Is Your Dog Drinking the Right Amount of Water?

Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

right amount of water for dogs

Story at-a-glance -

  • It’s important to monitor your dog’s daily water consumption to ensure he’s getting enough, but not too much
  • How much water your dog needs each day depends on several factors, including her size, diet, age, activity level, and the time of year
  • There are ways to encourage “under drinkers” to consume more water each day; most importantly, their diets should be high in moisture content
  • Dogs who consume too much water (a less common problem) should be checked for medical issues and monitored to prevent water intoxication
  • Saltwater toxicity can be a danger for dogs who love the water and have access to a beach

Many dog parents assume that as long as fresh drinking water is available, their canine companions will drink as much as they need — no more, no less. However, while some dogs get it right and never under- or over-indulge, others either don’t drink enough water or too much.

Keeping an eye on your dog’s water consumption is important because too little can result in dehydration, urinary tract issues and organ failure. And believe it or not, consuming too much can actually be toxic.

In addition, the amount of water your dog drinks can be an indicator of an underlying illness. Dogs with pancreatitis, parvovirus, or leptospirosis tend to not drink enough water, but an underlying bladder infection or another type of infection, a metabolic problem such as Cushing's disease as well as diabetes can cause excessive thirst and water consumption.

Needless to say, if your furry family member is drinking less or more water than normal, you should have her checked by your veterinarian to rule out an underlying condition.

How Much Water is Enough for the Average Dog?

How much water your dog needs each day depends on her size, diet, age, activity level, and weather conditions. The general guideline is that a healthy dog should drink between ½ and 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight each day. So, a healthy 65-pound dog should be drinking between about 33 and 65 ounces, or about ¼ to ½ gallon of water daily.

If your dog is eating a moisture-rich, species-specific diet, she’s getting some of her water needs met with each meal, so she may not drink as much from her water bowl. But if she’s eating primarily dry dog food (which I don’t recommend), she may actually need more than the average daily intake to compensate for the lack of moisture in her diet.

Puppies need to drink small amounts of water every couple of hours and should be closely monitored and encouraged to drink.

After a period of hard play or exercise, use caution when your dog rehydrates. If she immediately laps up the contents of her water bowl, rest her for a bit before you refill the bowl. If your dog is very active, it’s a good idea to have water with you when she exercises so that you can give her frequent short water breaks to keep her hydrated.

During the warmer months of the year, especially during summer, it’s important to monitor your dog’s water intake to insure she’s adequately hydrated.

To determine if your dog may need more water, lift some skin at the back of her neck and let it go. If she’s well hydrated, the skin will fall quickly back into place. The skin of a dehydrated dog will fall more slowly and form sort of a tent. Another method is to check the gums. Moist, slick gums indicate a good level of hydration; dry or sticky gums mean her body needs more water.

The medical term for the desire to drink too much water is called psychogenic polydipsia. Symptoms of water intoxication include staggering/loss of coordination, lethargy, nausea, bloating, vomiting, dilated pupils, glazed eyes, light gum color, and excessive salivation. In severe cases, there can also be difficulty breathing, collapse, loss of consciousness, seizures, coma, and death.

Advertisement
Click here to learn moreClick here to learn more

How to Improve Your Dog’s Drinking Problem

If your dog tends to overconsume water, make sure you’re there to supervise his activity. Water intoxication is most commonly seen in dogs who like to stay in the lake, pond or pool all day; pets who lap or bite at the water continuously while playing in it; and dogs who swallow water unintentionally as they dive for a ball or other toy.

If your dog is retrieving in water, make sure he gets frequent rest breaks and be especially careful on days when the water is rough. Also observe how he interacts with the water. If his mouth is open a lot, even if he’s holding a ball or stick in it, understand that he’s probably ingesting a fair amount of water. The same can be true of dogs who dive to the bottom of a pool to retrieve items.

Make sure you can spot the symptoms of water intoxication and monitor your dog’s appearance and behavior when he’s playing in water. And if he enjoys being sprayed with water from a hose or sprinkler, you should monitor that activity as well. Water from a hose or sprinkler is under pressure, and you’d be surprised how much a dog can swallow in a short amount of time.

If your dog doesn’t drink enough water, try praising him and giving him a treat whenever he drinks from his water bowl. Place fresh water close to all the places he visits frequently, like his favorite napping spots and food bowl. Make sure to offer filtered water in a non-toxic bowl (avoid plastic) to minimize situations in which your dog doesn’t drink enough because of off-tasting water.

Add tasty flavorings like chicken or bone broth to the water to make it more tempting and consider getting a pet drinking water fountain as a further enticement. And finally, if you’re feeding kibble, switch to canned and then to a nutritionally balanced raw or gently cooked diet to greatly increase the amount of water your dog is getting from each meal.

A Special Problem: Saltwater

Dogs who visit the beach can become sick, or even die, from consuming too much saltwater. Thankfully, this isn’t a common problem, but one worth noting for those of you with water-loving furry family members.

Salt was once recommended as a tool to help induce vomiting in pets, but this is no longer the case due to the dire consequences that can occur if too much is ingested. Excess salt is poisonous to dogs (and cats) and can lead to the following symptoms:1

Vomiting

Excessive thirst or urination

Diarrhea

Injury to the kidneys

Loss of appetite

Tremors

Lethargy

Seizures

Walking “drunk”

Coma

Abnormal fluid accumulation within the body

Death

The symptoms of saltwater poisoning can come on gradually, and dog parents may not associate a trip to the beach with what’s happening to their pet, which means the condition can go undiagnosed until the symptoms have progressed to a life-threatening level.

The sooner your dog receives treatment, the better her chances of recovery. If you seek help immediately, before signs of poisoning appear, emetic medications may be given to encourage vomiting to remove the excess salt from your dog's system. Unfortunately, even with treatment, salt poisoning has a mortality rate of greater than 50% percent.2

If your dog is around saltwater, keep an eye out to make sure she's not ingesting too much, limit trips to two hours, take frequent breaks and give her lots of fresh water to drink.