Getting my dog to drink has really been a lifelong struggle.
I’ve tested so many tricks and tips and most of them simply didn’t work.
Imagine a 100-pound lovebug who loves eating just as much as cuddling and playtime but absolutely detests sustaining her own life with water.
It’s definitely not okay for your dog to not drink at all but how much do they actually need?
If you notice that your dog is not a good drinker, be at ease because there definitely are tricks that’ll get every dog to increase their water intake.
Also, we’ll explore how you can actually spot dehydration signs and even get lethargic or sick dogs to drink again.
Noting how long a dog can go without water will also help evaluate whether or not you should see a vet asap.
My Dog Won’t Drink Water But Eats
If your dog refuses to drink water but still eats well, you can add water to any kibble or switch directly to wet food, homemade food, or even a raw diet and you can also add moist treats, doggy ice cream, or yummy fruits to your dog’s diet.
The best approach will depend on your dog’s current eating habits.
If you’re feeding kibble (which I personally wouldn’t recommend in most cases anyway), your best bet will be adding water and letting it soak a couple of minutes.
Dry food lacks moisture so make sure to add water if your dog isn’t drinking throughout the day.
With a homemade diet, you’re in complete control over the moisture content.
Wet food or even a raw diet (up to 80% moisture) will cover most of your dog’s water intake.
However, if your dog does not drink at all apart from mealtime, you might need to add water during meals or in the form of treats.
Adding water to her already water-rich raw diet is the primary method how I get my dog to drink more water.
It doesn’t matter as much if your dog is eating or not; the lack of fluids is an immediate problem.
A lack of food or electrolytes is also serious, but secondary and usually not as immediate.
Believe it or not, grey wolves would sometimes go for several days without a meal.
That’s why some raw diet advocates think you should include food-free days in your dog’s schedule but water is still essential.
Now in our case, this only works because she is raw-fed.
Nowadays, we could even toss a couple of treats into the water bowl and she’ll drink it all because of the taste but that wasn’t always the case.
Right after we got her from the breeder, we were feeding kibble which she just scooped out of the water with her tongue.
If that’s your dog and adding water doesn’t work, adding a tastier flavor to the water might help.
Consider an appointment with your vet if your dog absolutely refuses to drink any water.
Sometimes, things like diabetes or failing kidneys can cause your dog to avoid water.
A UTI or bladder infection can also cause a decrease in thirst but usually shouldn’t eliminate thirst altogether.
All in all, if you’ve noticed your dog doesn’t want to drink but is gladly eating food, you shouldn’t have a hard time getting him to drink a little extra water.
14 Tricks to Get Your Dog to Drink Water
The best tricks to get my dog to drink more water are feeding fruits with high water content, making homemade moist treats or ice cream, adding high-value treats to the water bowl, and switching to a raw diet that covers most of the water need.
I have compiled a list below of tips and tricks that will get your dog to drink more water.
Even though I’ve tried all of them and some work better than others, your situation can be totally different.
Just throwing all these ideas into the room. You can pick up the drinking tricks that fit your own dog.
The trial and error we go through to hydrate our canines, am I right?
1. Give your dog wet food. Wet canned food, as opposed to dry dog kibble, has much higher water content.
2. Flavor your dog’s water with a little bit of broth or lactose-free milk (we use green-lipped mussel powder as a supplement which also has an enticing smell to it).
3. Give your dog frozen homemade dog treats or ice cream.
4. Feed your dog fruits and vegetables that are rich in water such as watermelon, cucumber, and strawberries.
5. Add a lot of water to your dog’s kibble.
6. Make a tasty ‘dog smoothie’ with a small amount of yogurt and fruits like bananas and blueberries.
7. Keep a clean ceramic water bowl (stainless steel can irritate your dog’s chin) constantly filled with fresh, cool, clean water 24/7.
8. Try offering water from your cupped hands. The fact that you are offering it may increase the water’s value.
9. Make sure your dog’s water bowl is larger than the food bowl.
10. Freeze a water/broth or peanut butter mixture in a kong as a tasty treat to rehydrate your dog.
11. Avoid human foods high in salt content, or anything else high in salt content (while it’s integral, it can actually speed dehydration under certain conditions).
12. Add treats or cheese to the water bowl. Your dog is forced to swallow some water when fishing for the treat.
13. Raw diets are higher in moisture content and will provide your dog with significantly more fluids during regular meals.
14. Consider buying a water fountain. This is a pet product that encourages your dog to drink more water through motion and sound.
How to Get a Sick Dog to Drink Water
You can get a sick dog to drink water by adding water to their food or providing their favorite watery treat or you could alternatively syringe-feed your sick dog.
Drinking water is essential for your dog, especially if he’s sick.
Whatever your dog is recovering from or whatever is attacking the immune system, your dog needs to stay hydrated.
If you’re switching to a homemade diet (especially with dogs that have diarrhea), you can just add a bit of water to the food and spread it out over several meals.
Dog Not Drinking Water and Lethargic
If your dog is not drinking water and acts lethargic, you should consult your vet to rule out medical reasons and provide your dog with something enticing such as a Kong or water fountain (or the faucet) in the meantime.
If your dog is truly sick and doesn’t respond at all, it might be an emergency.
Enticing your dog to drink by using his favorite treats or something that resembles playful behavior only works if your dog just feels under the weather.
Observe your dog’s behavior other than the drinking habits.
Is your dog still eating, playing, going potty, seeking affection, and sleeping like he usually does?
What Happens if You Can’t Trick Your Dog into Drinking Water?
You may have heard the phrase that when you are thirsty, it’s already too late because your body is running on a deficit.
It’s the same in the dogs with the slight difference that they cannot tell us when they are thirsty (this is why your dog should always have access to fresh water).
