If you have a pet, you likely already have a water bowl, but do you know the significance of water and how it plays an important part in the life processes of a dog’s body?
Dogs must always have access to water, especially if your dog spends extended periods of time alone at home whilst you’re working at the office or grabbing groceries.
In this article, we will go over the basic anatomy of dogs, how much water they need every day, possible reasons for sudden changes in drinking habits, as well as how to look for signs of dehydration in your dog.
- 1 How Long Can a Dog Go Without Water?
- 1.1 1. Body Water Percentage in Dogs
- 1.2 2. Amount of Water Needed Per Day
- 1.3 3. Factors Affecting Water Consumption
- 1.4 4. Exactly How Long Can a Dog Go Without Water?
- 1.5 5. Possible Reasons for Excess Water Consumption
- 1.6 6. Possible reasons your dog isn’t drinking enough
- 1.7 7. How to See if Your Dog is Dehydrated
- 1.8 8. How to Encourage Your Dog to Drink More Water
- 2 The Bottom Line
How Long Can a Dog Go Without Water?
1. Body Water Percentage in Dogs
Like humans, water is a major component of a dog’s body. Humans and dogs are both made up of about 60% water.
This means that it’s necessary for dogs to consume enough water. The amount of water required changes over time with age, body fat, and other aspects. If your dog is overweight, it will reduce the amount of water percentage in the body as well.
Dogs who get regular exercise are leaner, meaning they have more muscle in their body than fat. Fat does not carry as much water as muscle does, which reduces the amount of water carried per pound in weight.
Puppies can have up to 70% to 80% of their body weight in water, and this gradually decreases as they grow older.
Dogs who are around ten years old do not have the same amount of water in the body, some may have as low as 50% to 55% total water in the body. You can read more about this in this article about a dog’s fluid calculations.
2. Amount of Water Needed Per Day
The next question is: How many liters of water does my dog need every day?
Because size and weight vary so much between different breeds of dog, there is no one answer to how much water a dog needs per day. For example, the average weight of a chihuahua can range from 1.5 to 3 kilograms. On the other hand, a full-grown English Mastiff can weigh up to a hundred kilograms! That being said, we must look at the weight of any individual dog in order to calculate how much water they might need.
As a rule of thumb, your dog needs one ounce of water per pound of body weight per day. In simpler terms, if your dog weighs 100 pounds, he will need about 3 liters of water per day to stay healthy.
There are several factors that affect how much water your dog might consume. We will later get into the different factors that can cause dogs to drink too much or too little water.
3. Factors Affecting Water Consumption
While the “one ounce per pound of body weight” formula might work for most dogs, their appetite and water consumption can change based on a variety of different factors.
It is obvious that dogs, like humans, will start drinking more water when the weather is hot. Hot weather causes dogs to sweat more, and so they must drink more water to remain hydrated and maintain a safe internal body temperature.
Your dog might drink a lot more water in the summer than he does in winter, especially if you live in a tropical country. Regardless of how much water is on offer though, hot weather can be very dangerous for dogs and can put them at risk of dehydration and the life-threatening condition of heat stroke. So, when the weather is hot, its best to skip the walk and keep your pup indoors
As mentioned earlier, young dogs have a higher percentage of water than older dogs. This means that puppies will drink a lot more water than older dogs in proportion to their body size.
Older dogs also tend to be more sedentary and so don’t tend to need as much water due to exertion. It is also thought that as dogs reach their golden years, their hunger and thirst receptors start to diminish. This might help to explain why you might see your elderly dog taking fewer trips to the water bowl.
When a dog is pregnant, she needs more water to support the pregnancy. It is important to keep your dog properly hydrated when she’s carrying babies, otherwise it may adversely affect the health of both mum and her puppies.
Even when a dog has given birth and she’s lactating, her appetite and water intake will be higher than normal due to milk production. So, if you have a pregnant dog make sure that she has constant access to clean water.
This is another factor that can determine how much water your dog will drink daily. Active dogs lose water faster from sweating. Unlike humans who sweat through their skin in order to cool down, dogs can only sweat through the pads of their feet. The main way they cool down is by expelling hot air through panting. Dogs that get lots of exercise then, need more water in order to remain properly hydrated and regulate their body temperature.
Oftentimes, your dog’s diet will play a factor in how much water you see them drink. This is because different types of foods have naturally different moisture content. Wet food, for example, has a higher water content (75%) than dry food (10%).
So if you have recently started to feed your dog wet, raw, or fresh food, don’t be alarmed if you see them going to their water bowl less than when they were eating kibble. Because wet food contains more water, dogs consuming it as part of their normal diet will require less additional water to stay hydrated as opposed to dogs who are fed dry kibble or biscuits.
