How long can dogs go without water?
Ultimately, there is not one right answer to this question because all dogs are unique.
And I want to start this guide about the importance of keeping our dogs hydrated by telling an epic story about a dog with dehydration.
About an incredible dog, who went on a remarkable journey.
And who, despite enduring long bouts of dehydration, survived to tell the tale.
And the dog’s name is Gobi- named after the desert that she ran across for six days.
How and why is water important to dogs?
Like every other living thing, water is important to a dog because it is what they are made out of.
In fact dogs are more water than humans!
All of the fundamental processes that help to keep our dogs happy and healthy need water.
These include aiding digestion, helping to get rid of waste, controlling body temperature and supporting the circulation of blood- carrying oxygen and nutrients as “it flows”.
How much water do dogs need?
So after hearing about how important water is for a dog, the next logical step is to go ahead and find out what quantity of water to provide them with.
Now, most of these guidelines should only be used as rough estimates because they are all based on a dog’s weight.
Which is OK in itself but it is a bit limited because what two dogs are alike?
The experts recommend that a dog should drink 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight.
So each of my Golden Retrievers, who weigh approximately 60 lbs, should drink 60 ounces on water everyday.
If you’re like me you want to be able to picture or visualise 60 ounces…
Is there anyone else out there who only works in metric?!
It turns out that 60 ounces is about 1.7- or nearly two quarts.
Which seems like a lot to me.
But, apart from weight, there are some other factors that need to be taken into account.
And I will look at these in the next section.
Four important hydration factors
For me, apart from the weight of a dog, there are four other elements that need careful consideration when it comes to how much water your dog should drink.
Active dogs will need to drink more than inactive dogs.
Puppies and older dogs will need to drink more than “middle aged” dogs.
A dog that eats kibble will need to drink more than a dog that is on a diet of canned food or on a raw food diet.
On very hot and very cold days a dog will need to drink more than on a day where the outside temperature is mild.
Did you know that dogs need to drink more on very cold days as well as on blisteringly hot ones?
It was news to me as well and I explain more later in this article.
Why do older dogs drink more?
There are three main reasons or diseases why an older dog might drink more than a younger dog.
For all three diseases one of the biggest symptoms is an “excessive thirst”.
And those conditions are; kidney failure, diabetes and Cushing’s disease.
Firstly, let’s take a look at kidney failure.
Older dogs are more prone to kidney disease because as dogs age, their kidneys simply wear out.
When a dog’s kidneys are working well, they can filter out waste products without using too much water to do this.
When a kidney’s function deteriorates, they naturally use more water to filter out any waste. And that means that in order to keep their body hydrated, they need to drink more.
Moving onto diabetes, the AKC believes that diabetes mostly occurs in middle aged and senior aged dogs.
Diabetes is when there is too much sugar in the blood, which if left unchecked, can be so high that it poisons organs in the body.
And one of the biggest symptoms of diabetes is a dog that drinks way more than normal!
Cushings disease is another age related disease, which affects more middle aged and older dogs.
It occurs when a dog’s body produces too much cortisol- an incredibly important hormone.
Having looked at why older dogs might drink more, we can now turn our attention to puppies
Why do puppies drink more?
I need to be careful with how to describe this.
It is unlikely that your puppy drinks more water than an adult dog, but relative to their size they probably will be.
And the reason that they need to drink so much water is because they are growing and physically getting bigger.
And remember that I told you earlier that dogs are up to 80% water?
So drinking more water is an important part of this growth?
The dangers of dehydration
The good news is that just like a healthy functioning human, a fit and healthy dog will drink the right amount of water for themselves.
The technical term for this is self regulating.
The only thing that we need to do is to make sure that they have enough fresh water available.
But for dogs that aren’t fit and healthy and need a bit more input from their owners, there are real dangers from them drinking too much or too little.
I guess we are all a lot more familiar with the concept of dehydration than we are with the idea of overhydration.
And just a 10% drop in the amount of water in a dog’s system can be fatal.
Puppies are particularly vulnerable to dehydration.
This is partly a lack of maturity- puppies haven’t quite learned how to look after themselves properly because there is just so much fun to be had.
But, like human babies, puppies tend to have more bouts of diarrhea and they vomit more often than adult dogs.
On top of that, puppies are always growing and so the amount that they need to drink is constantly changing.
What are the signs of dehydration?
Although a sign of dehydration could be the sight of your dog’s mouth hanging open and them panting furiously, other signs are a bit more subtle.
But there are a couple of things that you can check.
One is fast, easy and clean whilst the other is a bit messy.
Let me start with the messy one- this involves looking in your dog’s mouth.
It is called Xerostomia or dry mouth.
When you look in your dog’s mouth, normally it is a slimy mess.
The inside of the gums and lips just glisten with saliva- if you touch the gums you should be able to slide your finger around on them very easily.
