In Is Your Dog Drinking A Lot Of Water, Pippa looks at the causes of excessive thirst in dogs. And how to recognize if your Lab is drinking too much
Dogs get thirsty and drink more for the same reasons that people do. Feeling thirsty is a very basic animal reaction to becoming dehydrated.
Maintaining exactly the right amount of water inside each of the cells in our bodies is an incredibly sophisticated process.
Yet for healthy dogs, that process happens perfectly and naturally without your dog having to make a conscious effort to think about it.
Thirst is often completely natural. If your dog gets too hot on a summer’s day, he’ll pant automatically to cool himself down.
And as the water from his mouth evaporates, he’ll automatically become thirsty and set off to find a drink.
But sometimes, thirst is more sinister
Excessive thirst in dogs
Perhaps the weather isn’t hot. Maybe it’s snowing outside. Thirst that is caused by excessive panting in cool weather is a clue that all is not well with your dog.
He could be running a temperature. Or there may be something upsetting the natural balance of your dog’s body chemistry.
If certain salts or minerals become too concentrated in your dog’s body for example – he’ll need to drink more to flush them out.
And in this way, being very thirsty, or drinking more than usual, can be a useful indicator to you, that something is wrong with your dog. Even before he becomes obviously ill.
You may hear your vet refer to this kind of excessive thirst as polydipsia. It simply means ‘much thirst’
Frequent urination in dogs
If your dog’s body is attempting to flush out a build up of toxins or excess minerals from his body, the extra drinking will result in him needing to go to the bathroom more often.
So if you are worried about your dog peeing a lot, ask yourself if he is drinking a lot too.
Dogs drinking a lot and urinating in the house
A dog that needs to urinate because he is drinking large amounts of liquid is likely to have accidents indoors
Even if he has never done so in his life.
Try not to be annoyed with your dog, it isn’t their fault. And don’t be tempted to restrict the dog’s access to water.
Make an appointment with your vet and in the meantime remember to take your dog outside more frequently.
Excessive thirst and diabetes
Diabetes is one of the most well-known causes of excessive thirst in both dogs and humans, and it’s natural to worry that your dog might be diabetic if he starts drinking a lot
The important first step is to contact your vet and arrange for your pet to be examined.
It isn’t possible to diagnose diabetes over the internet, and if that is what your veterinarian suspects, your dog will need to have some tests.
Diabetes is often accompanied by some weight loss and mainly affects middle aged and older dogs.
Don’t delay your dog’s medical or assume that diabetes is the cause. Diabetes itself can be serious if untreated and there are many other causes of thirst which also require prompt medical attention.
- Kidney problems
- Cushings disease
- Liver disease
- Tummy troubles
- Infections diseases
- Side effects of medicines
- Eating toxic substances
There is one condition only seen in the female dog. Drinking a lot of water is also a symptom of pyometra, a common infection of the uterus (womb) which affects female dogs that have not been neutered.
Pyometra is a medical emergency, so never delay in seeking treatment for a female dog that is excessively thirsty and ‘under the weather’ during the four weeks or so after the end of her last season.
And don’t forget that a female dog that is feeding a hungry litter of puppies on her milk will need to drink a whole lot more water that she would normally
There is also a type of polydipsia that is not related to illness. And that is when dogs drink excessively despite being in good general health
This unusual problem is called primary polydipsia (sometimes refered to as psychogenic polydipsia) and it is considered to be essentially a behavioral problem.
Though in time it may of course turn out to have one or more physical causes.
Primary polydipsia should still be investigated and treated as it can cause physical problems.
Having too much water in your body, can be as dangerous as having too little!
And your vet will help you to prevent your dog from over-hydrating himself.
Drugs that cause excessive thirst in dogs
Sometimes a drug or medicine that has been prescribed for your dog will have the side effect of making your dog more thirsty.
Commonly prescribed steroids such as prednisone may have this effect on a dog.
Don’t just stop giving your dog the medicine as this may do more harm than good.
If you think a medicine you are giving your dog is making him drink a lot, talk to your vet about it.
Sometimes side effects have to be tolerated or treated with another drug because stopping the drug carries a risk of even greater harm.
Talk to your vet if you are worried about your dog’s reaction to any drug or medicine he has been given, including home remedies.
Tummy troubles in dogs
Any dog that has severe diarrhoea will need to replace the fluid they are losing, and may need to drink more than normal.
So don’t be surprised if a dog with an upset tummy is thirsty.
If the dog is vomiting as well, they may become seriously dehydrated quite quickly. This is another situation where you need to get in touch with your vet sooner rather than later.
Don’t leave it over the weekend for example.
At the very least speak to your vet by phone and get their advice, and if your dog is under three months old, diarrhoea & vomiting that lasts more than a few hours warrants an emergency trip to the vet’s office.
Multiple causes for a dog drinking a lot of water
These examples of the causes of a dog drinking a lot just skim the surface of a behavior which is a symptom that something inside your dog is not working as it should.