4. Exactly How Long Can a Dog Go Without Water?
Going back to the main question, how long can a dog go without water?
Like humans, dogs can theoretically last for 2-3 days without water, after which point their vital organs will begin to fail. If you come across a dog who you suspect is severely dehydrated and hasn’t had access to water for a number of days, they will certainly, in addition to water, require swift veterinary attention.
The maximum amount of time any dog should go without drinking water is between 8-10 hours. If a dog does not drink for more than this time, you will likely start to see signs of dehydration.
5. Possible Reasons for Excess Water Consumption
If your dog is drinking more water than normal, it might be a sign of a serious disease or illness. Some of the reasons for this are mentioned below.
If your dog’s kidneys are not functioning properly, it can cause him to be more thirsty and drink a lot more water in an attempt to compensate for the kidneys not properly flushing toxins out of his system. Kidney failure is a serious life-threatening condition that can lead to death if it is not quickly seen by a vet.
This is another serious disorder that dogs (most commonly senior dogs) can suffer from. Diabetes causes excess sugar in the blood which in turn can cause excess urination. This can cause your dog to drink more water in an attempt to replenish the water that is being expelled as waste.
If your dog suddenly starts drinking more water than usual, it might be worth a trip to the vets to rule out any underlying medical cause.
Infection or Liver Disease
Problems with the liver can also cause your dog to drink excessive water.
Make sure that you track your dog’s drinking and urinating patterns before visiting the vet, as this can help speed up any diagnosis. Remember that if your dog is regularly fed wet or hydrated food, he might not need as much water as a dog who eats dry food.
It is worth knowing that certain medications, including some anti-inflammatory drugs, will cause your dog to drink more. If you notice increased water intake upon giving your dog any new medication, call your vet to determine if this is just a normal side effect or something of concern
6. Possible reasons your dog isn’t drinking enough
Stress or fear
Whilst your dog’s desire to drink may be affected by various physical conditions, its emotional state can also play a factor.
For instance, dogs who have moved house (such as new puppies or rescue dogs) may temporarily lose their desire to eat or drink. Just like us, when dogs are overwhelmed or worried, they lose their appetite for food and water, and can temporarily ‘shut down’.
Help your new puppy or dog to feel safe by giving them plenty of space, and allowing them to get used to the new environment at their own pace. If you think there is something else making your dog too scared to eat or drink, consider reaching out to a qualified dog trainer or behaviorist.
A previous bad experience at the water bowl
If your dog has had a bad experience whilst drinking from their bowl, they can form a negative association with that bowl or with drinking; causing them to drink less. For example, if someone accidentally stepped on your pup’s foot or tail whilst they were drinking, they might worry that if they drink from their bowl, that bad experience might happen again.
If you know or suspect your dog might have been frightened whilst taking a drink, consider moving their water bowl to a different location. Alternatively, you can put multiple bowls out around the house to help your pup feel safe when drinking.
The water bowl itself
Some dogs don’t like water bowls made out of certain materials. For example, some dogs are scared by the reflections or noises that metal bowls create. Others might be frightened when their lightweight plastic bowl moves when they go to take a sip.
If you notice that your dog is reluctant to approach his water bowl or that he backs away when you put it down, consider switching out his water bowl for one of a different material. Ceramic bowls tend to be a good choice since they are heavy and unreflective.
Illness and nausea
Any illness that causes your dog to feel unwell or nauseous can cause them to drink less than usual. If you notice a change in your dog’s drinking habits and suspect them to be unwell, consider taking them to the vet for further investigation
Oral issues can cause your dog to experience discomfort when eating and drinking, leading to a decreased desire to do so. Damage to the teeth can cause sensitivity upon drinking cold water, in which case you might help your dog by providing water that is more tepid.
Also, make sure to maintain your dog’s oral hygiene by brushing their teeth with dog-friendly toothpaste regularly. Certain mouth injuries and conditions can also make drinking and swallowing particularly painful for your pup. If you notice a sudden reluctance to drink, check your dog’s mouth for cuts or foreign objects such as splinters.
7. How to See if Your Dog is Dehydrated
A lack of water in your dog’s body can cause severe dehydration which, if not treated, can ultimate be fatal.
To prevent severe dehydration, you need to pay attention to its warning signs so you can get proper medical attention when it’s necessary.
If your dog’s eyes look sunken, dry, or cloudy, it may be a sign that they are dehydrated. It’s important to know what your dog looks like normally so that you can spot any signs of dehydration or abnormality when they do appear.
There are multiple ways where you can check your dog’s mouth for signs of dehydration.
