Dehydrated Dogs? How long can a dog go without water?

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Dogs and Water

As we head into the “dog days of summer” (ha, see what I did there?) it’s important that we don’t forget our furry friends in this heat. All mammals need a significant amount of water to survive. Dangerous dehydration can set in quickly in extreme temperatures.

As schoolchildren, we learned that mammals can go much longer without food than we can water. But how do you know? How long can a dog go without water?

Table of Contents

chocolate lab drinking water out of a bucket

If our beloved pets do not have constant access to fresh water, they will find it!

Dogs Drinking out of Toilets

Even if you are good about giving your dog access to fresh water, they may choose the toilet. Why? Because it’s cool, fresh, and at the perfect height for them to access.

If your dog is drinking out of the toilet and you don’t want them to, the best prevention is just to deny access. Train the humans instead of the dogs! Put the lid down each time after use.

What Happens to a Dehydrated Dog

Dehydration causes many organs in the body to work harder than normal, which has many negative consequences, such as vomiting blood, dizziness, lack of coordination, pale gums and skin.

It’s important to remember that dogs are, well, dogs. They don’t have the reasoning skills that humans have. Dogs want to be with their people, and will do so to their own detriment. A dog will not say to you “It’s too hot for me to be outside with you.”

Dog owners need to be the reasonable voice inside a dog’s head.

Some dog breeds do better in the heat and without water than others. Some breeds like the Basenji and the Rhodesian Ridgeback were bred to be in the African deserts, and their bodies adjust better.

dog running along a sand ridge in the desert

Still, as time passes, dog breeds are ‘modernized’ and their bodies adjust to modern comforts.

It is recommended that you check your pet’s fur and eyes weekly to see if they need more water. Most dogs can go about three days before needing to be given additional fluids. If your pet goes longer than that, you should see a vet as opposed to assuming it is healthy.

How much Water do Dogs Need?

Dogs need to drink about 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight every day. For environmental reasons, I’m opposed to buying bottled water in those plastic bottles. Not to go too far off topic, but they are a HUGE contributor to waste and climate change.

Still, each of those bottles is about 16.9 oz. That means, one of those disposable water bottles is enough water for just a 15-17 lb dog, for one day. Dog breeds that are about that size are chihuahuas, miniature pinschers and many terrier breeds.

Your average 80 lb Bernedoodle will need 5 of those!

There are many ways to monitor your dog’s thirst and intake, including using an electronic water meter to measure their daily intake or using a measuring cup for smaller dogs.

A proper diet is also essential for keeping your pet hydrated. A sick dog will can quickly deteriorate into serious health conditions without enough water.

Dogs with chronic health conditions like kidney disease or diabetes need more water than healthy dogs.

How Long can my Dog go Without Water?

Well, the answer is…it varies.

Many dogs experience age-related dehydration (more on that below). And that can occur over several weeks or months.

Other dogs have died in one day, due to extreme heat and dehydration.

It varies depending on the breed, the age and general health of the dog, environmental conditions and more. Young, healthy dogs can go longer than an old or infirmed dog. A healthy adult dog will last longer in the heat than a young puppy.

If you are looking at this article, chances are you’re worried because your furry friend is not drinking as much as they should.

A good rule of thumb: If you’re worried enough to Google your dog’s health, then give your vet a call. If you’re already concerned about your dog’s health, you don’t want them to further deteriorate into serious health conditions.

How to Tell if my Dog is Dehydrated

If your dog has dark red gums or tongue, is having difficulty breathing, or you notice an increase in urine production, they might be dehydrating.

If you notice signs of dehydration in your pet, it’s best to give them a small bowl of water. It’s important that the dog get as much water as possible before moving on to other solutions.

Signs of Dehydration in Dogs

The next time you take your dog in for a wellness check at your vet, you can ask them for additional sigs of dehydration in dogs.

Some signs of dehydration in dogs include:

  1. Dehydrated gums, will be sticky or tacky to the touch
  2. Dry mouth
  3. Dry nose or crusty nose
  4. Dark or discolored urine
  5. Weakness and lethargy
  6. Swollen tongue
  7. Excessive panting

If a human does not drink enough water, we can feel fatigued, get headaches and more. Dogs cannot tell us this, so it’s important to look for those outward signs.

How to Get your Dog to Drink Water

If your dog shows signs of dehydration, it’s important to find out why they haven’t been drinking water.

