Dogs drink a lot of water. It isn’t uncommon to refill a dog’s water bowl a couple of times a day, more if they’re active or it’s hot outside. While there are dogs who seem to breathe water, there are other dogs who almost refuse to drink enough water. Whether they’ve been that way since they were a puppy or it’s a recent development, dogs quickly become dehydrated. If you have a dog who isn’t interested in water, what are the underlying reasons and can they be dangerous for their health?
How Much Water Does a Dog Need?
Before deciding if your dog isn’t getting enough water, knowing how much a dog needs every day is important in determining if they’re drinking enough (or too much). Healthy dogs need at least one ounce of water for every pound of body weight. This is a general rule of thumb, so the right amount could be a bit more or less depending how active or old your dog is. Generally, puppies, seniors, and very active dogs drink more water than middle-aged, sedentary dogs.
Reasons Your Dog Might Not Be Drinking
Dogs love to eat strange things, and sometimes those odd objects become lodged in or injure their mouth, making it painful to eat or drink. There can be sticks wedged between their teeth or a cracked tooth from chewing rocks. You can give your dog a decent cursory oral exam, but often your vet will be able to do a better job seeing if there’s anything in the back of the mouth or throat and performing the necessary removal.
Nerves or Anxiety
Sensitive dogs will often lose their appetite and thirst if they’re stressed out over something. Sometimes houseguests, a new addition to the family, or the absence of a family member are enough to make your dog lose their desire to drink. This is typically temporary, and you’ll see your dog start to eat and drink again after a couple of days when they’ve better adjusted to the change.
Unfamiliar Surroundings or Water
Vacations, a move, or staying in someone else’s house are sometimes enough to stress a dog to the point where they don’t want to drink. Sometimes it’s because they’re overwhelmed with the new environment and they feel like adjusting is more important than drinking. Other dogs are sensitive to water changes, especially if they’re going from tap water to well water or vice versa. You can gradually get them used to the taste of the new water by mixing it with bottled water.
Dehydration in Dogs
Dehydration is dangerous, but chronic dehydration gradually takes its toll on your dog’s kidneys.
Signs of dehydration are:
- Dry, tacky gums and tongue
- Decreased skin elasticity. If you tent the skin between your dog’s shoulder blades, it will return to normal if they’re hydrated. If they’re severely dehydrated, their skin will remain raised
- Sunken eyes
- Dark urine that’s very strong in odor
If you notice any of these signs in your dog, get them to the veterinarian immediately. Giving them fluids by mouth will not replace the necessary fluids fast enough to get your dog rehydrated.
Healthy dogs typically become dehydrated because they’re expelling more fluids than they’re taking in, meaning they’re vomiting or having a lot of diarrhea. Older dogs and puppies are more prone to dehydration because they require more frequent fluid intake and they’re most likely urinating more.
Severe, prolonged dehydration definitely leads to kidney damage or kidney failure, among other possible organ failures, including the heart. If your dog ever shows any symptoms of dehydration, they need to be seen by the veterinarian immediately. If they’re truly dehydrated, they need fluids under the skin or given intravenously.
What to Do If Your Dog Isn’t Drinking
If your dog isn’t drinking water, there are a few things to do. First, evaluate if they’re sick in any way (vomiting, diarrhea, not eating). A vet exam will produce the best results to check your dog’s bloodwork, abdomen, and the inside of their mouth for any injuries or foreign bodies.
If your vet deems your dog healthy, then it’s possible there’s some behavioral issue going on, like stress, fear, or anxiety over some sort of household change.
Getting Your Dog to Drink Water
When your vet has given your dog the all clear health wise, then it’s time to try something different to get your dog to drink.
If the reason they aren’t drinking seems to be temporary (like a new baby they’ll adjust to), then you can put water in their food. This works very well if your dog still has an appetite because soaked dry food can hold a lot of water. You can also soak some wet food in water for extra motivation to eat. You can also try getting them to drink from a different bowl. If your dog was somehow spooked by their bowl, they may be scared to drink from it again. Try giving them a different bowl and see how they react to that.
You can also get them interested in water by adding a couple splashes of chicken or beef broth (low sodium, no garlic/onion added).
Dogs who aren’t drinking because of a health condition need their fluid intake monitored very closely. It isn’t unheard of for dogs with cancer or some sort of kidney disease to require fluids under their skin every day, stressing the importance of seeing a veterinarian regardless of why you think your dog isn’t drinking.
A few days of not drinking water won’t necessarily hurt your dog unless they’re vomiting or having frequent diarrhea. Whether it’s behavioral or medical, your vet is the best resource for pinpointing the reason(s) why your dog isn’t drinking and help you come up with a good resolution.