WATER FOR CATS AND
“Symbol of creation, harbour of all seeds, water becomes the
supreme magic and medicinal substance; it heals, it restores youth, it ensures
eternal life”---…Mircea Eliade, Patterns
in Comparative Religions.
By Michael W. Fox D.Sc., Ph.D., B.Vet.Med., M.R.C.V.S.
water and public health crisis of tap water contamination with lead in Flint,
Michigan was a wake- up call and underscores the 2017 report from the Natural
Resources Defense Council that U.S. residents have a one-in-four chance that
their tap water is either unsafe to drink or has not been properly monitored
for contaminants. (See
It is difficult to find pure, potable
water almost anywhere on the planet, and that shortage is exacerbated because
of chemical contamination. This contamination results from pesticides, heavy
metals like lead and mercury, copper from pipes, arsenic compounds, radioactivity
in some regions, excessive amounts of nitrates and phosphates, potentially
harmful bacteria and other microorganisms, even pharmaceutical products
excreted by humans and other animals given various drugs, and also industrial
pollutants especially dioxins and PCBs. Pollution of the air can result in
contaminated rain, which can pollute lakes, crops, the water we drink and the
food we eat.
Water contamination by high
phosphate and other domestic and commercial laundry detergents, cleaning agents
and industrial solvents has serious ecological and public health consequences.
Government regulations and oversight are no substitute for consumer, business
and industry responsibility to take immediate steps to phase out their use of
and dependence upon these chemicals, and in many instances, give a false sense
of security and even official sanction. .
Water treatment facilities, and most water-purification systems,
(like reverse osmosis, ultraviolet and ozone disinfection, ion exchange and
activated carbon filters) may not control all of these contaminants that can
pose serious health problems to people and to our animal companions. The
widespread chlorination of water to kill bacteria causes further problems
especially when there are high levels of naturally occurring organic
contaminants because byproducts like chloroform and trihalomethanes are formed
that are highly carcinogenic, causing kidney, liver, and intestinal tumors, and
also kidney, liver and brain damage, as well as birth and developmental defects
in test animals. Alternative water disinfection with chloramines, a hoped-for
safer alternative to chlorine, also results in the formation of highly toxic
iodoacetic and holoacetic acids.
Fluoride and Other Problems in Water
Compounding these health-hazards of
already contaminated water is the addition of fluoride, a byproduct of the
phosphate fertilizer industry, ostensibly to strengthen peoples’ teeth and
prevent cavities. But in order to do this, fluoride must be in direct contact
with the teeth. That means the fluoride must be applied topically. Studies have
shown no benefit from ingested fluoride.
On the contrary, fluoride can mottle
the teeth and cause a host of health problems, notably osteoporosis, arthritis,
kidney disease, and hypothyroidism. Fluoride has also been linked with
gastrointestinal ailments, allergic skin reactions, impaired cognitive ability
in children, harm to the pineal gland that helps regulate the onset of puberty,
and possibly cause cancer.
Of particular concern: Where there is
some already existing kidney disease, the kidneys’ ability to excrete fluoride
becomes markedly impaired, leading to a build-up of fluoride in the body.
I am also very concerned about the
widespread use of aluminum chlorhydrate and other aluminum compounds, various
anionic and cationic emulsions and powder polymers, and especially
polyacrylamide, for waste-water treatment. These chemicals are used to cause
flocculation and coagulation of various wastes, including the effluent from
poultry slaughter/packing plants. Wastes
that contain these added agents may be variously used as fertilizer and
livestock feed. Acrylamides are carcinogenic and can cause genetic damage,
neurological problems and birth defects, and therefore may result in a hazard
if they get into our food-chain and drinking water. Clearly trading one or more
health risks from contaminated water for others created by water treatment
processes is ill advised. Safer, cost-effective, organic, microbial and
ecologically-based alternative systems of water treatment, recovery,
purification and waste management/disposal are most urgently called for.
It is for the above reasons that I
advise all people to drink water that has ideally been tested and
treated/purified as needed, and to provide no less for their animal companions.
