I admit that I don’t drink enough water. I drink when I’m thirsty, I have my coffee in the morning and my big mug of chamomile at night, and that seems like it’s enough. Funny how I’m that way about myself, but when it comes to tips about pets and how much water they’re supposed to drink, I’m just as much of a nudge as those fit friends of mine. And don’t get me started on when I walk into a pet-owner’s house and find an empty water bowl. That’s when my pet advice turns into a pet lecture!

So how much is a dog or cat supposed to drink? And how can you tell whether they’re getting enough? Those are good questions, and sometimes tough to answer since our pets often drink when we’re not watching.

There actually is a rule of thumb for all pets that veterinarians use when they’re giving out pet advice, and it’s a pretty easy one to remember. Every day your pet should take in about an ounce for every pound of weight. Like I said, easy to remember, but maybe not so easy to monitor. After all, if you’re like me you just grab the bowl whenever it’s about halfway empty, dump it and refill it with fresh water. Who knows how much they’re actually drinking?

If you want to be really meticulous about it, you can measure how much water your pet’s bowl holds and keep track of how often it empties. Of course, that doesn’t work if you have more than one animal, and it also means that you would need to let the bowl get pretty low – not a good thing. The good news is that most pets will drink when they need to, so your big responsibility is to make sure that it’s always accessible. If your pets are outdoor and indoor residents, make sure there are bowls in both places. And if it’s hot out, encourage a bit more water drinking. Sometimes popping an ice cube or two into the water bowl can make drinking a fun game that ensures that your pet is well hydrated.

If you’re worried that your pup (or cat) isn’t drinking enough, there are a couple of things you can keep your eyes open for, most notably sunken, dry-looking gums and eyes. If that happens, make a quick call to your vet. They’re sure to want to see your pet soon to check what’s going on.