Top Reasons Why A Dog Won’t Drink Water and What You Can Do About It
Water is one of the basic nutrients of dogs. It is an essential component in virtually every physiological process in the body, including body temperature regulation. Adequate intake of water in dogs is very important to prevent dehydration and complications associated with the lack of water in the body.
It is normal for a dog’s body to gain and lose water. Striking a balance between the two can be achieved when there is no problem with the dog’s water intake as water lost by panting, sweating, urinating, defecating, etc. can easily be replenished by eating and drinking.
How much water should a dog drink a day?
The amount of water that a dog should drink per day depends to a large extent on several factors– the dog’s diet, activity level, size, health status, and environmental temperature and humidity. As a rule of thumb, dogs generally require about 60 ml of water per kilogram of body weight (about 1 fl oz per pound of body weight). You can refer to this guide for the precise amounts depending on the dog’s weight, diet, and activity level.
How long can a dog go without water?
The longest that dogs can’t go without water is about 3 days. Longer than that, a dog can become severely dehydrated and may develop serious problems that can be a challenge to reverse.
If your dog hasn’t consumed any water within a 24-hour period, you should call your veterinarian immediately. Dehydration can quickly set in and can be life-threatening if it is not corrected immediately with fluid and electrolyte therapy.
What is dehydration in dogs?
When a dog’s water intake fails to make up for the loss of water from the body, negative repercussions can occur. There will reduction in the blood flow and volume of fluids, which can eventually lead to the reduction of oxygen that is delivered to the organs and tissues. There is also a significant loss of electrolytes, such as sodium, chloride, and potassium. These electrolytes play an important role in various body functions, such as nerve function regulation, facilitating muscle function, maintaining the body’s pH balance, and mobilization of nutrients into the cells. Without prompt veterinary intervention, severe cases of dehydration in dogs can lead to organ failure and death.
Causes of dehydration in dogs
- The water intake is less than what is lost in the body. A dog may not drink enough water if he doesn’t have proper access to water or he won’t drink enough.
- Acute attacks of vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Heat stress or heat stroke
- Illness – infectious or non-infectious causes
- Excessive panting brought about by too much physical activity or when exercising outdoors
Signs of dehydration
- Frequent panting
- Thick or ropey saliva
- Lethargy and/or depression
- Dry and/or sunken eyes
- Gums that are dry and sticky
- Dry nose
- Loss of appetite
- Poor or no appetite
- Lack of skin elasticity
- Vomiting with or without diarrhea
How to check if your dog is dehydrated
In addition to the symptoms of dehydration, there are ways to check whether your dog is dehydrated based on the elasticity of the skin. You can do this by pinching and lifting the skin on the back of the dog’s neck near the shoulder blades. The skin will spring back immediately when the dog is well-hydrated. However, the skin won’t be as elastic when the animal is dehydrated, and it will take a longer time to return. In severely dehydrated dogs, the skin hardly returns to its normal position and form a ‘tent’ instead.
Another technique is to apply some pressure on your pet’s gums. Use a finger to push slightly against the dog’s gums so it will turn white. Then, remove the pressure to see if the normal color of the gums will return within 2 seconds. If it doesn’t, this means that blood is not returning to the area as quickly and this can indicate that the dog is dehydrated.
Reasons why a dog won’t drink water
There are several reasons why your canine buddy refuses to drink water. These include:
- Medical problems – An underlying health issue can have an effect on your pet’s water intake. There is a long list of illnesses in which poor or no water intake is an important symptom. This can range from kidney problems to liver disease to endocrine problems to conditions affecting the gastrointestinal tract.
- Age-related issues — As dogs age, their bodies undergo gradual deterioration, physically,mentally, emotionally, and physiologically. These age-related changes are brought about by wear and tear through the years. Just like humans, a senior dog’s sense of thirst can diminish. A dog suffering from cognitive dysfunction may forget to drink enough water or where his water bowl is located. Also, pain and discomfort brought about by inflamed arthritic joints may prevent senior dogs from going to the water bowl to drink.
- Inactivity and lack of physical activity — A dog with a sedentary lifestyle may not drink as much as he needs to. This is usually the case when environmental temperatures drop and the dog is confined indoors.
- Fear and anxiety — A dog in a strange environment may become overwhelmed by the unfamiliar sights, sounds, scents, etc. This is also true when there is a major change in the routine of the household, such as the arrival of a new pet or house guests, the departure of a family member, etc. All of these can cause a significant amount of stress. The fear and anxiety that a dog feels can cause a loss of thirst and appetite. Negative experiences associated with the action of drinking may also be an issue.
- Changes in water — Dogs have a keen sense of taste and smell so even a slight change in the taste and odor of the water can affect their willingness to drink water. It is a good idea to have your water tested and encourage your dog to drink bottled water for the meantime. This can also happen when a dog notices there is something slightly off about his water bowl. You can try washing the water bowl with soap and water and see if your dog will drink some water from it.
- Mouth problems — Tooth and gum problems, oral cancer, a mouth injury, and other problems affecting the mouth and associated structures may make your dog avoid the water bowl.
Tips to encourage your dog to drink water
- Add water to his food. This can be useful in a dog not drinking water but eating. If your dog is on a kibble diet, you may add some wet canned food or a little bit of water to increase his water intake. Or if you have the budget, you may altogether switch your pet to canned pet food because it contains 75-80% moisture.
- Have several water bowls. Place these water bowls in several locations where they are most accessible to your pooch. Make sure that the water bowls are cleaned every day and refilled with fresh clean water at least twice a day. This can also help prevent the growth of molds and bacteria. Dogs hate drinking stale water. Sometimes a change in the water bowl’s position will do the trick.
- When it’s very hot outside, your dog will like to lick or munch ice cubes. You may also like to add ice to his drinking water, as well.
- Make the drinking water more appealing by adding a few tablespoons of salt-free chick or beef broth. Or you can make a chicken or beef broth without the onions, garlic, and other ingredients that are harmful to dogs. The scent and the taste will surely appeal to your pet’s keen senses.
- Soak toys or treats in water and freeze them. Your dog can drink water when he chews on the toy or licks the water off the treat.
- Change your pet’s water dish or bowl. Some dogs can have issues with their water bowls. They may not like the material it’s made of or its shape. Plastic can retain odors that your pet may not like. Try switching to a water bowl that is made of stainless steel or ceramic.
- Some dogs like to munch on ‘watery’ fruits like seedless watermelon, apples (remove the core), and blueberries. Carrots and cucumbers are great too!
- Ask your veterinarian about electrolyte replacements. This can help keep your pooch hydrated while replenishing essential electrolytes.