In purchasing so called pure spring water ( that may or may not only require
sand-filtration to meet with US National Sanitation Standards certification), the user
should know the source of the water, has
access to verified water test results, and knows where the aquifer is
recharged. The quality of the ground
water can change over time and should periodically be retested.
mineral content of spring water, and water from
remote, often high altitude, glacial and other isolated sources far from
industrial and agricultural activities, are generally extremely beneficial, but
excesses need to be closely monitored because of possible trace-nutrient
imbalances that they may cause, and also urinary calculi or stones. Purified,
distilled water, lacking in these essential minerals, may actually result in
osteoporosis and other health problems. (Note, agricultural chemical
contaminants have been found in alpine / glacial waters. They volatilize from
warm fields then
condense on cold snow and ice).
Water from private wells, according
to the Scientific Investigations report 2011-5059 by the U.S.Geological Survey
entitled Trace Elements and Radon in Groundwater Across the United States
1992-2003, should always be tested. Different regions have different problems.
In many regions, arsenic, uranium and manganese most frequently exceeded either
health standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency or health
guidelines developed by the USGS and the EPA. Arsenic, radon and chromium are
carcinogens, cadmium and uranium can damage kidneys and manganese may
have neurological effects. Boron might lead to smaller fetuses and damage
to male reproductive
organs, while barium can cause high blood pressure and lithium can suppress the
The Importance of Quality
Water for Cats
Some cats have a clear aversion to
drinking tap water, a possibly natural instinctual reaction to potentially
harmful chlorine, fluoride, and other contaminants. Many prefer to drink from a
dripping faucet or cat water dispenser, possibly because there is less aversive
smell than in standing water in a bowl.
Cats' aversion to tap water is
compounded by many becoming addicted to dry food, which is associated with
several health problems, especially inflammation of the urinary bladder and the
development of stones/sand/urinary calculi, and urethral blockage in male cats
(i.e. the so-called feline urologic syndrome). Cats, being of a desert origin
and physiology, lack the normal thirst mechanism when their diet is dry and
deprives them of fluids, so they may fail to properly regulate their fluid
balance by drinking more to compensate for an all-dry food diet, and suffer the
consequences of the feline urologic syndrome and ultimately fatal kidney
failure that is now taking many cats at an early age.
Some cats have developed skin problems (inflammation and small
pustules) under their chins that clear up when their water bowls are
switched from plastic to glass or stainless steel. So I strongly advise people
with cats and dogs not to use plastic containers for the animals' water or food
because of possible leaching of potentially harmful chemicals.
Since cats drink little water at the
best of times, they should always be given pure spring water, or the closest equivalent,
since poor quality water will only
worsen their already compromised condition of inadequate hydration.
Older animals, like older
people, at risk from chronic heart
and kidney disease, should not be given water that has been treated with salt
(sodium chloride) to soften it. Hard water for domestic use is often treated
with salt to soften it, and especially in apartments and condominiums treatment
of the central water supply to both cold and hot water faucets is not
separated, which means that soft/salt-contaminated water comes out of both
faucets. Older animals with chronic kidney disease, diabetes, and other health
problems, and those on certain medications like prednisone, will drink copious
quantities of water, and thus be more at risk from absorbing more than normal
quantities of water-born chemical contaminants.
The Risk of Free-Standing Water Sources
Dogs, when outdoors, often want to
drink from puddles and ponds. They should not be allowed to do so because
standing water can be heavily contaminated with the chemical cocktail of
road-run-off, as well as various pathogens: giardia, cryptosporidia, blue-green
algae neurotoxin, botulism-toxin bacteria, harmful fungus that can cause fatal
pythiosis or "swamp cancer", fecal bacteria from humans, farmed
animal wastes that cause periodic epidemics of flu-like food poisoning in the
human population, and also lawn, garden and golf-course pesticides and other
harmful chemical run-off, most especially from agriculture.
We humans have disrupted and contaminated
the hydrological cycle/ system on this "Blue Water" planet Earth, at potentially
great cost to our own health and to all other life forms that, like us, need
water to live. Many creatures live in
the polluted surface waters of the planet from which neither they, nor we, have
We are drinking the chemicals that we
expected nature’s ecosystems could somehow assimilate, dilute and neutralize.
