We all know how important water is for the continuation of life, however, it is still one of the most over-looked aspects of canine health and nutrition. The amount of water your dog does or doesn’t drink can have profound effects on their health and well-being. Not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration, kidney stones, or even death for your canine. Drinking too much water can lead to stomach bloating, electrolyte imbalances or water toxicity. If your dog is drinking too much or too little water, it may also be an indication of a more serious issue.
Why Water Is So Important
Water is integral to a dog’s body and its ability to perform many important functions. Water not only carries nutrients throughout the body, but it also helps the body digest food and absorb nutrients. Aside from this, water cushions the body’s joints and internal organs, as well as helping to maintain a regulated body temperature. Nearly every important body function is performed with the aid of water. Without it, your dog can quickly become ill and dehydrated. Without receiving the proper amount of water, organs will eventually sustain damage and begin to shut down. Once the organs begin to shut down, death is imminent.
Lack of Water & Dehydration
On average, dogs will naturally drink enough water on a daily basis to stay well hydrated. However, if a dog is suffering from another disorder (such as kidney disease, metabolic disorder or cancer) then they are at higher risk of becoming dehydrated. Pregnant and nursing dogs are also at higher risk of becoming dehydrated.
Dehydration can be triggered by play and exercise in hot weather that leads to becoming over-heated. It can also be triggered by infection or illness such as vomiting and diarrhea. If you are concerned that your beloved pooch is becoming dehydrated, then there are a couple of ways that you can check to see if your dog is dehydrated:
- Check your dog’s mouth to see if their mouth is dry and their gums are pale, dry and sticky.
- Inspect your dog to see if their nose is dry or their eyes are sunken.
- Check your dog’s skin by gently picking up a fold of skin from between your pet’s shoulder blades and releasing it. The skin should fall back into place quickly. If your pooch is dehydrated, the skin will take time to return to place, it could even stay up for a prolonged period before falling back into place.
- Other signs of dehydration may include: lethargy, loss of appetite and depression.
If your dog is mildly dehydrated, such as from becoming over-heated, then you should provide them with small amounts of water every ten minutes for a couple of hours. Watch to ensure that they do not drink too much water at one time, due to the fact that it may induce vomiting and further worsen the situation. If your dog is suffering from severe dehydration, then you should contact a veterinarian immediately.
Excessive Water Intake
When dogs drink excessive amounts of water, the possible underlying reasons could be behavioral or physical. If the dog is drinking excessive amounts of water for behavioral reasons, then the issue should correct itself. However, excessive water intake can also be an indication of a more serious health issue, such as: fever, infection, diarrhea, kidney disease, cancer, diabetes, liver disease or Cushing’s disease. Finally, some medications may cause your dog to feel excessively thirsty.
The behavioral aspect could be that your dog simply enjoys drinking water. In this case, the result is medullary washout, a kidney condition, which leads to the continual intake of excessive amounts of water. Over time, the dog’s water intake will normalize.
If you believe that your pet’s excessive water intake may be tied to a more serious underlying issue (such as kidney failure, diabetes or Cushing’s disease), then some simple blood and urine tests can determine if this is the case. If you have ruled out the possibility of behavioral issues, then you should arrange a visit to your veterinarian to determine if a more serious issue is the cause.
If your canine companion is taking medication, then you should determine if they are the cause for the increased amounts of water intake. Some of the common medications which may cause increased water intake include:
- Anti-Inflammatories – Prednisone and similar anti-inflammatories are commonly used to treat numerous conditions such as allergies, asthma and inflammatory bowel disease.
- Heart medications – Furosemide and similar medications cause an increase in urinary output, which in turn causes an increase in thirst.
- Seizure medications – Phenobarbital and other seizure medications often have side effects which include excessive appetite, as well as excessive thirst and urination.
Ensuring Optimal Water Intake
The majority of dog owners simply leave a bowl or water feeder out for their pets with the assumption that their dog will drink as much or as little as they need. However, some dogs will either drink too much or not enough on their own. The amount of water that your canine companion needs on a regular basis varies depending on their size, diet, activity level, age and even weather conditions.
On average, a healthy dog should drink from ½ ounce to 1 ounce of water for every pound of body weight per day. While older dogs tend to regulate their water intake on their own, puppies should be monitored more closely and should have roughly ½ cup of water every 2 hours.
A dog’s diet also has a major effect on the amount of water that they need to drink on a regular basis. A diet consisting of dry food will require a dog drink more water than a diet that consists of moist, canned food. There are also certain food ingredients which can artificially increase your dog’s thirst, such as salt and sodium. This is why it is important to limit your dog’s intake of ‘human food’ which often contains salt and added ingredients.
Another consideration for a dog’s water intake is the weather and the amount of exercise that they receive. During the summer and hot weather a dog will pant more in order to remain cool, which leads to increased water intake. You should also take into consideration the amount of exercise that your dog receives. Running, playing fetch and otherwise exercising can increase your dog’s thirst, especially during warmer weather. However, you should be careful that your dog does not drink too much too fast after exercising or becoming hot. Dogs that are highly active may also require more water on a regular basis than others.
Providing and Monitoring Your Dog’s Water Intake
Knowing how much water that your dog should be drinking on a regular basis to maintain optimal health and nutrition can help you determine if your pooch is drinking the right amount, and possibly alert you to any health concerns.
Developing a healthy watering routine can help you easily monitor your dog’s water intake and notice any significant changes.
- Refill and clean your dog’s water bowl at the same time everyday
- Ensure that you refill your dog’s water bowl to the same level each time
- See how much water remains in the bowl each time that you change it
With a proper watering routine and consistent monitoring, you can ensure that your dog’s water nutritional needs are met. If you are concerned that your dog may be suffering from severe dehydration or drinking excessive amounts of water, then you should see your veterinarian immediately for further evaluation.