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Home » Water Education & Testing » Is Tap Water Safe for Dogs?

Is Tap Water Safe for Dogs?

By: Craig Smith
Last Updated:

There is a lot in the news every day about all of the different contaminants that are found in tap water that may be harmful to you and your family. 

This news may also have you wondering is tap water safe for dogs?

It’s a question that if your dog is truly your ‘best friend’, that you absolutely should be asking yourself. That’s because any substance found in tap water that is potentially harmful to you is also potentially harmful to your dog and other pets.

So how do you know what water to have your dog drink? 

As a general rule, I always tell people to give their dogs the same water that they drink.

That’s assuming that if you are like most people, you have taken steps to improve the quality of the water that you drink to keep you and your family healthier.

I will go on to talk about such topics as how much water a dog needs to drink in a day, the different types of contaminants in tap water that can harm your dog, and how to make your pets drinking water as safe as possible.

Importance of Water for Dogs


Just like you, your dog must drink enough water each day to keep them well hydrated. The more active your dog is the more water they will need to drink to keep them healthy.

The water that your dog drinks helps keep its organs healthy and also flushes unwanted toxins out of its system.

According to pets.webmd.com, “When it comes to your dog’s nutrition, water is even more important than protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.” That’s a very powerful statement as to how critical it is to keep your dog properly hydrated at all times.

What does properly hydrated mean? If you ask Dr. Jerry Klein, the chief veterinary officer of the American Kennel Club (AKC), he will inform you that the average dog needs at least one ounce of water per day for each pound that they weigh.

This figure may vary slightly due to such factors as your dog’s breed, activity level, age, and whether they are kept inside your home or they are allowed to run in a pen or a fenced yard.

Signs of dehydration in dogs include:

  • Sunken eyes
  • Being lethargic and slow-paced
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Obvious changes in behavior
  • Excessive panting and drooling
  • Dull sticky gums

A good way to check your dog’s hydration level if they exhibit any of the above signs is to gently open their mouth and lightly press on their gums until the area that is pressed turns white.

A properly hydrated dog’s gums will immediately turn back to pink once you release pressure from your finger.

If you have any concerns about your dog’s hydration level, don’t hesitate to take them to the vet for a checkup.

Potential Issues with Tap Water

If you are on city water, most likely your tap water looks clean and healthy to you.

That’s because there are restrictions as to what levels of certain contaminants are acceptable in municipal water supplies and that water usually is chlorinated to kill bacteria and other potentially harmful organic problems.     

Well water is more of a wild card because it is not regulated or treated at all and has the potential to have many more contaminants in it.

The deeper your well, the better the quality of its water will probably be because soil layers and rock beds act as natural filters.

With that being said, both city water and well water are often found to have potentially harmful impurities in them.

That’s why I always recommend to my family and friends that they get their drinking water tested and then take appropriate steps to remove any contaminants that may impact one’s health.

I will talk more about how to do this a little later on in this article.  

Many wives tales go around that talk about how dogs’ bodies are much more resilient to impurities in water than that of humans but this is not always accurate.

In some instances, because of their smaller body size, the same water contaminants that are harmful to humans may be even more harmful to your dog and other cherished pets.  

Contaminants That Could Cause Problems in Tap Water for Dogs


Many of the same impurities in tap water that can harm your health can also significantly impact the health of your dog.

This list even includes some additives to city drinking water that are thought to be helpful in small amounts such as chlorine and fluoride but can also be harmful to humans and dogs when ingested in higher quantities over time.  

One of the biggest concerns when it comes to your dog’s drinking water is water that has bacteria in it. Just as with humans, many types of bacteria have the potential to significantly impact your dog’s health.

Parasites such as Giardia can also take up residence in the lining of your dog’s intestines and cause diarrhea and other health problems.

Harmful heavy metals such as lead, pesticides, and petroleum derivatives are also commonly found in both samples of untreated city and well water along with a wide variety of other impurities.

Many of these are hard for humans to detect without testing because they are colorless, odorless, and tasteless.

Understanding What’s in Your Water

There are a few good ways to determine the quality of your drinking water to determine if it’s safe for you and your dog to drink. They are:

  1. Obtaining a copy of a local water quality report

This only applies if you have city drinking water. It is tested for quality regularly and most of the time these reports are made available to the public. They can usually be obtained by calling your municipal water service and asking for a copy or going to their website to view the report.

You must keep in mind that these will probably not go into as much detail as a quality lab testing facility will do and they do not take into consideration any impurities that come from your plumbing such as lead.

  1. Using water testing kits

The easiest and best way to find out if your tap water is safe for you and your dog to drink is by obtaining a good test kit and testing a sample of your water. This can be done through the use of test strips or by using a kit where you take a sample and then mail it to a lab for professional analysis.