But that is not always the case, as any chemical analysis of human and whale
mother's milk will affirm. But there are long-term solutions beyond the science
and technology of water purification and de-salinization that alone cannot
guarantee a safe and sustainable source of drinking water for the generations
to come. Solutions include reducing or eliminating the use of pesticides
---herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and chemical fertilizers on our lawns,
gardens, golf-courses and crops, organic and sustainable agriculture being one
hope for the future. Managing pollutant
releases from waste-disposal, incineration, energy, petrochemical, paper,
plastic and other consumer-driven commodity and appliance industries so that
the fewer pollutants they release into consumable air and surface waters the
better their profits. In the process they
could market no products or by-products that cannot be recycled without harm to
the health, vitality, integrity and beauty of this living Earth, and all who
A Call to Action
no longer take water for granted as one of Nature's bountiful, pure and
eternally renewable resources. Water is the fundamental life-source that
sustains all beings, and to our peril and the demise of this living planet, we
have thoughtlessly squandered and poisoned this basic, vital element of
existence. We cannot trust that the water coming from our faucets and wells is
safe to drink or to give to our animals and the science of water-safety and
quality evaluation is relatively still in its infancy. We have very good tools to monitor,
understand water quality, but the funding to do this work is far short of what
is needed to effectively accomplish the work that needs to be done.
Even so, consumer-citizen tax payers have a right to have
municipal water authorities test domestic water sources regularly, and make
their findings available to the public; and to have better monitoring and law
enforcement to protect open waters from pollution run-off from peoples' lawns
and gardens, as well as from agriculture and other human activities and various
industries. And just as the organic foods market has accelerated with
increased, informed consumer demand over the past decade, so in this next
decade of the 21st century, a more informed public is demanding pure water,
some of the purest coming from ancient springs and as yet uncontaminated and
sustainable deep aquifers. But these sources will not last for ever, and
delivery to where potable water is needed, and fresh water for crop irrigation
and livestock, is increasingly problematic. It is the responsibility of us all
to conserve the waters of life, to stop polluting, and to treat this basic
resource that sustains all life with respect and gratitude.
Those northern states of the US have
an immediate and most urgent responsibility at this time to reduce the agricultural,
industrial and municipal sewage pollution of rivers, and over-exploitation of
same, through diversion and dam-construction for commodity-crop irrigation and
dairy and other livestock production, notably facilitated for decades by the US
Corps of Engineers, (that has put the Florida Everglades on the never-glades
path to extinction for the sugar and cattle industries), and for industrial
-scale orchard/plantation irrigation after natural ecosystems have been
annihilated, along with the many wildlife species like the wolf, the lynx, the
Florida panther, the flying squirrel and the coatimundi. The rivers/waterways
that flow south across the North American continent, harm all southern states
that take what poisoned water is left, and ultimately the Texas Gulf, where an
area of ocean the size of Rhode Island is void of any life according to marine
biologists and the local fishing industry.
All who care about their health, the
health of their families and companion animals, will see the wisdom of acquiring
the best quality water that they can, and not adhere to the erroneous belief
that treated municipal tap water is necessarily safe for consumption . In many
locales it may actually be safer than bottled water, the market for which has
created another environmental crisis of disposable plastic bottles. Water
quality and safety is a wake-up call for us all, and confirms the truism that
when we harm the earth, we harm ourselves. The health of the Earth, of aquatic
as well as terrestrial ecosystems, like the health of the human population, are
interdependent, linked by air and water quality that for the good of all we
must improve and maintain.
PURE WATER UPDATE, Aug. 2011
conducted in 2011, trace amounts of sex hormones, prescription drugs, flame retardants
and herbicides were detected in the treated drinking water of more than 7
million people in Chicago and its suburbs. City officials discovered that more
than two dozen pharmaceutical drugs and other unregulated chemicals pass
through Chicago's massive treatment plants.
Substances found in the city's latest tests include the sex hormones
progesterone and testosterone, gemfibrozil, a prescription cholesterol-fighting
drug; and DEET, the active ingredient in bug sprays.
Perfluorooctane sulfonate, an ingredient in Scotchgard stain-fighting coatings,
tris (2-butoxyethyl) phosphate, a flame retardant chemical, and bisphenol A, a
plastic additive that is an endocrine system disruptor.
