Water is an essential component of a dog’s body and critical to good health. Water is required for all cellular, organ, and all tissue functions of the body. Pet owners sometimes ask the question “Why is my dog not drinking water?”
One realizes the importance of water when faced with the negative consequences of not drinking, which is “dehydration”. Dehydration results from more output than intake. This can occur from not drinking or from excessive output.
Output is defined at the amount of fluid leaving the body. Output can be from normal fluid loss, drooling, panting, urination, and bowel movements. Output can also be from abnormal losses such as from diarrhea, vomiting, and/or blood loss. As little as a 10% loss of body water can be fatal.
How Much Should a Dog Drink?
In a normal environment, the amount of water a dog should drink per day is dependent on his size. The general rule is that dogs should drink 20 to 40 ml of water per pound of body weight per day. This comes out to about 3 to 4 cups of water for a 20-pound dog or 6 to 8 cups of water for a 40-pound dog per day. Learn more about details of water requirements by weight with this article: How Much Water Should a Dog Drink?
Occasionally, some dogs may drink too much water. Learn more by reading this article: Water Intoxication in Dogs.
Factors that Affect How Much a Dog Should Drink
There are factors that can impact how much water a dog should drink. For example, a dog may drink more if they are on certain medications such as steroids, exercising, exposed to warm weather or hot temperatures, fed high sodium snacks, and/or eat primarily dry dog food.
Reasons Dogs May Drink Less Water
There are many reasons some dogs may drink less water. Just like people, some dogs are naturally better water drinkers than other dogs. The big concern is if there is an acute change in YOUR dog. If your dog suddenly stops or substantially decreases his or her water consumption, that is reason for concern and reason to contact your veterinarian immediately.
In general, some dogs will drink less for the following reasons:
- Diet. If they eat canned food (which contains much more water than dry dog food) dogs will generally drink less water.
- Lifestyle. Dogs with a sedentary lifestyle may drink less water than an active dog (exercise which leads to fluid losses).
- Environment. Consistent exposure to moderate temperatures or mostly indoor dogs. Some dogs will drink less as the seasons change and temperatures get cooler.
- Anxiety and Stress. Some dogs in new environments or situations may not drink water as well as they should.
- Illness. Any illness that makes a dog not feel well can decrease thirst. This can include viral or bacterial infections, pain, gastrointestinal diseases, cancer, kidney disease or failure, bladder infections, and more. Just about anything that causes a dog distress or discomfort can cause them not to want to eat or drink.
Signs of Dehydration in Dogs
Signs of dehydration can be vague and may include:
- Dry gums
- Increased heart rate
- Loss of skin elasticity
- Slow capillary refill time
- Sunken eyes
What to Do If Your Dog is Drinking Less Water
If your dog is drinking less water and this is a change from prior behavior, it is important to evaluate all aspects of your dog’s behavior. For example:
- Is he or she eating normally?
- Are the bowel movements normal? Is there diarrhea?
- Is your dog urinating normally?
- Is your dog licking his or her lips or drooling that could suggest nausea?
- Is there any vomiting?
- Is your dog coughing? Have you noticed any trouble breathing or labored respirations?
- Does your dog appear to be in pain? Is your dog limping? Hunched posture? Reluctance to move?
- Can you see any wounds on your dog?
- Does your dog have the same behavior and activity level? Is he playing or greeting you at the door like normal? Or is he lethargic and less active?
Any abnormality is cause for concern. This can be compounded if your dog is very young or old, pregnant, nursing, or has medical problems such as diabetes or kidney disease.
How to Encourage Your Dog to Drink Water
If your dog is drinking less water, you may try the following to encourage him to drink:
- Wash and rinse the water bowl thoroughly and refill with fresh clean water.
- Some dogs enjoy pet fountains and will drink more when available.
- Allow your pet to lick water from your hand or your finger.
- Feed canned food, as it has much higher water content than dry dog food.
- Add warm water or low-sodium broth to your dog’s food. It works well to add the water or broth about 30 minutes before trying to feed.
- With your veterinarian’s permission, offer small amounts of Pedialyte. It is sometimes recommended to mix Pedialyte with water in a 1:1 ratio and offer small amounts at a time.
- Adding an ice cube to the water bowl can encourage some dogs to drink.
- Please contact your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your dog’s water intake.
- Offered bottled or filtered water. Some dogs like the taste and will be encouraged to drink.
- As a last resort, you can use a syringe to give your dog water. If your dog is weak, there is a risk of aspiration, which can be life-threatening. In general, if your dog is so sick that you need to give fluid by syringe, he would benefit from the advice and treatment from your veterinarian. When offering water by syringe, squirt it gently in the front of the mouth or cheek pouch. Do not shoot it directly into the throat to minimize the risk of aspiration or choking.
Ultimately if your dog is not drinking, the risk of dehydration exists. It is best to see your veterinarian to help identify the underlying cause and provide treatment if needed.
Additional Articles that May be of Interest if Your Dog is not Drinking Water
How Much Water Should a Dog Drink?
Does Dog Water Intoxication Exist?
Should I Give My Dog Tap Water?
Encouraging Your Sick Dog to Eat
Dehydration in Dogs
Why Water is Important
Kidney Failure (CRF) in Dogs