How much water should a dog drink? Does it depend on age, size, or breed? Do dogs on dry food need more water? Find out in this guide to water for dogs.
It is important for your Labrador to stay healthy and hydrated. You already know that providing access to clean drinking water is vital, especially during the hot summer months.
But, you might be wondering how much water should a dog drink a day? And more specifically, how much water should my dog drink?
These are good questions to ask because there are various factors that affect how much water a dog should drink. Those factors include their diet, activity level, and environment.
Water intake is a good indicator of overall health and gives early warning signs of certain medical conditions. It is important to know what is normal for your Labrador and what to look out for when they start drinking more or less than usual.
Monitoring Your Dog’s Water Intake
It really isn’t that hard to keep an eye on your dog’s daily water intake.
Even without actively thinking about it, you probably notice when their water bowl is empty and needs refilling.
You should also notice if you suddenly start needing to refill it more than usual. However, our lives can get busy, and sometimes, we might not notice a change in drinking behavior. It is, therefore, a good idea to get a baseline so that you’ll know what is normal for your Labrador. This can be done by filling up their water bowl to the same level at the same time each day. Then, notice how much is left when you go to refill it the next day.
Developing this routine can help you stay on the ball with your dog’s water needs and consumption. Checking the water level at the same time each day will give you an accurate representation of how much your dog drinks.
How Much Water Should a Dog Drink?
As a rough guideline, normal water intake for a dog is around an ounce per pound (50 mL per kg) of body weight per day. That means that a 65-pound (30 kg) Labrador would drink approximately half a gallon (1.5 liters) of water per day. But every dog is different, so it’s important to know what is normal for your dog rather than dogs in general.
What Makes Labradors Drink More?
There are several factors that can affect the normal water intake mentioned above, including the following.
Your Labrador always needs fresh water available no matter what their diet; however, how much they drink will depend on the type of food they eat. Dogs that eat predominantly dry food and kibbles require more water than dogs on a wet food diet. It is perfectly normal for a Labrador (or any dog) on a canned or raw diet to drink less water than one on an exclusively dry food diet.
Water helps regulate body temperature. Dogs pant to cool themselves down by exhaling and releasing water through respiration. To compensate for this release of water, your Labrador will drink more in warmer weather.
When we exercise, we lose water through sweating and tend to drink more to make up for it. Dogs also require rehydration after exercise since they will have panted more than normal to help themselves cool down. If your Labrador naturally has high energy and activity levels, they will require more water than a couch-potato pup.
Medications and Supplements
Many common medications and supplements have side effects that may cause changes in daily water intake. Common anti-inflammatories, heart medications, and seizure medications can all lead to increased thirst and urination. It is important to be aware of these potential side effects and ask your veterinarian what to expect.
My Labrador Is Drinking More than Normal
When a dog is drinking more than usual, the first step is to rule out any obvious external factors as mentioned above. Drinking too much water can indicate a variety of health conditions such as a bladder infection, diabetes, or Cushing’s disease.
While you may think that drinking lots of water is pretty harmless, too much of anything is bad, including water. If a dog ingests too much water, which is commonly known as ‘water intoxication,’ they can experience dangerously low sodium levels in the blood, which is a dangerous condition known as ‘hyponatremia.’
The excess water can dilute and shift the natural electrolyte balance of the circulating blood causing blood cells to swell. Excess water consumption can have a sudden onset and can be life threatening. By monitoring your Labradors water intake regularly, you can judge subtle changes and be aware of when to contact your veterinarian.
My Labrador Is Drinking Too Much
There are several things to look for if you suspect your Labrador may be drinking too much, possibly leading to overhydration. These include loss of coordination and staggers, lethargy and nausea, bloat and vomiting, dilated pupils and pale gums, and excessive drooling. If left to develop, these signs can lead to difficulty breathing and collapse.
Be aware that drinking from their water bowl doesn’t necessarily account for all the water your dog consumes. Dogs that spend a lot of time in or around water may be drinking from other sources or consuming water incidentally. If your dog plays in water, they may be consuming water while fetching items or biting at the water. Similarly, if they like to be sprayed or drink from a hose, consider that water intake when evaluating their overall consumption.
My Labrador Is Drinking Too Little
If your Labrador suddenly decreases their water consumption, they are at risk of becoming dehydrated. If your dog isn’t drinking enough water this can also indicate certain conditions such as pancreatitis or parvovirus. Just like with drinking too much water, not drinking enough water will cause harmful imbalances in the body.
Water is vital for many functions, such as carrying nutrients throughout the body, aiding in digestion, and removing toxins from the system. If your Labrador gets dehydrated, the body won’t have enough water for these essential functions. Dehydration ultimately causes essential organs such as the kidneys and liver to stop functioning properly. If left in this state for too long, there can be irreversible damage to these organs.
Signs of Dehydration in Dogs
There are two easy ways to keep an eye on your Labradors hydration levels at home. It is beneficial to do these tests on your healthy Labrador so that you are aware of their baseline.
Skin tenting is a test of the skin’s elasticity and thus associated with hydration levels. This involves gently lifting the loose skin located between your Labrador’s shoulder blades and assessing how long it takes for the skin to return to its normal state. In a healthy dog, after the skin is lifted it should snap back to its original position almost instantaneously. If your Labrador is dehydrated, the skin will stay in a ‘tent’ for some seconds and be delayed in returning to the normal position. The longer the delay, the more dehydrated your dog is.
The mucous membranes include the eyes, nose and mouth. They also serve as an indicator of adequate hydration levels. A healthy Lab’s gums will be pink and moist to the touch. If he is dehydrated, the gums may appear pale and feel dry and tacky when touched. A dry nose and/or dry, sunken eyes are also symptoms of dehydration.
If your dog tends to not drink enough and your vet has given her a clean bill of health, here are a few ideas to encourage drinking.
- Place her water bowl in places she likes to be.
- Praise her when she drinks water.
- Add chicken or bone broth to her water, but be sure to keep it fresh.
- Consider adding wet food to her diet.
- Soak dry food with water or broth before feeding.
- Consider getting a pet drinking fountain to make it fun (be sure to keep it clean).
How Much Water Should My Labrador Drink?
As we’ve noted, appropriate water intake is important. Too much or too little can be a sign of trouble. Water is a vital component of life, but often our dog’s water intake is overlooked. It is easy to simply refill the bowl whenever we notice it’s empty and then forget about it. Most people leave their dogs to their own devices and just assume they’ll drink when they’re thirsty. Unfortunately, that’s not the best practice for maintaining your dog’s health.
The answer to how much water should a dog drink a day depends on several factors. Therefore, it is good practice to establish a baseline of how much is normal for your dog. This ensures that you’ll notice changes in water intake. Those changes can serve as the first indicator of many medical conditions. If you start now and develop a routine around refilling the water bowl and noticing how much is left each time, you’ll be in the best position to notice any subtle changes.
How often do you check your Labrador’s water bowl? Have you encountered drinking issues with your pup? Tell us about it in the comments.
This article has been updated for 2019.
References & Additional Reading
Otto, C.M., Hare, E, Nord, J.L., et al. “Evaluation of Three Hydration Strategies in Detection Dogs Working in a Hot Environment,” Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 2017.
Playforth, L. “Dehydration in dogs and puppies, what are the signs and symptoms?” VetsNow, 2018.
Zanghi, B. M. & Gardner, C. L. “Total Water Intake and Urine Measures of Hydration in Adult Dogs Drinking Tap Water or a Nutrient-Enriched Water,” Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 2018.
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website