Like other cities, Chicago authorities
must notify the public if its drinking water contains regulated contaminants,
including lead, pesticides and harmful bacteria. There is no such requirement
if pharmaceuticals and other unregulated substances are detected.
Environmental reporter Jeff McMahon writes in Forbes
Magazine (8/9/11) -“---volatile organic compounds, perchlorate
and hexavalent chromium are among 6,000 toxins the EPA has yet to regulate in
municipal drinking water systems. After a scathing review by the General
Accounting Office, the EPA has begun to develop
regulations to remove these chemicals from
tap and bottled water—and industry has begun efforts to delay
or prevent their implementation.
While government and industry wrestle over regulations,
McMahon provides the following synopsis of the most hazardous drinking water
contaminants, and the best ways to remove them from your water without
Earlier this year the EPA reversed a Bush Administration
decision to leave perchlorate unregulated and to pursue perchlorate first in a new push
for stricter drinking water regulations.
An important ingredient in rocket fuel, fireworks,
explosives, Perchlorate can disrupt the thyroid gland’s production of hormones
essential to prenatal and postnatal development and body metabolism, according
to EPA and National Sanitation Foundation.
“Monitoring data show more than 4 percent
of public water
systems have detected perchlorate and between 5 million and 17 million people
may be served drinking water containing perchlorate,” according to EPA.
Perchlorate can be removed from drinking water
“The protocol requires a reverse osmosis
unit to be able
to reduce 130 ppb perchlorates to 4 ppb or less in the treated water supply,” according to NSF.
The EPA has a drinking water standard for total chromium, but not all
forms of chromium pack the same punch, and
the total chromium standard may be allowing unhealthy levels of toxic chromium
into the water supply.
Hexavalent chromium, or chromium-6, in drinking
been traced to stomach cancer in humans and animals, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. It has also
been linked to liver, kidney, circulatory
and reproductive disorders.
Last week the city of Chicago released test results showing levels
of hexavalent chromium more than ten
times higher than California’s recently-adopted health standard. The California
standard, 2 parts per billion, is designed for a risk level of one additional
case of cancer per million people:
“For every million people who drink tap water
level of chromium 6 each day for 70 years, there is likely to be one additional
case of cancer from exposure to the chemical,” according to the California
Office of Health Hazard Assessment.
Like perchlorate, hexavalent chromium can be removed
water through reverse osmosis. According to NSF, it can also
be removed through distillation and certain
types of water filters.
EPA proposes to streamline the regulation of additional
toxins by regulating chemical groups rather than individual compounds, the
first group being The first group a set of 16 volatile organic compounds known
to cause cancer.
The EPA already regulates eight VOCs, including
industrial solvents and petroleum products, as carcinogens. In revising its
standard for some of those, it intends to add eight that are currently
The Agency is considering eight currently regulated
compounds (benzene; carbon tetrachloride; 1,2- dichloroethane;
1,2-dichloropropane; dichloromethane; tetrachloroethylene; trichloroethylene;
vinyl chloride) and eight unregulated compounds (aniline; benzyl chloride;
1,3-butadiene; 1,1-dichloroethane; nitrobenzene; oxirane methyl;
1,2,3-trichloropropane and urethane). All of these VOCs are known or suspected
to cause cancer.”
Another Water Safety & Health Issue
water contamination with poly- and
perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) poses risks to the developmental, immune,
metabolic, and endocrine health of consumers. We present a spatial analysis of
2013–2015 national drinking water PFAS concentrations from the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency’s (US EPA) third Unregulated Contaminant
Monitoring Rule (UCMR3) program. The number of industrial sites that
manufacture or use these compounds, the number of military fire training areas,
and the number of wastewater treatment plants are all significant predictors of
PFAS detection frequencies and concentrations in public water supplies. Among
samples with detectable PFAS levels, each additional military site within a
watershed’s eight-digit hydrologic unit is associated with a 20% increase in
PFHxS, a 10% increase in both PFHpA and PFOA, and a 35% increase in PFOS. The
number of civilian airports with personnel trained in the use of aqueous
film-forming foams is significantly associated with the detection of PFASs
above the minimal reporting level. We find drinking water supplies for 6
million U.S. residents exceed US EPA’s lifetime health advisory (70 ng/L) for
PFOS and PFOA. Lower analytical reporting limits and additional sampling of
smaller utilities serving <10000 individuals and private wells would greatly
assist in further identifying PFAS contamination sources.”---From Xindi C. Hu
et al ( 2016) Detection of Poly- and Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs) in U.S.
