Keeping your pet hydrated is vital to his health. He should always have a fresh, clean supply of drinking water available to him, but what happens when he doesn’t? How long can a dog go without water before he starts getting dehydrated. Let's find out.
Have you ever rushed out of the house and realized you forgot to top up Fido's water bowl? Fortunately, your dog will survive the next 8 hours while you are at work. These things happen, just don't make a habit out of it.
Proper hydration helps to support your dog's overall health. If you frequently forget to replenish your dog's water bowl, then consider getting a gravity waterer or a fountain that will hold way more, or set up multiple water dishes in the house.
No matter your system, try to take note of how much your dog is drinking, because he might not be drinking enough.
How Much Water Should Dogs Drink?
Water makes up more than 70% of your dog’s body by weight, so your dog needs to maintain this water content by consuming water every day. We know the recommendation for us is eight x 8-ounce glasses of water a day, but what about your dog?
A good guideline to follow for dogs is about an ounce of water for every pound of body weight. So, a 25 lbs dog needs about 25 oz of water or 3 cups; a 75 lbs dog needs almost 2 litres a day.
This may seem like a lot, but remember, this is spread out across their whole day. Also, your dog’s daily moisture needs can be supported through food and treats too.
Reasons Your Dog Isn’t Drinking
Dogs are generally pretty good at regulating their water intake. When they are thirsty, they instinctively seek out water. But what if your dog isn’t drinking. What if he is refusing to drink even when water is offered. Should you be concerned?
It’s possible that an underlying issue is at play. It could be as simple as an upset tummy, or as serious as an intestinal or urinary blockage. If you notice that your dog is not drinking or eating, then you need to take action.
If your dog has been vomiting or has experienced consistent diarrhea, then he may refuse to drink. This is especially dangerous because he is quickly losing moisture and becoming dehydrated but is not consuming water or food to replenish that loss.
How Long Can a Dog Safely Go Without Water?
Dogs need water every day, but if your dog is refusing to drink due to illness, then you need to know how long your dog can safely go without water.
Under normal circumstances, a dog can go 6-10 hours without water without any ill effects. If you forget to top up his water bowl before leaving for work, or if your dog knocks his bowl over while you’re gone, don’t panic.
If he is indoors and in good health, he will be fine, just make sure to provide water as soon as you get home. Do not intentionally leave your dog without water. I’ve heard of people doing this as a solution to their dog peeing in the house or their crate, but it is a dangerous practice to have.
Dog can survive approximately 72 hours without water, but after the first 24 the affects of dehydration will start to present. Beyond that you could be causing irreparable damage. Let's take a look at what a dog would experience each day as he becomes more and more dehydrated.
After a full day without water, your dog may have less energy than usual. As he starts to feel more and more dehydrated, you may also notice him panting heavier. This is how your dog cools down.
Offer fresh, cool water and moisture-rich food frequently and in small doses. This will help to rehydrate him and help to cool his body gradually.
Two full days without water will lead to more severe symptoms of dehydration. You will likely notice some weakness and behavioural issues. Mobility may be limited due to lethargy, so it’s best to keep your dog in a limited, calm, and quiet area of the house while you rehydrate him.
Bring water and moisture-rich foods too him to encourage him to drink. You can use a clean, soaked washcloth to dab water onto his gums. This may also encourage him to drink a little.
If your dog is flat and unable to drink, you need to get him to a vet. If your dog has experienced vomiting or diarrhea during this time, then he is seriously dehydrated by this point and will need medical attention.
By the third day with no water or any moisture-rich food, your dog is in critical condition. To safely rehydrate your dog, he will need IV fluids. At this crucial state, your dog will be very lethargic and weak. He will likely not be able to walk very far or at all.
Immediate intervention is needed to prevent organ damage and even death.
How to Check if Your Dog is Dehydrated
How can you be sure that your dog is getting enough water? It’s not like you can monitor him every minute of the day.
Cases of extreme dehydration are typically associated with illness or overheating, but a consistent state of mild dehydration can have risks too. It’s helpful to be able to identify signs of dehydration in your pet so that you can take action.
Here are a few quick checks that point to dehydration in dogs:
Your dog’s nose is naturally moist. This is because dogs often lick their noses. A dry nose doesn’t necessarily mean dehydration, but it can be an indicator when combined with other signs. A dog nose that is dry, cracked, or flaky could indicate that he's been dehydrated, even just slightly, for sometime.
Another naturally moist area of your dog is his gums. Lift your dog’s lips and touch your finger to his gums to see if they are dry or tacky. If so, then he needs a drink soon. It's common for gums and noses to be dry after a nap. Dry mouth is not uncommon during rest cycles, especially if your dog sleeps with his mouth open.
Don't panic if your dog is looking a little parched just after waking up from a puppy dream, just encourage him to head to the water dish for a quick drink.
The elasticity of your dog’s skin is the best way to determine moderate dehydration. Grab a handful of skin from their back and gently lift. Release the skin and take note of how long it takes to fall back into place. If the skin lingers in position, like a little skin mohawk, then your dog needs a drink pretty badly.
This test is not as effective for breeds that have a lot of extra skin. Doing this test on a Sharpe, Bulldog, and another really wrinkly breed will give you a false positive.
The colour of your dog’s pee can indicate hydration too. Light yellow and pale urine is typically a good sign of proper hydration. The darker the yellow, the less hydrated your dog is.
This can also be indicative of other health concerns, though, so if your dog’s urine colour is unaffected by better hydration, then it’s time to call the vet to rule out other issues.
How to Encourage your Dog to Drink More
Keeping your pet hydrated isn’t always as simple as leaving out fresh, clean water. If your dog doesn’t drink enough on his own, then consider finding other ways to get moisture into his body.
Moisture-Rich Dog Food
If your dog won’t or can’t drink the recommended amount of water, then you should offer moisture-rich foods to prevent dehydration. Canned dog food is a great way to hydrate your dog while keeping his diet complete and balanced.
Canned foods can be fed with kibble diets, or as a meal in themselves. Check out some of our favourite wet foods for dogs:
If you don’t want to make significant dietary changes, then consider a food topper or treat that can offer extra moisture to your dog. Fresh fruits and veggies are an excellent source of essential nutrients and are also loaded with moisture. Just make sure you choose produce that is safe for dogs.
Tasty Water Alternatives
Another way to get your dog to drink more is to offer beverages that have a little more flavour. Try pouring some raw goat’s milk into his food, or making some dog popsicles out of bone broth. These tasty snacks are refreshing and full of moisture.
These doggy drinks should never wholly replace fresh, clean water. It’s best to feed these liquids with meals, so you don’t discourage your dog’s regular drinking habits.
Frozen treats are best for hot days when your dog will be spending more time outside, or as part of a long-lasting puzzle treat like a stuffed Kong.
Does your dog drink enough water? Let us know how you encourage healthy drinking habits for your pooch!
Posted by Krystn Janisse
Krystn is a passionate pet nutrition enthusiast. She has worked in the pet industry for over a decade and loves to share her passion for animal welfare with others. She loves all animals but is currently channelling some crazy cat lady vibes with her five lovable, but rebellious cats.