Dogs may not want to drink water for many reasons. They also have varying needs for water consumption due to how active or old they are. Younger more active dogs like puppies are going to need more water than senior dogs. Their need also varies based on their size. As a rough guide, you multiply your dog’s weight in kilograms by 50. This gives the number of milliliters they should be drinking in a day. As a reference for normal activity, on a dry food diet, a dog weighing around five kilograms (Chihuahua) should be drinking roughly 200ml-250ml of water each day, a dog around 10 kg (Beagle) should drink 400ml-500ml each day, a dog around 20kg (Husky) should drink 500ml-1000ml each day, a dog around 30kg (Labrador Retriever) should drink 1,200ml-1,500ml each day, and a dog who weighs around 40kg (German Shepherd) should drink 1,800ml-2,000ml of water each day.
Why Your Dog Won’t Drink Water
Some reasons why your dog won’t drink water may be inactivity, unfamiliar surroundings, disease/illness, aging, and fear/traumatic experiences. We’ll take a look at each in turn in this article.
You may observe a slight decrease in the amount of water that is consumed by a dog when their activity levels are low. This is a normal. If this problem persists for many days, then you are going to want to take your dog to the vet for examination because there may be an underlying health problem. A dog should never go more than one full day without water. You can see a lower activity level due to the change in weather, age, or injury. If it is due to weather, then you can try to entice your dog to drink more water by flavoring it. The type of dog food that is fed will also impact the amount of water that will need to be consumed. If you feed your dog wet food, then the dog will need less water as a significant portion of the wet food is water. Cooler weather means less panting which leads to less water intake. When dogs pant, they are releasing heat and water vapor, which means they will need more water to replace the lost water from panting. Increased activity and increased heat outdoors will result in more panting which will increase the water intake. Less heat outdoors and less activity will decrease the amount of water that is needed.
Dogs have an acute sense of smell and due to this they can easily detect when something is different with their water. They can smell the differences between well water, tap water, or filtered water. They will adjust to this certain safe smell of their normal water and can stop drinking if it changes. If you plan to change water types due to moving, changes in the kind of water you use, or are going on vacation, then you might consider bringing some water from home to help transition your dog to the new kind of water they will be temporarily or permanently drinking. Always monitor their water consumption to make sure they are drinking enough water.
Disease and Illness
There are different kinds of diseases and many of them can have the side effect of decreased water consumption. Bladder infections and urinary tract infections can cause a decrease of thirst. These are diseases that can sometimes be hard to recognize and have many other symptoms. Bladder infections and urinary tract infections can be seen with cloudy urine or whimpering while urinating, since it hurts to urinate then a dog will want to drink less so they don’t need to urinate. Any type of oral disease can cause a decrease of thirst due to the potential pain of having an ulcer, broken tooth, or cracked tooth that is exposing the pulp of the tooth. An injury to the jaw, such as a fracture/break/swelling, will cause some decrease in drinking and eating because of opening and closing the jaw will be painful.
Nausea is another common illness that is associated with other diseases that can also cause a decrease of thirst. Excessive drooling is a sign of nausea and when they get nauseous, they won’t want to drink water or eat food. Any disease that affects the gastrointestinal area can cause nausea such as pancreatitis and gastroenteritis. These diseases are also seen with lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea and can be life threatening if not treated. You should seek out your vet if your dog not wanting to drink is seen with vomiting or diarrhea.
Post-surgery is another reason for an underlying issue to cause your dog to not want to drink. Any type of anesthetic procedure, no matter how routine, such as a spay/neuter, dental, or mass removal has the side effect of nausea due to the anesthesia. They can also be having discomfort from the surgery site or sutures that are in place. If it is a dental that is causing a decrease, then adding water to their wet food should help get more water in them. Wet food should be fed exclusively after a dental procedure to reduce the potential for more pain or for an issue to arise, such as a dry socket, where a tooth may have been removed.
As dogs age their activity level is reduced and other aging ailments, such as arthritis, occurs. This can cause a decrease in water and food consumption due to the effort it takes to get to the water/food bowl. Arthritis can cause pain when moving which can cause the decrease in activity. A small decrease in the amount they drink or want to eat would be normal due to the decreased activity level. Switching to a wet food could help with the hydration level and enticing them to continue eating the appropriate amount of food. If pain from arthritis is an issue, then a vet can prescribe a dog appropriate pain reliever to help them get around better. You may also look at how their bowls are placed, if they are raised then it may hurt to stand to eat or drink so lowering the bowl may help or placing the bowl closer to where they sleep so they don’t have to move as much. Many other ailments can affect older dogs more than younger dogs so if your senior starts to eat or drink less than it is advised you go see your vet to make sure there are no underlying issues causing the reduced eating or drinking.
