, clean it, and replenish it with fresh water.

An Alternative for Indoor Dogs: Water Bottles

As a main source of water, a bottle dispenser is more suited to smaller dogs and puppies. For larger dogs and for the convenience of less frequent refills, I would personally always choose the fountain type of dispenser. However, the bottle method is a great way of ensuring your dog always has clean water to drink as the contents cannot become contaminated with food particles.

Benefits of a Water Bottle

In addition to preventing contamination, a dog water bottle has other benefits. It can provide owners with a very accurate way of knowing how much their dog is drinking, for example, which can be helpful if you suspect your dog may be under- or over-drinking, both of which could be signs of a medical problem.

The Lixit Pet Oasis and 32-ounce bottle.

The Lixit Pet Oasis and 32-ounce bottle.

Do I Need a Water Bottle Stand?

If you wish to use a dog water bottle instead of a water bowl or other water dispenser as the main source of drinking water, it would be good to have a permanent stand to affix the bottle to.

The Pet Oasis from Lixit (pictured above) is one of the best I have seen for smaller dogs. It is designed to hold a 32-ounce bottle. It is made from sturdy, easy-to-clean acrylic and has non-slip pads for safety. You can adjust the height of the bottle, so it is brilliant for young puppies up through adult dogs of about 50 pounds in weight.

This is a 44-ounce, no-drip bottle from Lixit Animal Care.

This is a 44-ounce, no-drip bottle from Lixit Animal Care.

Advantages of a Bottle as a Water Source in a Crate

If your dog needs to be in a crate or cage, perhaps after surgery or heartworm treatment or during illness, a dog water bottle fixed to the cage can provide fresh, clean water as required. The Lixit bottles shown above are drip-proof so they only dispense water when the dog wants it and won’t make the bedding damp. Water bottles are also useful during car journeys so your dog can take a drink any time he wants without waiting for the next ‘comfort stop’.

Tips on Choosing a Bottle for a Crate or Cage

For use in a crate or cage, you need a water bottle that:

  • Fixes easily and securely to the crate.
  • Will not drip.
  • Can be refilled from the top without removing the bottle first.
  • Has a large enough capacity for your dog's needs.

Video: Gulpy Dispenser

The Best Water Dispenser for Walks

When you're out for a long walk or run with your dog and he needs a drink, you need to ensure you have a supply of safe, clean, hygienic water with you so that he can quench his thirst. To avoid having to take a separate bowl with you, Gulpy water dispensers (shown in the video above) are brilliant.

The product is a bottle and a drinking container combined. The drinking container can be folded down from the bottle whenever your dog needs a drink. The bottle will clip onto your belt or into your bike cage and comes in two sizes: 10 ounces or 20 ounces. There are many different colors available, too.

How Do I Check If My Dog Is Dehydrated?

Just gently catch hold of your dog’s skin at the back of his neck, and stretch it like you were a mom about to lift a puppy (don’t lift your dog, of course!). Pull the skin so that it stretches out, and then let go. You can tell whether your dog is dehydrated based on what happens to the skin:

  • If the skin snaps back and returns to normal straight away when you let go, he is properly hydrated.
  • If the skin creeps back more slowly and you can still see a bit of a ridge, your dog is dehydrated.

Another method is to check in his mouth. Do his gums look wet? If you run your fingertip across his gums, does your finger slide easily over the wet surface? If his gums appear ‘sticky’, he might well be dehydrated.

After surgery or during illness, it might be necessary to provide your dog with broth or a flavored water to encourage him to drink so that dehydration can be prevented.

Our Jack Russell 'Murdoch' who lived to the age of 16 years, 8 months! We always make sure we carry fresh drinking water for our dogs when out and about.

Our Jack Russell 'Murdoch' who lived to the age of 16 years, 8 months! We always make sure we carry fresh drinking water for our dogs when out and about.

I hope that I have managed to convince you of the health benefits of water dispensers for your dogs. If you choose to buy one, remember to get a type suitable for the size and number of dogs you own and whether you need to supply them with water indoors, in a crate or on the go.

Please let me know if you decide to buy a dog water dispenser or fountain for your pet!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2013 Alison Graham