Drinking Water Linked to Industrial Sites, Military Fire Training Areas, and
Wastewater Treatment Plants Environ.
Sci. Technol. Lett., 3 (10),
Reverse osmosis won’t help you get volatile
compounds out of your water, according to the National Santitation Foundation,
but carbon filtration will.”
Conventional water treatment does not screen out many unregulated
contaminants, but can reduce concentrations, and some household filters,
notably activated carbon filters, can help. Water filtration products are
certified by NSF International, a nonprofit group. Visit nsf.org
I live in Minnesota,
“land of 10,000 lakes”, many of which are polluted and periodically hazardous
to bathers and consumers of fish. The Star
Tribune published a lead article (Sept. 22, 2010) about a University of Minnesota
vice president of University Relations “in hot seat over film” that was a
university-produced documentary about farming, pollution and the Mississippi
River, which she blocked from being shown. Her ruling was subsequently
overturned and public viewing of this film “Troubled Waters: A Mississippi
River Story” was rescheduled. This is but one instance of the power of
corporate interests to silence environmental concerns, in this instance water
quality and safety.
Putting corporate and
other vested interests before the public good is a problem of the times. But
the deeper rationalizations and denial, especially with regard to the plight of
farmed animals in factory farms and feedlots, and the hidden cultural,
socio-economic, public health, animal welfare and environmental costs of the
agribusiness food industry, call for censorship: A censorship not simply of
land-grant colleges and their mission and allegiances, but of the kind of
society we have all created and continue to support with our dietary choices,
tax dollars and donations to alumni and other ‘non-profit’ associations and
organizations, both secular and religious.
Brad Schrade’s front
page article in the Oct. 24 th, 2010 Star
Tribune, entitled “State lags on fixing farm pollution” is a devastating
documentation of the almost total failure of a 10-year, 2000-2010, state funded
program under Minnesota’s Pollution Control Agency to significantly reduce lake
and stream pollution caused by the animal waste run-off especially from beef
feed-lots and dairy cow operations. There should be a public registry of which
states are polluting the headwaters, tributaries and wetlands of our great
rivers like the Mississippi, Crow and Minnesota, which are under the
stewardship and trust of state land users for the benefit of all beyond their
immediate communities of vested interest, especially in those lower states
receiving spoiled river water from the north. Clean-up time for U.S. Army Corps
of Engineers, from the Everglades to the Great Plains, is also long overdue,
along with prairie, wetland and forest/watershed restoration.
Minnesota water expert Deborah Swackhammer has presented the Minnesota Water
Sustainability Framework to state authorities for them to address the declining
quality and safety of the state’s river and lake waters, (Star Tribune Jan 5,
2011). One major issue is the fact that forty percent of state waters are
affected by farmers and feedlot operators who are exempt from strict federal
clean water regulation as applied to manufacturing and wastewater treatment
plants, but follow clearly ineffectual “best farming practices” to reduce
power plants are the primary source of mercury pollution in this state, a close
second in this state is from the burgeoning mining industry that also leaches
selenium, manganese, sulfates and other harmful chemicals into lakes and
rivers. (visit www.waterlegacy.org
for details). Mined rock with ahigh sulfur content creates sulfuric acid when
processed that leaches heavy metals such as mercury and arsenic into
groundwater, lakes and rivers. This chemical contamination can persist for
decades and in high concentrations the acidification makes water lethal to
wildlife and undrinkable for humans.
that burn coal and other fuels to generate steam and hot water for heat and
electricity are regarded as America’s second largest source of mercury
emissions after coal-fired power plants, and currently have no emission control
standards. Attempts by the Obama administration to establish standards under
EPA oversight are currently being blocked under the politics of business-as
–usual interests that claim any controls are too costly to implement.
Planet Earth has been
called the water planet, but 97% of the world’s water we cannot drink or use to
grow crops because it is too salty. Only and estimated 3% is salt-free, fresh
water, and only 1% is available since the remaining 2% is frozen in snow and
ice. Global warming is releasing more of this frozen water from the polar ice
caps and from mountain glaciers, causing devastating floods in many parts of
the world which will then experience life-extinguishing droughts.
