Getting my dog to drink has really been a life long struggle. I have tested so many tricks and tips and most of them simply didn’t work.
Imagine a dog who loves to eat but absolutely detests drinking. Is this ok, and how long can a dog really survive without water?
Maybe you just don’t think your pup drinks enough water. What could you do to encourage your pet to drink more?
My Dog Won’t Drink Water But Eats
Give your dog wet dog food, or add water to his food. Dry food is completely dehydrated and even deprives your dog’s food of water.
That’s why dogs on a raw diet have to drink significantly less liquid just because meat and vegetables contain a lot of water.
Believe it or not, grey wolves would sometimes go for several days without a meal. They couldn’t survive without water though, no different than any other animal.
The two aren’t interchangeable, food and water. Your dog will begin to suffer around just a day or less of not drinking, and should always drink water.
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.
This is my primary method how I get my dog to drink more water, by simply putting he required extra amount into her food bowl.
Now in our case, this only works because she is raw fed. Right after we got her from the breeder, we were feeding kibble which she just scooped out of the water with her tongue.
If your dog is refusing to drink there is probably a medical problem causing it, requiring immediate veterinary attention (you can’t wait for an appointment).
Sometimes, things like diabetes or failing kidneys (an extreme problem in themselves) can cause your dog to avoid the water.
A UTI or bladder infection can also cause a decrease in thirst, but shouldn’t usually eliminate thirst altogether.
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 not as immediate.
Signs Your Dog Is Dehydrated
You may have heard the saying 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.
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 appetites for eating, negating any moisture content normally achieved from food and missing out on the normal electrolytes achieved 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.
Vomiting with possible diarrhea – Many things can cause this, but it is a huge symptom of dogs suffering from Parvo. The vomiting/diarrhea can (often does) become so bad they eventually die of dehydration in about 90% of untreated cases.
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 freshwater.
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.
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.
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 about the same ph as blood 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.
A Note on Brachycephalic Breeds
Dogs with ‘squished faces’ or short noses, like Pugs, English Bulldogs, Boxers, etc. 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.
Can I Flavor My Dog’s Water?
Normally, most dogs like water that tastes like water. Unusual taste can signify a problem and they may not want to drink it.
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 flavours 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 flavour.
14 Tricks to Get Your Dog to Drink Water
I have compiled a list below of tips and tricks that will get your dog to drink more water. I have tried all of them and some work better than others.
You will have to find what works best for your individual dog just through trial and error.
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 ‘ice/broth’ treats.
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 stainless steel water bowl constantly filled with fresh, cool, clean water twenty-four hours a day.
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 that will also rehydrate your dog.
11. Avoid human foods high in salt content, or anything else high in salt content. Whereas sodium is integral for many of the body’s functions, it can also speed dehydration and too much can be very bad for a dehydrated dog.
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 our dog with significantly more fluids during his normal meals.
14. Consider buying a water fountain. This is a pet product that encourages your dog to drink more water through motion and sound.
For another suggestion, see Can Dogs Eat Applesauce? Risks & Benefits
24/7 Access to Water – Yes or No?
The answer to the question if your dog should always have access to water is definitely yes.
While you generally don’t want constant access to food (free feeding = weight gain), 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 is better to set a schedule for bathroom breaks.
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.
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. Just like us, a dog without water won’t survive long.
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.
For every pound of body weight, dogs should have at least an ounce or more of water daily.
Are you worried your dog may become dehydrated this Summer? Check out 10 Helpful Summer Safety Tips for Dogs