Real dehydration would be another stage after thirstiness and it comes with a variety of symptoms that you need to look out for, especially in the summer months.
Signs of dehydration in dogs include loss of skin elasticity, blue or dry gums, dizziness, decrease in appetite, excess panting, and possibly even vomiting or diarrhea.
Loss of skin elasticity: This is true for both humans and dogs.
If you gently pull on your dog’s skin and it slowly returns to place rather than snapping back as it should, your dog could be dehydrated.
Blue, dry and sticky gums: If your dog isn’t able to produce enough saliva, his gums can become dry and bluish, accompanied often by bad breath.
Dizzy or loss of coordination: As the dehydration becomes worse, your dog may suffer from a loss of motor control. You might also see a reduction in energy and lethargic behavior.
A decrease in appetite: Dehydrated dogs tend to lose much of their appetite for eating, negating any moisture content and electrolytes normally gained from food.
Excess panting: Dogs pant as a way to regulate body temperature through perspiration, kind of the equivalent of human sweating.
Heavy panting could be a serious problem that can signify dangerous overheating or difficulty regulating body temperature.
If your dog doesn’t stop panting so heavily shortly after physical activity, he may need medical attention.
The vomiting/diarrhea can (often does) become so bad they eventually die of dehydration if left untreated.
How Long to Rehydrate a Dog?
This depends on how dehydrated the dog is, his size, and the method of rehydrating the animal.
Let’s assume you have a larger adult breed such as a Rottweiler or German Shepherd who hasn’t been drinking for a day and cover possible treatments.
Your dog is provided with a constant source of fresh water.
Your dog has to be willing to drink the water for this to do anything, and the amount of time for rehydration can depend on how dehydrated the animal is, how well his kidneys (or other organs) are functioning, and several other things.
After a dog drinks water, it is eventually absorbed by the small intestine into the bloodstream (some into the stomach).
Water absorption tends to be faster on an empty stomach, but still much slower than direct intravenous injection.
What happens if fluids are given subcutaneously?
Sometimes veterinarians will inject normal saline directly below the skin (Sub-Q) in cases of mild dehydration.
The fluids will form a kind of ‘hump’ before slowly dispersing into surrounding tissues.
Fluids given sub-q aren’t meant to treat severe dehydration and are sometimes prescribed as a home treatment.
The rate of absorption depends in part on how dehydrated the animal is (ask your vet for more information).
“Most commonly, home fluid therapy is recommended for dogs with kidney disease or chronic kidney disease (also known as chronic renal failure).”Weir, Malcolm. DVM.
What happens when fluids are given intravenously?
Think of a human with an IV drip filled with normal saline in a hospital room.
The idea is the exact same; a saltwater solution with about the same ph as blood is injected straight into the bloodstream.
The main purpose is to increase circulatory volume, and this is the primary treatment for dehydration.
Unlike the treatment above, this would be nearly impossible for the average dog owner to do at home (especially on the constricted veins of a dehydrated dog) and has to be done by a trained medical professional.
Again, the rate of absorption will depend on how dehydrated an animal is, but the drip rate on your pet’s bag can be set.
Because saline is a sodium solution, it will help replenish lost electrolytes at the same time as helping rehydrate your dog.
Brachycephalic Breeds with ‘squished faces’ or short noses like Pugs, English Bulldogs, and Boxers are allowed less space for upper respiratory anatomy, while the anatomy itself doesn’t ‘shrink’ but in some cases becomes longer and thinner.
These dogs tend to experience breathing difficulties more often and need caution regarding physical activity.
How Long Can Dogs Go Without Drinking?
Dogs absolutely have to remain hydrated, just like humans.
Water is necessary to sustain life and is even more vitally important than food.
A dog not drinking isn’t a good sign, and all dogs should be drinking water daily.
Whereas a dog might last longer without food, they have around three days without any water.
This time would decrease if it is hot outside and your dog can’t regulate his body temperature.
As his circulatory volume decreases (water is a large component of blood), his blood vessels (veins) would begin to constrict, forcing blood closer to his internal organs.
While the outside tissues may begin to die, the internal organs will need all the oxygen they can get to survive.
This is very similar to heatstroke.
Your dog will need to be given fluids intravenously immediately via emergency veterinary care to increase his chances of survival.
You can’t simply rely on drinking water at this stage and it’s best not to arrive at that point.
Can I Flavor My Dog’s Water?
Normally, flavoring water is unnecessary because most dogs like water that tastes like water. Unusual taste can signify a problem and they may not want to drink it but sometimes tossing treats such as real meat or lactose-free cheese in there helps.
If you want to try adding flavor, add something that resembles an animal source.
You might add a teaspoon (a little more is fine) of beef or chicken broth, but it is high in sodium so don’t add too much.
I like to add shredded cheese which is something my dog absolutely loves and she would drink any amount for this.
Think about flavors that your dog really enjoys and either add them in liquid or powder form.
This way you can ensure that your pet must drink in order to consume the flavor.
Should My Dog Have Access To Water All The Time?
The answer to the question of whether your dog should always have access to water is definitely yes.
While you generally don’t want constant access to food (free feeding = no control over weight and loss of training opportunity), your dog should have constant access to fresh, clean, cool water.
You might be trying to potty train your dog and some might limit the water at night, but it’s better to set a schedule for bathroom breaks if in doubt.
Young puppies will have small bladders and need potty breaks frequently anyway.
If you don’t want to or can’t offer a constant source of freshwater, offer your dog water several times throughout the day and monitor the water intake.
Trust me, I’ve thought about restricting my puppy’s water intake right before bed, but decided against it.
Going for one more potty trip or even cleaning up an accident is always better than a vet visit because your dog is slowly becoming dehydrated.
Try teaching your pup to drink in the morning, midday, and evening but don’t force it.