Two thirds of the
salt-free water supply water we use to produce food. Aquifers are being
depleted for irrigation and to provide water for livestock at a greater rate
than they are replenished naturally. In many areas, dependence on such
irrigation leads to salt-buildup in the soil, salinization being the result of agri-industrial
desertification. Conservation measures and greater efficiencies are urgently
needed in the commodity crop and livestock sectors in particular, along with a
drastic reduction in the production and consumption of food-animal products
(e.g. beef and milk) which account for most of our water use today. ( For
further details visit www.globalwaterinitiative.com).
How we treat the water
is how the water will
Benais, Anishinaabe (Chippewa) Spiritual elder –
ANIMAL DOCTOR SYNDICATED NEWSPAPER
Dear Dr. Fox,
reading your article about the
importance of giving the purest possible water for animals to drink I stopped
giving my cats tap water and got a water purifying system for them and myself.
In a few days they were actually drinking more water and had fewer if any
episodes of vomiting and loose stools. Thanks for pointing out this important
aspect of health care. We take water for granted but what comes out of our
taps, as my cats confirmed, may not be fit to drink.
G.C, Fargo ND
DEAR G.C., I
am not the only veterinarian advocating pure water especially for cats, many of
whom do not drink sufficient water on a regular basis. Some enjoy a bubbling
water dispenser, but the water must not come straight from the tap, and “spring
water” sold in stores may not be the best and distilled water lacks essential
trace minerals. I use a Zero water filter, and reverse-ionization, as per my
article, is a good investment for every family.
We are facing
a global water shortage and water quality crisis which is reaching critical
mass as governments around the world do little to protect this vital resource.
I live in Minnesota, “land of 10,000 (now many seriously polluted) lakes”
This Sate’s recent abolition of the Pollution
Control Agency’s Citizen Board, reportedly to open the way for a harmful,
sulfate-discharging PolyMet copper-nickel mining business proposal casts a
shadow across the State’s image of responsible wilderness management and
protection and is a potential national disaster in the making. This
business-friendly initiative of abolishing the Citizen Board underscores the
socioeconomic and political influence of various industries in Minnesota, as in
other States, that marginalize long-term environmental risks and costs, public
health consequences being virtually ignored and trumped by the promise of jobs
and taxable products and services.
without containment and immediate environmental remediation of the multiple
existing and well documented harms of Minnesota’s major industries—agriculture,
mining, energy and forestry---further industrial expansion is imprudent, state
and federal tax revenues and discount-incentives not withstanding: But continues
virtually unabated, as per fracking, sod-busting biomass fuel and livestock
feed production, expansion of CAFOs (
concentrated animal feeding operations, especially dairy and pig factories) and
yet more mining, all of which are taking finite ground (aquifer) water
resources at a non-sustainable rate and polluting same: And what of the
down-stream public health costs and irreversible loss of biodiversity?
This is a
world-wide problem, the ever expanding, biodiversity-diminishing and polluting
carbon footprint of industrial exploitation giving only short-term benefit to a
diminishing few. Will it deprive our children’s children their right to purer
water, cleaner air and more wholesome food? Climate change, loss of
biodiversity (especially in our soils and intestines), and the obesity and
cancer epidemics are all interconnected. Land, water and air are part of the
global public commons. Minnesota, with fresh water being one of its greatest
natural resource, should steward this hydrological ecosystem/watershed as a
national treasure, too long taken for granted and treated with the indifference
of a flush-toilet for industrial pollutants and human wastes. If every Governor
and aligned Chambers of Commerce and legislatures of every state, with
Minnesota taking the lead in the U.S., were to make the waters flowing out of
their states less impure than when they took office, we might yet get on the
right track for the recovery of democracy, public health and a more viable
future. To tout water quality remediation/ purification as the ultimate
solution is to continue the tradition of bad, albeit profitable conventional
medicine, treating the symptoms and not the cause. “Green” industries and
consumption---solar, organic, environmentally friendly and socially just---translate
into value added enterprises and bio-regionally sustainable industries of scale
under the banner of an ecologically democratic, global community and economy.