But for a dog with Xerostomia, there is no saliva- their gums are much drier to the touch and their lips aren’t as “slobbery” as normal.
So, take a look! What do your dog’s mouth and gums look and feel like?
The second test is a little less messy. All you need to do is to gently pinch and lift a bit of your dog’s skin around their neck or shoulders.
If the skin falls back into place easily then your dog isn’t dehydrated but if it “stands up” then it is a sign that your dog is dehydrated.
If you need a bit more guidance on this, watch this video.
Six ways to re-hydrate a dog that won’t drink water
For most dogs who get a bit dehydrated, they can quickly become hydrated by drinking some water.
And for dogs who have laid out in the sun for a bit too long or not had access to their water bowl for a few hours, the sight of a bowl of fresh water will be like heaven!
But for other dogs that are dehydrated, a bowl of fresh water doesn’t interest them in the slightest.
So in these circumstances, what can you do apart from run around a blind panic?
I have tried to put these in a certain order, starting with the simplest, cheapest and quickest tips and then moving on to more intricate solutions
 Thoroughly wash and clean the water bowl
Perhaps this is stating the obvious but if your dog isn’t refusing to drink and you haven’t thoroughly cleaned their bowl, then try this- using hot water and dish soap.
 Use a different bowl or a water fountain
If cleaning the bowl doesn’t cut it then changing the bowl might. If your water bowl is stainless steel, why not swap it for a porcelain bowl?
Or visa versa.
Or if you have a water drinking fountain you might give that a try. Or even from a (clean) plastic spray bottle. By trying these two “hacks” you kind of turning drinking into a game…
 Add ice cubes
Another way of trying to mix things up and make the experience of drinking more exciting.
This time adding some ice cubes that your dog might like to chase around a water bowl before crunching into one.
 Flavour the water
The most interesting and healthy way that you can flavour water for a dog is to prepare a broth.
A broth is a sort of soup that is made by boiling bones in water for hours on end.
But, therein lies the problem.
How many of us have a portion of broth ready to go in our fridge or freezer when we need it to bring our dog back from the brink of dehydration?
That is fairly unlikely. A shortcut is to add a stock cube into water but you need to be careful about how much salt that they contain..
 Feed them canned food or raw meat
My fourth idea is to feed them a can of dog food or a packet of raw meat.
Did you know that a can of food might be 80% water?
And that something like beef mince is about 75% water?
How can a dog in need of a bit of moisture resist such things?
If you need to consider hydrating your dog using a syringe, then you are very close to calling your vet.
Syringes need to be used carefully and so I have selected a video for you to watch.
Although the video shows a dog being syringe fed food, it is almost the same as using a syringe to “feed your dog” water.
Here you go:
 Visit the vet
I have kept the most serious option till last.
Although some other suggestions in my list might seem a bit frivolous, this option isn’t.
A visit to the vet is the nuclear option but if your dog is displaying real signs of prolonged dehydration (which were listed earlier) then your only course of action should be to phone your local vets.
Four reasons why dogs stop drinking..
There are a whole variety of reasons why a dog might suddenly stop drinking in the short term.
Any dog that stops drinking over a few days needs to go and visit a vet because they might have a serious underlying illness.
One of the more obvious ones is if your dog has had a bout of sickness and diarrhea recently-.
They could be feeling nauseous and not feel like drinking because they know that it might all come back up.
 Sore mouth
A slightly more obvious one is that their mouth is sore and it hurts them to drink water.
They might have a sore or broken tooth or a cut in their mouth.
A quick visual check should soon identify the cause of the pain.
 Water tastes different
Dogs are funny things- or at least my two are.
And they can be upset by the smallest things.
Some dogs might stop drinking because their water tastes different.
And of course water does taste different depending on where you live.
So if you move to a completely new area where the water tastes different then this might affect your dog but hopefully only in the short term.
And I can be like this with my cups of tea…
When my step daughter lived just thirty miles away from us- the water in her town had a completely different taste to it, which ruined any cups of tea that I drank!
 Dirty water
Another reason why some dogs suddenly stop drinking water is that their water is too dirty to drink.
This might be because the water hasn’t been replenished in a while or maybe because there’s too much drawl or food bits floating around in it…
And whilst we are on the topic of a dog’s drinking water, let me tell you how scary and disease ridden some dog bowls can be..
How clean is your dog’s water bowl?
This study found that some dog water bowls contain bacteria such as MRSA, E Coli and salmonella.
Any of which can be fatal for our dogs.
All of which can also be passed on from a dog to a human.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, this survey showed that pet bowls were one of the germ infested objects in the home, more dangerous than a toilet even.
It highlights the need to wash our water bowls out at least everyday using hot water and dish soap.
And that the best material to use for a water bowl is good quality stainless steel as it is much more germ resistant.