Is your dog drinking a lot of water? Discover how much dogs should drink, the causes of excessive thirst or polydipsia in dogs, and when to seek help. Dogs get thirsty and drink for much the same reasons that people do. Feeling thirsty is a very basic reaction to dehydration. Maintaining the right amount of water inside each of the cells in our bodies is an incredibly sophisticated process. Yet, for healthy dogs (and people!), that process happens perfectly naturally. However, if you’ve noticed your dog drinking a lot of water, you might be wondering if it’s normal.
Thirst is usually completely natural. If your dog gets hot on a summer’s day, he’ll pant automatically to cool himself down. As the water from his mouth evaporates, he’ll become thirsty and set off to find a drink. This is normal thirst. But sometimes, thirst can be more sinister.
Excessive Thirst in Dogs
Perhaps the weather isn’t hot. Maybe it’s snowing outside. Thirst 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 water to flush them out.
In this way, a dog drinking excessive water can be a useful indicator that something is wrong with your dog before he becomes obviously ill. You may hear your vet refer to excessive thirst as polydipsia, which simply means ‘much thirst.’
Frequent Urination in Dogs
If your dog’s body is attempting to flush out a buildup of toxins or excess minerals, the extra drinking will result in him needing to urinate more often. So, if you are worried about your dog peeing more than normal, ask yourself if he also drinking more than normal. A dog drinking too much water is also going to be a dog that pees a lot.
Dog Drinking a lot of Water and Urinating in the House
Unfortunately, a dog that needs to urinate because he is drinking a lot is likely to have accidents indoors, even if he has never done so before. Try not to be annoyed with your dog, it isn’t his fault. And don’t be tempted to restrict his access to water. Make an appointment with your vet, and in the meantime, remember to take your dog outside more often.
Increased Thirst in Dogs
There are a number of reasons for a dog drinking excessive water. Some of those reasons are completely harmless and no cause for concern. However, there are several causes of excessive thirst in dogs that will require a veterinarian’s diagnosis and assistance. If you think your dog is drinking too much water, it may be due to one of the following reasons.
Excessive Thirst and Diabetes
Diabetes is one of the most well-known causes of excessive thirst in dogs and humans. It’s natural to worry that your dog might be diabetic if he suddenly starts drinking a lot. Diabetes is often accompanied by weight loss and mainly affects middle-aged and older dogs. Of course, the most important and 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. It requires a comprehensive health exam and tests. Your veterinarian is the best resource for a reliable diagnosis, so don’t delay seeking their professional advice. Also, don’t assume that diabetes is the cause or try to manage it yourself. Diabetes can be serious if untreated, and there are many other reasons for a dog drinking too much water, which also require prompt veterinary attention.
Other reasons for a dog drinking too much water include:
- Kidney problems
- Cushing’s disease
- Liver disease
- Tummy troubles
- Infectious diseases
- Medicine side effects
- Eating toxic substances.
Diagnosing the cause of polydipsia in dogs can require a series of steps to eliminate each potential cause.
There is also a condition only seen in female dogs. A female dog drinking excessive water may be a symptom of pyometra, a common infection of the uterus (womb) which can affect female dogs that have not been neutered. Pyometra is a medical emergency, so don’t delay seeking treatment for a female dog that is excessively thirsty and ‘under the weather’ during the four weeks or so after her season.
Also, a female dog that is feeding a hungry litter of puppies with her milk will need to drink a lot more water than normal. This is a form of increased thirst that is perfectly normal.
Polydipsia in Dogs
Polydipsia is the medical term for excessive thirst. We’ve already discussed some diseases that can cause polydipsia in dogs. In addition, there is a type of polydipsia that is not related to illness. A dog drinking too much water despite being in good general health may have psychogenic polydipsia. This is considered a behavioral problem. Though in time, it may turn out to have one or more physical causes that were previously undetected.
Polydipsia in dogs should always be investigated and treated as it can cause serious problems.
Can a Dog Drink too Much Water?
The short answer is yes. Having too much water in the body can be as dangerous as having too little! Excessive water can dilute the balance of minerals (particularly sodium) in the blood, which can have serious consequences. Such overhydration is called hyponatremia. A dog drinking too much water warrants consulting a veterinarian. Your vet can work with you on ways to ensure your dog is properly hydrated but not overhydrated.
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 thirstier. 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 medicine is making your dog 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 an even greater risk of 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 you may be using. It’s important for your vet to have a full picture of your dog’s health and diet.
