In this first post of my new series “Why Does My Dog…” I’m going to be addressing the often asked question, “why does my dog drink so much water?”
That is the medical term for excessive thirst, leading to drinking more water, and is one of the most common problems seen in veterinary medicine.
How much is too much?
When we say our dog is drinking a lot of water, what criteria do we use to judge that? Is it because he seems to be spending more and more time over the water bowl? Have you needed to fill it up more often? Has he managed to drink an entire bowl in one go?
Do we even know how much the average dog should be drinking in a day?
Factors such as the kind of food your dog eats, type and intensity of exercise and even climate may vary the amount of water he needs.
The estimate for daily intake is said to be about 1 oz per 1 lb of weight, so a 10 lb dog would need a bit more than one cup a day.
Your dog is just plain thirsty
I’m not being funny when I say, one reason may simply be he’s thirsty. Does he have access to fresh drinking water at all times? If he doesn’t, then he will likely drink a lot each time he has the opportunity. What about dry food? Has he just starting eating it, eating more of it, perhaps a different brand? He also may have been walking or even running around in very hot weather, exercising more, participating in agility or other classes and naturally he’s thirsty.
I’m sure he has full water bowls everywhere, and water on his outings, so let’s assume it’s not because he’s thirsty.
So what other reasons could there be?
- Kidney problems
- Liver disease
- Cushing’s disease
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Medications (anti-inflammatories, heart failure drugs like Furosemide, anti-seizure medications…)
- Dehydration (which can be caused by diarrhea for example)
I am highlighting this specifically, because it is so dangerous to the point of being life threatening. In a senior dog that danger level can be reached very quickly.
When you first notice your old dog drinking more, the first thing you should do, even before you call your vet is check to see whether or not your dog is dehydrated. If he is you must call your vet and get an appointment immediately for that day. Even if my vet is swamped, they’ll fit me in because they know Red’s situation and if I’m calling it’s important.
Checking is as simple as very gently grabbing the fur on the back of the neck then releasing. If the fur goes back into place quickly that’s a good sign, if it stays up he’s dehydrated and you need to reach for the phone.
I keep Royal Canin Rehydration Support on hand, in case Red ever gets a bit dehydrated. Of course she goes to the vet for fluids, but the rehydration support is always recommended for a couple of days afterwards. Please do not diagnose your dog on your own, your vet will advise you whether or not your dog needs fluids, and if this product is necessary.
Okay back to the post.
What you absolutely should do
Whether you’re noticing your dog’s water bowl emptying quicker than usual, or any other changes in behaviour, no matter how slight, my best advice is to make an appointment with your vet as soon as possible. The staff always ask what the appointment is for, so I would not minimise your concerns about how much he’s drinking, and emphasise the age of your dog if they don’t know you. They should fit you in that day or the next at the latest. Again, if he’s dehydrated a next day appointment is not good enough.
Older dogs can deteriorate much quicker than their younger counterparts, so the quicker an issue is dealt with, the better the chances of a good outcome.
Should you keeping allowing your dog unlimited access to water?
While you’re on the phone with your vet’s office making your appointment, ask what they recommend you do.
Before your appointment
Being at the vet with a beloved pet that is unwell can be stressful, as we all know, not to mention the time constraints of the appointment. So you don’t forget anything, you may think about making notes to bring with you. Having things written down means you can get the most out of the time you have with your vet.
Jot down –
- Your general concerns
- What specifically is worrying you?
- When did you first notice your dog drinking more?
- Are there times of the day when he seems to drink more? Before meals? After?
- Does he wake up in the middle of the night to drink?
- Is he peeing more? Having accidents or letting you know he has to go out?
- Have you noticed any other behaviour changes?
- Has anything changed in his schedule? Environment?…
Bring a urine sample if possible
Another thing I would recommend is bringing a urine sample. In my experience they’ll definitely want one, and if your dog pees right before he walks into the office, you’ll likely have to return another time with one. You might as well bring it, save time, and get answers quicker.
Make sure the sample is not more than 2 hours old, caught mid-stream and not refrigerated while waiting to leave for your appointment.
Amazingly I’ve never needed to collect a sample from a male dog, but for females I take a plastic bowl or shallow container, and just after they start to pee slide it underneath them. If I’m using a bowl I transfer it to a new container, or if I have a container handy just put the lid on and seal it with tape so it doesn’t spill.
What to expect while at the vet
I am sure your vet will be impressed with the notes you’ve brought (and the urine sample), as they rely on us for as much information as we can give them. He will listen do your dog’s heart, lungs, feel around for anything that shouldn’t be there, draw blood and test the urine.
Depending on the type of tests he’s planning on running, you may be able to get definitive results on the spot, or samples will have to be sent to a lab for further analysis, which may take a day or two (or more).
Any in house tests he performs may give enough information for a very educated “guess” and at least the start of a treatment plan. Only once all results are in and a diagnosis has been made, is it possible to know your treatment options.
Red and water consumption
There have been periods when Red would literally stand in front of her water bowl, and drink the entire thing. I’m not exaggerating, and it was not a small bowl! Naturally thoughts turned to kidneys and at one point it was, another time her urine was not concentrating so she would drink more, than pee more. It turned out to be a hormone issue which is, thankfully, under control.
Why does my dog drink so much water – conclusion
If you notice any changes in your senior dog’s behaviour, no matter how slight, please make an appointment to see your vet as soon as possible. This advice obviously applies to all animals, but because senior dogs can go downhill quickly, it’s never a good idea to adopt a wait and see attitude.
“Why does my dog drink so much water” is one of many frequently asked questions I hear from clients, and I hope this post has answered it for you.
Have you noticed your dog drinking more? What was the reason and treatment? Sharing helps others so please leave a comment in the section below, or on my Facebook page.