The first way is to check his gums. If they are dry and sticky, he might not have enough water in his system.
The second way to check is by looking at your dog’s saliva. If he has a thick saliva, it can be a sign that he needs to drink more water.
Most healthy, well-hydrated dogs will have a moist nose. If your dog’s nose is dry, it could be a sign of dehydration.
A loss of water in a dog’s system is likely to make them appear lazy and lethargic. This is because water helps maintain proper blood circulation throughout the body. If your usually active dog starts showing signs of reduced energy or lethargy, it might be a sign that he is dehydrated.
Dogs usually pant when they’re hot or have been exercising If your dog experiences an extended period of heavy panting, it’s likely they need to hydrate properly in order to bring its body temperature back down. If your dog is panting vigorously, producing lots of saliva, and has dark red gums, this could be a sign of heat stroke. Get them somewhere cool, cover them in tepid (not cold) water or towels, and call your vet.
Vomiting can be a sign of severe dehydration in all kinds of animals, including humans. If your dog is vomiting every time he drinks some water or eats food, get him to the vet as soon as possible.
Diarrhea and loose stools can both be a cause and an effect of dehydration. It might be caused by an upset stomach, but if the diarrhea lasts for more than 48 hours, call your vet.
If you notice that your dog is urinating less frequently or is producing more concentrated (ie more yellow/brownish) urine than usual, it is likely that not enough water is getting through his system.
Dogs, like humans, should have elastic skin. Early signs of dehydration appear on the body when the skin loses its elasticity. To test this, gently grab the scruff of your dog’s neck and hold it up. When you let go of the skin, it should quickly spring back into place. If your dog’s skin takes a while to fall back into shape, this could be a sign that he needs more water to maintain normal bodily function.
If your dog is not eating enough food for an extended period, this might be a sign of dehydration or some other underlying cause that might need medical intervention.
Capillary Refill Test
There is a test you can perform as a way to see if your dog is properly hydrated. Open your dog’s mouth and use your finger to press down on a pink area of your dog’s gums: they will turn white as the blood flow is temporarily restricted.
When you let go, the gums of a healthy and well-hydrated dog will return to their normal pinkish color within 2 seconds. If it takes longer than 2 seconds for the color to return, it is likely that your dog is dehydrated and could do with consuming more water.
8. How to Encourage Your Dog to Drink More Water
If your canine friends aren’t drinking enough water, it can affect all aspects of their health.
Below are a few tips to ensure that they maintain a healthy level of hydration:
- Always keep your dog’s water bowl clean and full of fresh water.
- The placement of your dog’s water dish is important as well. Keep it in an easily accessible area of the house where he spends a lot of time.
- Put chicken or beef broth in his water dish to make it more palatable to drink. Just make sure that any broth you use doesn’t contain any toxic ingredients like onion or garlic. Also make sure that you use no or low sodium broth, as too much salt can also be highly toxic to dogs.
- Add a splash of water into your dog’s regular meals, as he eats his food, he will naturally consume some of the water.
- Consider purchasing a specially formulated Oral Rehydration product such as ‘Oralade’. Such products are designed to help replace the essential fluids, electrolytes and nutrients that dehydrated dogs lack. Many are often flavored to make them more palatable to dogs, even when they are unwell.
- Dogs also like raw goat milk – yes really!
- Dogs love ice cubes! Give your canine friend some ice cubes to get his water intake up or make ice cubes or popsicles out of pet safe bone, chicken or beef broth. However, if you suspect your dog is already showing signs of heat stroke (vigorous panting, dark red gums, vomiting, and extreme lethargy), do not give them ice cubes in an attempt to rehydrate or cool them as this can cause them to go into shock. Instead, reduce their temperature slowly by covering them in tepid water. In cases of heat stroke, the dog must always be seen by a vet.
With these simple tips, you can help to ensure that your dog keeps up his water intake to stay hydrated, happy and healthy.
The Bottom Line
Your dog is your best friend and taking care of him is an important part of your life. This comes with keeping him always hydrated, so he does not fall sick.
In this article, we discussed how much water your dog needs, reasons why he might be drinking too much or too little, how to check if he is dehydrated, how long a dog can go without water, and some simple tips you can take to encourage your dog to remain hydrated.
Hannah works as a professional dog trainer and is certified via the Victoria Stillwell Academy for Dog Training and Behaviour. She has led hundreds of group classes, teaching dog behaviour as well as the sport of agility to dogs and their owners. She also conducts 1-1 canine behaviour consultations for clients in their own homes. Hannah is dog mum to 3-year old Cavapoo Finley and is particularly passionate about helping people understand and build better relationships with their dogs.