1 – Freedom from Thirst and Hunger

As mentioned in last week’s blog, we are doing a weekly blog series for the next month about the Five Freedoms! This week we will be discussing the first of the Five Freedoms: the Freedom from Thirst and Hunger. This Freedom is all about ensuring animals are provided with ready access to fresh water and fed a diet that helps them maintain their health and physical strength. Read the following blog post with your students and learn more!


All animals (including people) require food and water to survive. What’s more, they like to eat and drink! In fact, just like us, some animals have their own favorite foods that they like to eat. For example, you might have noticed that your dog gets really excited about meaty treats, but shows less interest in your vegetables.

Animals also experience the same discomfort and hunger pangs that humans do when they haven’t eaten for a long time. Therefore, providing food and water is an essential aspect of good animal welfare.

Thirst & Hunger 1

How much is enough?

How much food and water does the animal in your care need? The answer to this question depends on a number of factors. The species of the animal, their age, size, health status, and activity level are all factors that can affect how much they should be eating and drinking. Older dogs, for example should be eating less food than younger dogs, because they aren’t as active, and young puppies need to eat a lot of food so that they can grow, run and play. In addition, a cow that has a calf needs to drink a lot of water so that they can supply enough milk to their calf, whereas a cow without a calf doesn’t have to drink as much.

Animals are most often granted free access to water – so they can drink whenever they want. Food is sometimes provided free access (cows grazing on a pasture) or is restricted to a few times a day (dogs often eat a meal a couple of times a day). Since so many factors can impact how much your animal should be eating, it is important to ask your veterinarian what the appropriate amount of food is for your animal. Veterinarians are well-informed about animal nutrition and will be able to answer any questions about your pet’s diet.

What kind?

This freedom is not just about making sure animals get the right amount of food and water, its also about what kind of food and water they are consuming.

Your pet should be fed a diet that is full of all the vitamins and minerals they require to be healthy. For instance, it is important that your cat is fed a diet that contains animal protein because animal protein has lots of vitamins that the cat can’t get on its own.

Besides feeding animals food that is healthy for them, you also want to make sure that you are not feeding them foods that are bad for them. There are many foods that are healthy for people but unhealthy or even poisonous for pets. For instance, you have probably been told not to feed your dog grapes (which are perfectly healthy for people). Grapes, however are toxic to dogs (and can be lethal if too many are ingested).

Quality is Key!

Water quality is another important aspect of this freedom. Just like humans, most animals don’t want to drink dirty water, full of bacteria that has been sitting out for a week. In fact, if you only provide your pet with this dirty water, it is possible that they won’t drink the water and may become dehydrated. Horses are one species of animal that are very sensitive to water quality. They may reduce their water intake if the water source has an algae bloom. I bet you wouldn’t want to drink that either! Therefore, it is important that you give your pet a fresh bowl of water every day so you can ensure they remain hydrated and healthy.

That wraps up our discussion about the first of the Five Freedoms! Tune in next week where we will cover the second of the Five Freedoms: The Freedom from Discomfort.

Thirst & Hunger 2

Discussion Questions:

1. What are some factors that might impact how much food and water an animal needs?

Age, species, size, health status, pregnancy, climate, activity level etc.

2. Are there any temporary situations you can think of where it might be okay to not meet this freedom?

Before a meal sometimes an animal might feel a bit hungry (people too) and this is a normal. Some animals can’t have free feeding because they will eat too much, so they need to be fed just the right amount of food for their species, size, etc. It’s not normal though if animals are not fed what they need and feel very hungry, become weak, sick or too thin because they aren’t getting enough food.

Another situation is if an animal has to undergo surgery, the vet will often ask you to withhold food and water for certain time periods.

3. What can you do to ensure that your animal is free from thirst and hunger?

Provide daily fresh water, research foods that are healthy and those that are unhealthy or toxic, educate others about what you learned!

Classroom Activity:

  1. Pick an animal (pet or farm animal) and research what kind of food it needs to stay healthy and what foods are unhealthy or toxic.
  2. People need about 1-3 L of water per/day. How does this compare to what other animals need to drink? Make a chart of graph to compare how much water different animals need.

Thanks to Kelsey Neill for her work on this blog series! Learn more about Kelsey here. 

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Blog posts represent the opinion of the author and not necessarily the opinion of the Alberta SPCA.