One common reason is that your dog isn’t able to reach water in their bowl, so you should make sure you have a large enough bowl and that the water will be accessible.

Another way to get your dog to drink more is to provide them with a fresh and cool water source. This can be done through a fountain or even by putting ice cubes in their dish.

There are also many dog water fountains and dog water bowls that encourage fresh water and encourage drinking. These can be especially helpful for older dogs who don’t want to drink water.

What NOT to Do to Encourage Water Drinking

Many humans, myself included, don’t really enjoy drinking water. I do it because I have to, but I don’t enjoy the taste or flavor. Or lack thereof, I should say.

Some dogs may feel the same way. And some pet owners will add things like juice, milk and other flavoring to the dog’s water to encourage drinking.

If you choose this option, do not use human items like milk. Many dogs cannot tolerate milk and you will only upset their tummy, which may result in vomiting and more dehydration.

Instead, go to your local pet supply store and buy a flavoring component that has been formulated for dogs. This will help ensure it doesn’t make your dog’s health condition worse.

Dangerous Water Sources for Dogs

If we don’t give our dogs access to clean water, and they are thirsty, they’ll find water.

This might mean puddles, lakes, streams, toilets, the ocean and who knows what else!

Any of these water sources can be dangerous for a dog. There may be parasites, bacteria and other hidden elements in that water that will only serve to make your dog sick.

This is why it’s important if you are doing an outside day with your dog, that you pack water for them just like you do for yourself.

Dog Drinking too Quickly

Most dogs that have not been drinking water because they have not had access will drink water once it is available. However, just like humans sometimes “chug” water when we’re really thirsty, your dog may attempt to do the same.

If a dog has an empty stomach and drinks too much water too quickly, that can be detrimental to their health. They may end up with an upset stomach and vomit the water right back up. If they have an upset stomach and/or are vomiting, this can further dehydrate the dog.

And, it can also result in a dangerous condition called bloat. If your dog drinks a bunch of water quickly, then becomes restless with a distended (drum like) abdomen, seek emergency veterinary care immediately. Bloat is a life-threatening condition that requires a vet to remedy, you cannot resolve it at home.

If your dog needs to rehydrate, give them about 1/3 of what you think they need, every 30-45 minutes until they are done. This will help prevent bloat and an upset stomach. You want your dog to have enough water, but that shouldn’t happen within a short period of time.

Feeding a dog wet food instead of dry dog food can also help with hydration.

Age Related Dehydration in Dogs

Of course it’s easy to tell when a dog has been in the heat and that is the reason why we have a dehydrated dog. But, even with the best of care, our older dogs may become dehydrated over time.

Some common reasons are:

  • “Forget” to drink water due to age and senility
  • On medications that upset their tummy
  • Tiredness, age related fatigue so they just don’t drink water

If this is happening with your beloved aged pet, ask your vet what you can do to encourage hydration. When a pet is a senior citizen, their bodies and organs may start declining. Pet owners, we don’t want to hurry this process along with dehydration.

And, that is what may happen. Dehydration in older pets strains their organs and hastens the aging process.

Preventing Dehydration in Dogs

Like most health conditions, prevention is the best way to go. Once a dog is dehydrated, depending on their age and health, it can be very precarious getting them back to healthy! That can be stressful for both the dog and the dog owner, so you want to be proactive.

  1. Make sure your dog has access to clean, fresh water at all times. Your dog’s bowl should be cleaned and refreshed at least every 12 hours. It should be in a place where they can always access it or reach the water bowl.
  2. Remember that dogs do not sweat. They cool themselves using other methods like panting, cooling their tummies and the pads of their feet. Do not force a dog to be outside in extreme conditions.
  3. Go with your gut. If your gut is telling you that something isn’t right, call your vet.
  4. Remember, we are our dogs’ logical reasoning. In recent super hot days (100+ degree days), my little dog is parked right by the back door, wanting to be outside with us. But, all she knows is that she wants to be with her humans, no matter what. I have to be “parent” and remember that it’s just too hot for her. She’s much safer indoors in the AC. Just like our kids don’t always make the best decisions, our dogs don’t either.
  5. If your dog must be outside on a hot day, make sure they have shade, fresh, cool water and a way to stay cool.
  6. Pay close attention to older dogs and those with chronic health conditions like kidney disease.
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