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How much water should a dog drink (and how much is too much)?

Beagle dog drinking

How much water should a dog drink?

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All animals need water to survive. Water makes up huge proportions of our body, and is vital for all cellular processes. If there isn’t enough water in our body, or our bodies become dehydrated, we can become sick.

By Dr Holly Graham BVMedSci BVMBVS MRCVS

Updated on the 22/07/2021, 15:28

Dogs need food and water to survive, and water must be maintained within the right levels or your pet may become dangerously ill. Fresh water should always be available, and you should carefully monitor your dogs drinking for any changes.

Let’s take a look at a normal dog’s thirst and drinking habits, and the problems associated with dehydration and overhydration!

Why do dogs need water?

Like humans, dogs need water to survive. If water isn’t available, or there isn’t enough your dog may become sick, or even die. Water works in the same way in canine bodies as it does in human ones. Water is important for all the cells of the body to function normally, helps provide adequate circulating blood volume, helps with temperature regulation, digestion and organ health. Neither we, nor dogs can survive without water. A dog is not a cactus!

How much water do dogs drink in a day?

Healthy water intake varies between individuals. A normal dog usually drinks 1-2ml per kilogram of bodyweight per hour, or 25-50ml per kilogram over 24 hours. An average sized labrador of 30kg may drink anywhere from 750ml up to 1.5l of water per day. But remember - this can change with higher temperatures or medical conditions affecting thirst.

Warm weather and exercise might make your dog drink more - and this is normal! But if you’re noticing your dog drinking excessively on a regular basis, it could be a sign that something is wrong with their health. Drinking less isn’t always a problem, but if your dog isn’t interested in water at all and their gums feel dry and sticky, it’s time for a vet check. Dehydration is just as serious as drinking too much.

Dogs fed on a dry dog food diet are more likely to spend more time at the waster bowl. Wet dog food is comprised of around 70% water, and provides much of the water your dog needs.

Changes in drinking habit

A dog will drink more or less to alter the levels of water in his body, according to what is needed. There are times, however, when you may notice your dog’s drinking habits change drastically. Your dog may drink substantially more or less water if they are poorly.

Conditions like kidney disease, diabetes or hyperadrenocorticism (or ‘Cushing’s’ disease) may increase your dog’s thirst, and you may notice yourself filling their water bowl more often than normal. Medication used to treat some conditions, like prednisolone, can also cause your dog to drink more than normal.

Knowing how much your dog drinks is important to help get an idea of your dog’s general health. Most owners know roughly how often they refill the bowl, and how often they hear their friend at the water bowl. Any changes - whether increased or decreased should be closely monitored and discussed with your vet. It may help to measure how much water your dog is drinking over a day, and record this over a few days. These results can be discussed with your vet, who may want to do further testing to work out what is going on with your pet.

There are many conditions that can cause excessive thirst, including kidney disease; diabetes, pyometra in unneutered female dogs and Cushing’s disease.

A decrease in drinking is also something that needs checking out. Some dogs drink less if they feel ill, or nauseous but it can be a sign of a medical condition that needs prompt treatment. If your dog is drinking less than normal, get him checked over by your vet.

Has your dog stopped drinking? There are several reasons why your dog might not be drinking any water.
Excessive urination

If your dog is drinking more, they’ll probably spend more time in the garden peeing. Whilst this might be frustrating, especially if there are accidents in the house - it’s important to never restrict your dog’s access to water. If water isn’t offered when your dog needs it, he may become sick. Speak to your vet to find out the cause of the problem, and let your dog out regularly for toilet breaks.

If you’re worried your dog is peeing more than usual, try to get a urine sample to take with you to your vet appointment. It might sound gross, but it can give us lots of information!

What are the signs of dog dehydration?

You can get an idea of whether or not your dog is dehydrated at home, but remember - dehydration almost always needs correcting by your vet. A long walk or a hot day isn’t likely to cause serious dehydration, but your dog might need a little more water than normal. If problems are chronic and have been going on for a little while, dehydration can be a serious issue. Young, old or ill dogs are more prone to becoming dehydrated - and special care should always be taken to ensure they’re appropriately hydrated.

If you’re worried your dog is dehydrated you can check a few things at home:

  • Gently pinch a loose fold of skin between the dog’s shoulder blades. Release it and let it fall back. If your dog is dehydrated the skin will not fall back as quickly as it should. This is called a skin tent, and if this section of skin doesn’t ping back immediately, it can be a sign your dog is very dehydrated.
  • Check your dog’s gums. If they feel dry and sticky or tacky - get him to the vet! Gum colour can be an indication of problems too, check your dog’s gums are always nice and pink.
  • Check your dog’s appearance - sunken eyes are a sign of severe dehydration.
  • Observe your dog’s stool. Hard and dry stools or constipation can be signs that there isn’t enough water in the body.
  • Observe your dog’s behaviour. Is he spending more or less time at the water bowl? Are you refilling more or less often?

If you’re concerned your dog might be dehydrated, call the vet as soon as you can. These problems need fixing quickly.

Do dogs prefer to drink ice water or room temperature water?

A dog’s preference depends on the individual and the temperament of the environment. On a hot day your dog may prefer a cool bowl of water, but if the weather is cold they may be less fussy! Fresh water should always be available.

How much water should a 9 week old puppy drink?

Weaned puppies should drink the same amounts as an adult - so 1-2ml per kilogram of body weight per hour. But puppies may drink more or less depending on their diet. Puppies on wet food may drink less than their friends on kibble. Puppies who are still feeding from their mother will receive most of the water they need from the milk, but fresh water should always be available.

Puppies are much more sensitive to changes in water than adults, as they are smaller and lose water more quickly. Even small changes can be enough to make your puppy very sick. Fluid balance is important in young animals, and changes should be checked out immediately.

Never restrict your dog’s access to water, make sure the bowl is fresh and topped up and monitor your dog’s drinking habits. Early detection of problems makes it easier to treat any issues, and helps your vet to work out what could be going on with your pet. All thirst related changes should be checked out, consult your vet if you’re worried about how much or little your dog is drinking.