The simplest reason that people or animals drink is because they are thirsty. Their body is becoming low on water and they must drink to make up the losses. Since dogs don’t sweat, except from their nose and foot pads, they eliminate body heat by panting. When they pant a lot, they lose water through evaporation. This water loss is physiologic and can be readily replenished by drinking.
Excess water intake that goes beyond a normal amount, or that occurs without cause, may be a sign of disease. In a variety of conditions the body is not able to control water loss even at normal temperatures. This water loss must be replenished and so dogs drink a lot to find a balance.
How much water intake is normal in a healthy dog ?
Generally, water intake will vary a little with diet. If dogs are fed wet food, they may drink less, while dogs that are fed dry food or salty treats must make up water intake and seem to drink more than expected. However, this water intake is still physiologically normal.
A good general guideline is that a healthy dog should drink between 20-70ml/kg per day1. Being aware of your dog’s water intake is important because drinking too little water can lead to dehydration while drinking too much water can be an indication of organ disease. If your dog is drinking more, he’ll probably also be peeing more (another sign of a potential problem). In fact, increased intake is often a response to excess fluid loss in urine.
If your dog is drinking excessively (polydipsia) it is possibly because he is losing excess amounts of water for any of a number of reasons. While a number of diseases result in excess water intake and urine output, the most common of these diseases include kidney failure, diabetes mellitus and Cushing’s disease.
An uncommon cause of dogs drinking more is called psychogenic polydipsia. It is a behavioral condition with a physical manifestation of excess thirst. Primary polydipsia is used to describe excessive water drinking that is not due to illness or psychosis: bored puppies or water loving breeds may tank up on water occasionally or consistently. Sorting these out can be a real challenge for your veterinarian.
How should increased thirst and drinking be managed ?
Drinking excessive amounts of water often is associated with increased urination. While drinking a lot of water is a sign of health problems, increased urination can be a real problem for you to live with since affected dogs often urinate inappropriately.
The first and most important step in addressing excessive drinking is to diagnose and confirm the underlying condition with your veterinarian. Many of the conditions associated with excess thirst are very serious and must be addressed as soon as possible:
– Kidney disease
– Diabetes mellitus
– Hypercalcemia (high blood calcium)
– Pyometra (uterine infection in unspayed females)
What not to do if your dog is drinking a lot
– Never restrict access to water in an effort to reduce water intake. Restricting water may well result in dehydration and fluid imbalances that will make conditions worse.
– Never ignore the problem. The conditions that cause these changes are very serious and can be fatal.
How Much Water Should Your Dog Be Drinking ?
– Some dog owners are surprised to learn their pet may be drinking too little or too much water on a daily basis. It’s important to monitor your dog’s water consumption to insure he’s getting enough, but not too much. It’s also important because a change in a dog’s normal water intake can signal an underlying health problem.
– How much water your dog needs each day depends on several factors, including her size, diet, age, activity level, and the time of year. As a general rule, healthy dogs need from ½ to 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight each day.
– To determine if your dog may be dehydrated or needs more water, lift some skin at the back of his neck and release it. If your dog is well hydrated, the skin will snap right back into place. Another test is to check your dog’s gums. Moist, slick gums indicate a good level of hydration; dry or sticky gums mean your pet’s body needs more water.
– If your dog isn’t getting enough water each day, there are ways to encourage him to drink more, and most importantly, his diet needs to be high in moisture content.
– If your dog tends to over-drink, which is a much less common problem, it’s important to supervise all her activities around water to insure she doesn’t develop water intoxication.
General Guidelines for Water Consumption and How to Tell If Your Dog is Dehydrated
How much water your dog needs each day depends on his size, diet, age, activity level, and weather conditions.
– A good general guideline is that a healthy dog should drink between ½ and 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight each day. So a healthy 65-pound Labrador Retriever should be drinking between about 33 and 65 ounces, or about ¼ to ½ gallon of water daily.
– If your dog is eating a moisture-rich, species-appropriate diet, she’s getting some of her water needs met with each meal, so she may not drink as much from her water bowl. But if she’s eating primarily dry dog food (which I don’t recommend), she may actually need more than the average daily intake to compensate for the lack of moisture in her diet.
– Puppies need to drink small amounts of water every couple of hours and should be closely monitored and encouraged to drink.
– After a period of hard play or exercise, use caution when your dog rehydrates. If he immediately laps up the contents of his water bowl, rest him for a bit before you refill his bowl. If your dog is very active, it’s a good idea to have water with you when he exercises so that you can give him frequent short water breaks to keep him hydrated.
– During the warmer months of the year, especially during summer, it’s important to monitor your dog’s water intake to insure she’s adequately hydrated.
To determine if your dog may need more water, lift some skin at the back of her neck and let it go. If your dog is well hydrated, the skin will fall quickly back into place. The skin of a dehydrated dog will fall more slowly and form sort of a tent. Another method is to check your dog’s gums. Moist, slick gums indicate a good level of hydration; dry or sticky gums mean your pet’s body needs more water.
The medical term for the desire to drink too much water is called psychogenic polydipsia. Symptoms of over-hydration (water intoxication) include staggering/loss of coordination, lethargy, nausea, bloating, vomiting, dilated pupils, glazed eyes, light gum color, and excessive salivation. In severe cases, there can also be difficulty breathing, collapse, loss of consciousness, seizures, coma, and death.
Help for Over or Under-Drinkers
If your dog tends to overindulge in the wet stuff, make sure you’re there to supervise his activity. The bodily condition that occurs when dogs over-consume water is called hyponatremia (or inadequate levels of sodium in the bloodstream). It is most commonly seen in dogs who like to stay in the lake, pond or pool all day; pets that lap or bite at the water continuously while playing in it; and dogs that swallow water unintentionally as they dive for a ball or other toy.
If he’s retrieving a ball or other toy from the water, insist on frequent rest breaks and be especially vigilant on days when the water is rough. Also observe how your dog interacts with the water. If his mouth is open a lot – even if he’s holding a ball or stick in it — understand that he’s probably ingesting a fair amount of water. The same can be true of dogs that dive to the bottom of a pool to retrieve items.
Familiarize yourself with the symptoms of water intoxication and monitor your dog’s appearance and behavior when he’s playing in water. And if your dog enjoys being sprayed with water from the hose or sprinkler, you should monitor that activity as well. Water from a hose or sprinkler is under pressure, and you’d be surprised how much your dog can ingest in a short amount of time.
If your dog doesn’t drink enough water, make sure to praise her and give her a treat whenever she drinks from her water bowl, and place fresh water close to all the places she frequents, like her bed and food bowl.
Add yummy flavorings like chicken or bone broth to your dog’s water to make it more tempting, and consider getting a pet drinking water fountain as a further enticement.
And finally, but most importantly, if you’re feeding dry dog food, switch to canned and then to a balanced raw diet to greatly increase the amount of water your pet is getting from each meal.