Making vs. Buying a Dog Fountain: Which Is Better?

Posted by on Jan 29, 2022

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On average, dogs need to drink one ounce of water each day per pound of body weight. Like humans, dogs and cats are mostly H2O — about 60 to 70 percent. Pets who eat kibble will likely require more water than ones on a meat diet. Either way, encouraging them to drink water is smart and healthy, and water fountains can help. 


A good fountain purifies the water with a charcoal filter, removing potentially harmful chemicals and impurities. The aeration that naturally occurs in flowing water helps it taste fresher, and more appealing to to your pet’s palate. An actively refilling fountain also decreases the chance that your dog will run out of water while your out of the house. Finally, you won’t need to worry about refilling the bowl each day, though you will have to change the filter every so often. 

Dog water fountains — DIY and store bought — tend to fall into a few major categories. On the low end are modified tubs or manufactured barrels that release the water via gravity. This approach doesn’t have the visual and taste appeal of flowing water, but gets the job done. The more tech savvy fountains purify the water, show when the filter needs to be changed and the fountain is running low on liquid. 

Then there are the upscale options, both handmade and store bought, that make a pet accessory appear more like home decor. Material choices include ceramic, metal, terra cotta and, of course, plastic. Styles range from minimalist modern to industrial metal and even one shaped like a pagoda. The following list delineates some of the pros and cons of DIY versus manufactured pet fountain along with videos about each.

5 Gallon Dog Water Station 

If you want a low-cost, low-effort DIY watering station, Chris Notap has great instructions. His suggested setup combines a five-gallon jug and a tray that deep and wide enough to comfortably fit the lid. (The tray should be at least a few inches deep.) Drill a hole in the bucket, fill it with water and then turn it upside down. Petmate makes a smaller gravity filled water station. Neither have filters are much to look at, but they require fewer refills than bowls.

Filtered Water Bowl

This fountain works similar to a lot of the professional ones. A reservoir of water cycles through a powered filter, keeping the water fresh. On the upside, the combination of a large metal bowl with an aquarium filter is notably cheaper than many of the professional bowls. Downside? It looks pretty DIY compared with bowls like the PetSafe Drinkwell Multi-Tier Drinking Fountain and Pioneer Pet Raindrop Fountain.

Plant Filled Fountain

This hydroponic plant fountain demonstrates how DIY can shine. While the video shows the project being used by a cat, it can probably work for a small dog (a large one might knock it over). The centerpiece of the project is a ReptoFilter, which has a waterfall like lip on it. A handful of pet-safe plants are placed around the water source, allowing the dog or cat to nibble, if interested. Underneath the waterfall is a small pet dish with a larger basin below to catch overflow. While some manufactured fountains, like the PetSafe Pagoda Drinking Fountain, have a similar waterfall style, the plants are unlikely to be found in a manufactured machine.

Outdoor Options 

While most pet fountains are designed to sit next to a dog or cat’s food, a few are made for the outdoors, and can be nice option when you’re in the yard. These don’t have the charcoal filters that come with many indoor fountains, but they can be a fun way for a dog to play and get hydrated. To get water from Trio Gato Outdoor Dog Water Fountain, a pooch must press down on the top plate. You’ll have to teach your dog how to use it. Chris Notap’s Endless Dog Water supply uses a Macgyver approach to make a dog fountain out of a plastic laundry bin, toilet float and some piping.



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