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Why won't my dog drink water?

Puppy sitting next to water bowl advice

Your dog must always have free access to potable water.

© Shutterstock

From not wanting to share bowls with other pets to being ill, there are several reasons why your dog might not be drinking any water.

By Dr Hester Mulhall MA, VetMB, MRCVS

Updated on the 11/08/2020, 14:45

If there is a sudden change in your dog’s thirst levels and they either won’t drink water or are drinking excessively, this can indicate a health problem and you should seek veterinary advice.

If your dog has always only drunk a small amount, there are a few points to consider.

How much water is your pet actually drinking? Try to keep track of measuring the quantity of water that you are putting in their bowl and the quantity left at the end of the day. This is really useful information for a vet to know, if you decide to book an appointment.

What is their water requirement? You can calculate this below, but a small breed dog such as a chihuahua might only need 100ml of water a day.

Are they getting water elsewhere? Some dogs lap at puddles outside or on walks. This is best avoided if possible, as standing water can be full of germs and parasites.

Is this behavioural? If your dog has been given pet gravy or similar products, they might be holding out for something tastier than water. There are a range of products available that can help encourage your pet to drink, some of which are discussed here.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

How much water should my dog drink?

The guidance on this varies, but the normal range is roughly 20 to 70ml of water per kg per day. This requirement will depend on other factors such as diet – if your dog is fed wet food they may drink less than if they are fed dry food. Water intake will also be higher in more active pets. If your dog is drinking more than 100ml per kg or there has been a marked increase in how much they are drinking, this can be an indicator of an underlying health condition. Causes of polydipsia (increased drinking) include hormonal conditions (e.g. diabetes), infections, kidney disease and more.

Why won’t my dog drink water out of his bowl?

Some of the more fussy pooches prefer their water to be fresh and might prefer to drink from a pet water fountain. In multi-pet households your pet might not feel comfortable drinking from their bowl, particularly if it is shared. Group dynamics between dogs can be complicated and it helps to have multiple bowls available, ideally in at least a couple of rooms in the house. Older dogs can also forget where their bowl is or get confused if it moves location. Try to be consistent about where you are offering them water and add in extra bowls if necessary.

Why won’t my dog drink water after surgery?

After surgery your pet will be feeling groggy, but it’s important that they have plenty of access to liquid as they will be more prone to dehydration following an anaesthetic. You can speak to the vet about oral rehydration fluids. There are some special meat-flavoured ones designed for dogs and cats that can help tempt them to drink and rehydrate. If your pet is still not keen on liquid the following day, ask the practice whether they need a check-up.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

Why won’t my dog drink water when I'm not home?

This is most likely behavioural and could suggest that your pet is anxious when you are away. It could also be linked to the fact that they are less active, choosing to spend this time dosing rather than playing. This should not be too much of a concern as long as you are not out of the house for really long periods and they are drinking when you are around. You could speak to a vet or a canine behaviourist for more advice.

Why won’t my dog drink water inside the house? 

This really depends on the individual pet. They might be drinking from outdoor puddles because they feel vulnerable using their water bowl – this would be more common in a multi-pet household with complicated group dynamics to consider.

Why won’t my dog drink water when it's hot?

They might be feeling unwell or they might need easier access to water than normal. Make sure to have plenty of water bowls available and refill these regularly. If your dog has become too hot, is not drinking and/or is showing signs of heat stroke, you should contact the vet. Signs of heatstroke include increased panting and drooling, restlessness, bright red gums or tongue (or pale gums), breathing difficulties, vomiting and diarrhoea. This can progress to lethargy, confusion, seizures and collapse.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

How do I force my dog to drink water?

You cannot force your dog to drink. If you are wondering how to get your dog to drink water, you can try to tempt them with some oral rehydration fluids from the local vet clinic, as these are often meat flavoured. You could also add a small amount of dog gravy to the water bowl, but beware as these can be very salty.

Should I force my dog to drink water?

Absolutely not. Unless advised by a vet, trying to syringe water into your dog’s mouth or force fluid intake in another way can make the situation worse. This could result in them becoming head-shy, and mean it is difficult to get essential medications into them further down the line. If they are showing signs of breathing distress, forcing them to do anything could make this much worse and cause them to collapse.

How long can my dog go without water?

Your dog must always have free access to potable water, this is a requirement under the Animal Welfare Act (2006). A dog could probably not drink for a couple of days, but this would not be good for their health. If you think your dog has gone a day without drinking, you should seek veterinary advice.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

How do I rehydrate my dog?

You can offer oral rehydration fluids. If your pet is severely dehydrated, then oral fluids will not be sufficient and they should be admitted to the veterinary practice for intra-venous fluids.

What can dogs drink besides water?

Water is best and your dog should drink this if it is all that is on offer. You can try adding a small amount of dog gravy to tempt them. Do not give your pet human drinks, as many of these can be very bad for their health and even toxic.

What are the signs of a dehydrated dog?

Some of the signs of dehydration include lethargy, panting, dry nose, tacky gums, lack of appetite and decreased skin elasticity. If your dog is showing visible signs of dehydration, they need to see a vet.

Is my dog dehydrated?

If you think that your dog might be dehydrated, then just to be sure your pet should be booked in for a health check and a phyexaminationsical with the vet.

Can you give a dog Gatorade?

Definitely not. Gatorade (and other types of sports drink) is designed for humans and is therefore very high in sugar. Do not feed human rehydration fluids to pets.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

My dog is on antibiotics and isn't drinking water.  What should I do?

You can try tempting your dog to drink using the advice in this article. Alternatively, you should also contact the vet, as decreased thirst can indicate the infection is not clearing.