Fear or Negative Experiences
Dogs are very sensitive to experiences and will remember negative ones really well. If something happens while they are drinking water, such as a tail getting stepped on or a sudden loud noise that scares them, then they are liable to not want to drink water or eat food from the bowl and location where they were when it happened. They can associate the fear they felt with the bowl or the location. You can try buying a new bowl or moving the current bowl to a new location where they will feel safer to eat or drink. You can also see some hesitation in eating or drinking if you have recently adopted a dog, they may be too afraid initially to eat or drink so moving the bowl to a quiet area for them can help them feel safe to eat and drink. It can take some dogs a few weeks to adjust to a new home. Some dogs are also sensitive to noises in general so if their bowl is near something that routinely makes loud sounds, such as a running washing machine, dryer, or a heavily trafficked part of the house, then they can be too scared to eat or drink. You can try moving their bowl to a new location where it is quieter, and they may start to eat and drink normally. They are also very sensitive to smell so if their bowl is getting dirty quickly or isn’t changed and cleaned frequently enough then they may not want to drink the dirty water. Keeping the bowl washed and with clean water could help in those cases.
Diagnosing Serious Dehydration in Dogs
If you’re concerned about water intake and if it’s an appropriate amount for your dog to be drinking, then you can monitor how much your dog is drinking. Measure out the amount you are putting in the bowl for your dog and then check its level the following day. You can use the scale mentioned above about how much your dog should be drinking. Taking their weight in kilograms (if you don’t know it in kilograms then take the weight in pounds and multiply it by 2.2, this will give you the weight in kilograms) and multiply it by 50 to get the milliliters they should be drinking in 24 hours. You can also do some very simple checks to see if your dog is dehydrated. You can look at their eyes, the eyes should be bright and alert. Their gums should be moist, you can check their capillary refill time by gently pressing at a pink spot on the gum line and watch to see how long it takes to return back to pink, if it’s under two seconds then the hydration level is normal. You can also perform a skin tent, lift up a piece of their skin between the shoulder blades and it should quickly return to normal. If it stays in a tent shape, then your dog is dehydrated. You may also see some other symptoms associated with dehydration such as lethargy, loss of appetite, a decrease in the amount of urine they produce, or a darker colored urine. These signs can indicate a serious problem and you should take your dog to the vet for examination. Most dogs will drink what they need to and stay hydrated appropriately unless there is something wrong.
There are a few options you can try to get your dog to drink more water if they aren’t drinking enough on their own. You can try flavoring the water with a little bit of chicken, beef, or vegetable stock that has no onion or garlic additives. Just a few tablespoons into their bowl of water should entice them to drink some. You can try making a mixture of pedialyte and water, doing a 50/50 mixture can help them stay hydrated as well as receiving some electrolytes, this shouldn’t be done long term unless directed by your veterinarian. You can add water to their wet food or dry food to add more water content via their food. You can also try a water fountain so the water is consistently fresh and moving, this can entice them to drink more due to it moving. If your dog is severely dehydrated then they will need to go to the vet and get fluids, either subcutaneously or intravenously. Sometimes if a lack of hydration is consistently happening then your vet can instruct you on how to give fluids at home, this can happen with illnesses that affect the kidneys or liver. Monitoring your dog’s fluid input at home will prevent future dehydration and it’s also possible to catch life threatening illnesses earlier by paying close attention to how much they are drinking and how much urine they are producing.
Overall, if your dog does not want to drink water, be it due to inactivity, unfamiliar sounds or sights, disease or illness, aging, or fear/ traumatic experiences then there are some things you can that may help. You can try moving their bowl to a new location, addressing a fear or inability to reach it; buy a new bowl to alleviate possible trauma associated with the old one. You can bring familiar water from home if you are traveling to maintain the same type of water. You can take your dog to the vet to determine if an underlying health problem exists and should be addressed with treatment. Or you can obtain and provide some medication to alleviate pain if that is the issue. If its aging, then you can move the bowl closer to their bed or lower the bowl so it’s very easy to access. You can also place bowls in multiple locations and see they prefer the variety or a specific one. Adding water to their dry food or wet food will increase their water content via their food which can also entice them to continue eating. If the problem of not wanting to drink if associated with lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, or darker urine then you should seek out veterinary help immediately as this can be a sign of a serious problem.