Tummy Troubles in Dogs
Any dog that has severe diarrhea will need to replace the fluids they are losing and will need to drink more than usual. So, don’t be surprised if a dog with an upset tummy is thirsty. This is not a situation of a dog drinking too much water. If your dog is vomiting in addition to diarrhea, they can become seriously dehydrated quite quickly. This is another situation where you need to take him to the vet sooner rather than later. Don’t leave it over the weekend.
At the very least, speak to your vet by phone to get their advice. if your dog is under three months old, diarrhea and vomiting that lasts more than a few hours warrant an emergency trip to the vet’s office.
Multiple Causes for a Dog Drinking a lot of Water
The reasons we’ve discussed so far for a dog drinking excessive water just skim the surface. A dog drinking a lot of water is a symptom that something else is going on. There are many more problems that can cause excessive thirst in dogs. 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 or too much? We’ll give you some specific numbers in a moment. But, making sense of them will depend on a number of factors including:
- your dog’s diet
- the weather or temperature of the dog’s environment
- your dog’s activity levels.
Dr. Karen Becker DVM explains that dogs need between half an ounce and one ounce of water for every pound of their body weight. So, if your Lab weighs 60 pounds, he or she might reasonably be expected to drink anything between 30 and 60 ounces of water each day. However, it doesn’t necessarily all come out of your dog’s water bowl. Be aware of other sources of water consumption. This includes water play, in which your dog may inadvertently consume water. Some of your dog’s water consumption will also come from their food. How much, depends on their diet.
Diets that Can Result in a Dog Drinking a Lot of Water
Many dogs are exclusively fed kibble, which is dehydrated before it is packaged to preserve it and make it lightweight and portable. Kibble-fed dogs will need to drink more than dogs on a wet food diet. Of course, if you feed your dog a combination of the two, their water consumption needs will be somewhere in the middle.
Dogs fed a natural raw diet may drink very little unless they have eaten a lot of bone, the weather is warm, or they have been exercising. These are among the normal reasons for a dog drinking a lot of water.
When Dogs Get Hot
Being in a hot environment will make a dog very thirsty. Dogs pant to cool themselves and regulate their body temperature. They lose water through panting and it must be replaced. Make sure that your dog has access to a cool place to lie in warm weather. Avoid taking him jogging, or engaging other high-intensity exercises, in the heat of a summer’s day. If your dog becomes overheated, urgent veterinary attention is essential. Heatstroke can be fatal.
A dog drinking a lot of water because they are in a hot environment is normal and appropriate. Deciding whether a dog is drinking excessive water isn’t always easy. In order to do that, you’ll need to know what is normal for your dog. That way, you’ll be able to recognize if your 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 your vet asks for it. But knowing how much the bowl holds and filling it twice a day at around the same time (morning and evening are ideal) will help you get a handle how much your dog drinks. 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 normal water consumption is for your healthy dog, you’ll be able to judge whether or not he is drinking more than usual. If it seems your dog is drinking too much water and there is no rational explanation (such as hot weather or a change from wet to dry food), then make an appointment with your veterinarian. The vet won’t mind a false alarm and would rather see a healthy dog than risk missing a dog 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 vital to maintaining healthy organs and bodily functions. Normally, your dog regulates this automatically by drinking exactly what he needs to keep him in perfect condition. How much your dog drinks each day will be affected by what he eats, the temperature, and how active he is. Abnormal thirst is an indicator that something may not be working as it should.
Don’t be tempted to ignore your dog drinking a lot of water, unless there is an obvious and harmless reason for it. Polydipsia in dogs can be a sign of a serious problem. What you are looking for when considering your dog’s health, is changes to their normal behavior. If you notice your dog drinking excessive 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. Do you have questions or comments on dogs drinking too much water? Let us know in the comments?
This article has been updated for 2019.
Further Reading and References
- Catchpole, B. “Canine Diabetes Mellitis,” Endocrine Abstracts, 2007.
- Feldman DVM & Nelson DVM, “Diagnostic Approach to Polydipsia and Polyuria,” Vet Clinics of North America Small Animal Practice, 1989.
- 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.
- Nicholls, R. DVM, “Polyuria and Polydipsia: Diagnostic Approach and Problems Associated with Patient Evaluation,” Vet Clinics of North America Small Animal Practice, 2001.
- Peterson ME, Nicholls R, “Investigation of polyuria and polydipsia,” BSAVA Manual of Canine and Feline Endocrinology 3rd edition, 2004.
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