I recommend the latter because professional lab testing is not only very accurate but these tests are usually designed to detect the presence of a much wider variety of drinking water contaminants than you can detect with simple test strips.  


Among my favorite professional lab test kits are those made by Tap Score. They make test kits for both city and well water and many of them can detect a wide variety of contaminants in water.   

The Best Water for Dogs to Drink

Now that you have been made aware that it may not be safe to give your dog unfiltered water from your home’s taps, it’s a great time to go over the other water choices that you have to give your dog.

Is Bottled Water Safe for Dogs?


It may scare you to learn that the bottled water that you purchase is largely unregulated as far as the harmful contaminants that should not be in it. That’s why I am a much bigger fan of drinking properly filtered water as opposed to drinking bottled water.

Yes, most bottled water has indeed been filtered and some brands have even been ozonized to kill off bacteria but the amount of purification can greatly differ between brands.

So simply stated, you never really know how pure the water is in a bottle that you purchase at the store.

That’s why I don’t recommend that your dog regularly drinks bottled water. This is a case of playing it safe as opposed to being overly paranoid about what contaminants are present in bottled water.  

Better Alternatives to Bottled Water

So, what is the best type of water to give your dog? I would recommend that you give your dog water that has passed through one of the following types of water filters. a quality activated carbon filter that is supported by other types of filter media or a good reverse osmosis system.

  1. Activated carbon-based filters

Good activated carbon-based filters that are supported by other types of filter media are a great way to enhance the quality of your dog’s drinking water.

These are commonly found as point of entry water filtration systems (whole-home systems) and point of use water filters such as under-sink filters, gravity filters, and water pitchers.  

  1. Reverse osmosis systems

My recommendation for treating your dog’s drinking water is to use a good reverse osmosis filter.

Because of the small pore size of their filter’s membranes (often around 1-micron), reverse osmosis systems will filter out bacteria, cysts, heavy metals, pesticides, and a wide variety of other tap water impurities that can potentially harm your dog.

As a bonus, both of the above types of water filtration systems will also provide you and your family members with quality drinking water that will help keep you much healthier.

Filtered Pet Water Bowls or Pet Water Stations

Although filtered pet water bowls and stations do not remove impurities from household water as well as a good whole house water filtration system or a point of use carbon or reverse osmosis-based water filter, they are an inexpensive way to improve the quality of the water that your dog drinks.


Pictured above is the PetSafe Drinkwell 1-Gallon Pet Fountain. It’s one of the types of dog water filters that I recommend for treating unfiltered water in your home or when you are traveling with your pets and want to ensure that the water they drink has been enhanced.

What Not to Give Your Dog

You should strongly consider not giving your pet water from these sources:

  • Unfiltered city water

As discussed, appearances can be deceiving when it comes to the clear appearance of your municipal supplied water as it often contains harmful contaminants in it.

  • Untreated water from your well

Well water that is unfiltered may contain several different types of harmful microorganisms and a whole host of other impurities that can impact your dog’s health.

  • Distilled water

Distilled water is one of the purest forms of water. Unfortunately, that also means that it contains none of the healthy minerals in water that are just as important for dogs as they are for humans. 

It may even leach some of the important minerals out of your dog’s body and leave your dog feeling less hydrated.

  • Excessively hard water

Hard water has long been debated as to whether or not it’s harmful to the health of humans or dogs. 

There is no longer any debate according to a study that was done by the pet insurance provider Trupanion. This study found a link between pets drinking hard water and urinary tract issues.

  • Swimming pool water

While your swimming pool water might look clean and it’s cute to watch your dog go for a swim and try to drink the water as they do this but this is not something that I would recommend.

Chlorine and other water sanitizers can harm your dog’s health and improperly sanitized pool water can contain bacteria and other potentially harmful microorganisms.

Some Last Thoughts on the Water that Your Dog Drinks

I have had a dog as a pet almost my whole life. Many of those dogs have become cherished by me and my family.

As such, I would do anything to protect their health and that includes taking steps to make sure they are drinking water that is free of as many harmful contaminants as possible.

This usually does not require any extra effort on my part because I already have a reverse osmosis filtration system in place that protects the health of me and my family too. I simply give my dog the same water to drink as I know is mostly safe for myself and my family.

So, protecting your dog’s health by making sure they are drinking water that is enhanced by filtration should just be an extension of the way that you already protect your family’s health from the harmful impurities that are commonly found in tap water.

That means you should take steps to enhance your home’s drinking water quality as much as possible if you are not currently doing so.

Photo of author
Craig Smith
Craig got his start in water working in the swimming pool and spa industry. Water treatment would grow into his main career but he ended up working in the pool industry for over 26 years where much of his time was spent balancing the water in customer's swimming pools and installing water filtration equipment. Craig offers an abundance of water treatment knowledge after helping homeowners get pure water for 26 years.

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