There are many more problems that can cause excessive thirst and only a qualified vet will be able to get to the bottom of what is happening with your best friend.
Okay, so it’s all very well being told to seek medical treatment if your dog is excessively thirsty. But ‘how much is too much’.
How much water should a dog drink if he’s in good health? And how do you know when it’s time to go to the vet?
How much water should a dog drink
How do you know if your dog is drinking enough to give concerns about his health?
We’ll give you some specific numbers in a moment. But making sense of them will depend on a number of factors including
- the dog’s diet
- the weather or temperature around the dog
- the dog’s activity levels
Dr Karen Becker DVM explains that dogs need between half and ounce and one ounce of water for every pound of their body weight.
So if your Lab weighs 60lbs he or she might reasonably be expected to drink anything between 30 and 60 ounces of water a day.
There are 20 ounces in a pint by the way, so you’re looking at between a pint and a half and three pints per day.
BUT, this doesn’t all have to come out of the dog’s water bowl. Some of it will come from their food. How much, depends on the dog’s diet.
Diets that can result in a dog drinking a lot of water
Many dogs are fed on kibble, which is dehydrated before it is packaged, in order to preserve it and make it light and portable.
Kibble fed dogs will need to drink quite a lot in order to replace the liquid that was in their food before it was processed and dried out.
Dogs fed on wet food from cans or pouches will drink a lot less.
And dogs fed a natural raw diet may drink very little unless they have eaten a lot of bone, or the weather is warm or they have been exercising hard.
When dogs get too hot
Overheating may make a dog very thirsty. Do make sure that your dog has access to a cool place to lie in warm weather.
And avoid taking him jogging in the heat of a summer’s day.
If you have accidentally overheated your dog, urgent veterinary attention is essential. Heatstroke can be fatal.
Deciding whether or not a dog is drinking excessively isn’t always easy.
One of the most important points we need to make going forwards, is that we all need to know what is normal for our dogs.
That way, we’ll be able to recognise if and when a dog is drinking more than normal. We’ll look at that next.
How to monitor your dog’s water intake
A helpful first step is to measure how much your dog’s water bowl holds.
Not so that you can measure exactly how much the dog drinks each day – that isn’t necessary unless you vet asks you to.
But knowing how much the bowl holds, and filling it twice a day at around the same time (morning and evening is ideal) will help you get a handle on quantities and on what is normal and what is not (for your dog)
You’ll also be able to tell your vet roughly how much your dog is drinking if your vet asks for this information.
Changes in a dog’s drinking habits
Once you know what is normal for your healthy dog, in the way of water consumption, you’ll be able to judge whether or not he is drinking more than usual.
If he is, and there is no rational explanation (such as a hot spell of weather or a change from a wet to a dry diet) then make an appointment with your veterinarian.
He or she won’t mind a false alarm and would rather see a healthy dog, than risk missing a dog that is in the early stages of a serious illness.
Don’t forget, for a female dog that has just finished a season, excessive thirst is a serious sign and warrants an emergency visit to the vet.
Is your dog drinking a lot of water – summary
The water balance in your dog’s body is a vital part of maintaining the health of many different organ systems and bodily functions.
Your dog regulates this balance automatically by drinking exactly what he needs to keep him in perfect condition.
How much your dog drinks each day will be linked to what the dog eats and how active they are. And abnormal thirst is a clear indicator that something inside your dog is not working as it should.
Don’t be tempted to ignore your dog drinking a lot of water, unless there is a harmless and obvious reason for it.
What you are looking for when considering your dog’s health, is changes to their normal behavior.
If you notice your dog drinking a lot of water, or more water than is normal, it is important to pay attention.
There are a number of disorders or diseases that can cause excessive thirst.
Prompt medical attention can help ensure that a dog makes a full recovery, or at least continues to live a normal and happy life.
Further reading and references
- Van Vonderen et al. Disturbed Vasopressin Release in 4 Dogs with So-Called Primary Polydipsia Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine
- Nicholls DVM Polyuria and Polydipsia: Diagnostic Approach and Problems Associated with Patient Evaluation. Vet Clinics Of North America Small Animal Practice 2001 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195561601500017
- Belshaw BE. The Differential Diagnosis of Polyuria/Polydipsia in dogs. Veterinary Quarterly 1995
- Johan P. Schoeman BVSc, DSAM, MMedVet, DECVIM-CA, MRCVS Approach to Polyuria And Polydipsia in the Dog. Proceedings of the 33rd World Small
Animal Veterinary Congress. 2008 http://www.ivis.org/proceedings/wsava/2008/lecture16/130.pdf?la=1
- Peterson ME, Nicholls R: Investigation of polyuria and polydipsia.
BSAVA Manual of canine and feline endocrinology 3rd edition,
- Feldman DVM & Nelson DVM Diagnostic Approach to Polydipsia and Polyuria. Vet Clinics Of North America Small Animal Practice 1989
- Brian Catchpole Canine Diabetes Mellitis Endocrine Abstracts 2007