A dog not drinking water is certainly concerning considering the importance water plays in any living being's life. If your dog is not drinking water, you may need to put your investigative hat on to find out the underlying cause. While sometimes the solution to the problem may be as easy as cleaning the dog's water bowl, in some cases a dog not drinking water may be suffering from an underlying medical problem. If your dog is not drinking water and you can't figure out why, it is best to report to a vet to find out why this may be happening.
Non-Medical Causes of a Dog Not Drinking Enough Water
There can be several causes for a dog not drinking water. One important consideration is determining whether the dog may be getting hydrated from somewhere else or if there's something going on with the dog's water.
Some investigation can help pinpoint the underlying cause. Following is a little checklist of non-medical causes of a dog not drinking water.
1) Any Recent Changes in Your Dog's Diet?
If your dog has always eaten dry kibble and now you are feeding canned food or you soak the kibble in water, chances are, your dog may be getting a good percentage of the moisture he needs from these water-rich foods. Your dog may be also drinking less if you are adding low sodium chicken broth to his meals. Consider that raw diets and homemade diets amy also contain quite a level of water as well.
2) Can Your Dog Have Issues With the Water Bowl?
Dogs tend to form associations, both good ones and bad ones. If by any chance, something negative happens when your dog is drinking from the water bowl, then this may make him afraid of drinking from it. Perhaps a loud sound startled him while he was drinking, or perhaps, there is an odd smell or taste (think residual soap). Sometimes, a new type of water or a new water bowl can make a dog reluctant to drink from it.
3) Is Your Dog Finding Alternate Sources of Water?
Outdoor dogs may get hydrated in other ways. For example your dog may be drinking water from puddles, your garden's sprinkler or from that bucket of water you have forgotten outside. Some dogs like to eat snow and this may keep them hydrated. If you have farm animals, your dog may be drinking from their water tubs. If your dog is mostly indoors, he may drink water from the toilet.
4) Any Recent Changes?
Dogs are routine-oriented animals which thrive on routines. Any changes in their lives may potentially cause them stress and changes in their eating and drinking habits. If you recently moved or there is a new baby or dog in the home, your dog may be too focused on coping with these changes that he may forget to drink. Many dogs when boarded in a kennel or being kept with a pet sitter may also fail to drink as they normally would. This is usually just temporary. As your dog adjusts to his new surroundings or changes, he should resume drinking as usual.
5) Is it Cooler?
Many dog owners get accustomed to seeing their dogs drink a whole lot in the summer and then, when fall is around the corner, they come to think that their dogs aren't drinking enough. Dogs do not sweat like humans do, so when it is hot, they disperse heat through panting which causes moisture to evaporate from their mouth. If the weather got cooler or you have been turning on the AC, your dog will likely pant less and have less desire to drink.
Medical Causes of a Dog Not Drinking Water
In a healthy adult dog, it is estimated that approximately 60 percent of the total body weight is composed of water. There are of course several variables, with younger dogs composed as much as 70 to 80 percent, while older animals may be closer to 50-55 percent of their body weight.
The medical term for a dog not drinking enough water is adipsia or hypodipsia. There can be several reasons why dogs may not be drinking water that stem from underlying medical causes. Of course, this is just a general guide. Please check with your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.
1) Can Your Dog be in Pain?
Pain that affects a dog's mobility can put a dent in a dog's drinking habits. For example, an older dog who is not drinking much may be suffering from arthritic pain. If it hurts to get up and drink, the dog may feel like drinking less. Some dogs may have back pain or neck pain, causing pain to lower their head to drink. Sometimes, oral pain may be the culprit. If your dog had recent dental work or has problems with his teeth or gums, drinking may feel painful.
2) Does Your Dog Have Stomach Issues?
If your dog is nauseous, his instinct may tell him to not eat or drink. Even if he still manages to drink, then drinking water when the stomach is upset may cause him to associate drinking with nausea which may cause him to think twice next time before drinking again. Stomach issues in dogs may be due to issues related to the stomach directly such as eating something that is not agreeing with them (table scraps, raiding the garbage, finding something in the yard, a new food), but can also occur secondary to several conditions such as liver disease and certain forms of cancer.
3) Does Your Dog Have Throat Issues?
Some dogs experiencing an issue with their throats may avoid drinking water. For example, dogs suffering from tracheal collapse or laryngeal paralysis, may associate drinking water with gagging or coughing.
4) Is Your Dog Old?
On top of possible arthritis, which makes older dogs move less and therefore drink less water, there may be also other issues associated with aging. Older dogs tend to move around less, and less exercise equals less drinking. On top of this, something to consider is that older dogs may suffer from loss of vision and this can impact their drinking habits because they may feel unsure of the water depth of the bowl. Older dogs may also suffer from cognitive changes and confusion. Some older dogs may forget to drink or forget where their water bowl is located.
5) Is Your Dog Showing Other Signs?
A dog not drinking water, not eating and acting lethargic is suffering from some type of malaise that requires veterinary investigation. These are rather vague signs that can be indicative of a plethora of medical issues. Your vet will likely do some testing to pinpoint the source of the problem. If your dog is showing signs of dehydration, your vet will inject fluids under his skin or through an IV to correct the issue.
Signs of a Dehydrated Dog
Not drinking enough water can cause electrolyte abnormalities and dehydration in affected dogs. In order to determine whether your dog is getting dehydrated, there is an easy test you can do at home.
Simply pinch the skin of your dog's neck between your dog's shoulder blades lifting it up in a tent and watch how long it takes for that skin to spring back down once you let go. It should spring back immediately. If it takes time to snap back into place, or worse, stays elevated, this is a red flag of dehydration that needs veterinary intervention.
Another way to check for dehydration is by lifting your dog's upper lip and touching the gums right above the teeth. In a well-hydrated dog, the gums should be wet and slimy. In a dehydrated dog, the gums tend to feel tacky and dry. When allowed to advance, dehydration in dogs may lead to dogs showing sunken eyes.
If your dog checks out fine but you are still concerned, consider measuring how much your dog drinks per day. To do this, simply use a measuring cup to fill his water bowl and then after 24 hours check the remaining total volume. A dog should be generally drinking an ounce of water per pound of body weight over the course of 24 hours. This means that in a dog weighing 50 pounds, you should expect him to be drinking about six 8 ounce cups per day, explains veterinarian Dr. Kara.
Bringing a urine sample to the vet can also turn out being insightful. Your vet can assess your dog's level of dehydration by seeing whether your dog is concentrating his urine as normal or not. A too concentrated urine is suggestive of dehydration. By checking a urine sample, your vet can also assess how your dog's kidney are functioning.
Help for a Dog Not Drinking Water
How can you encourage your dog to drink more water? Here are a few ideas:
- Increase your dog's exercise. Just as it happens in humans, the more you get your dog moving, the more he will feel compelled to drink.
- Try offering bottled water in a ceramic bowl or a stainless steel bowl. If you are using a plastic bowl, consider that it may transfer a taste to the water that your dog may find distasteful.
- Make sure your dog's water is always clean and fresh.
- If you have an older dog with arthritis, ask your vet what you can do about it to reduce the pain. In the meanwhile, make water easily accessible by keeping it close or in various areas of the home. If your dog is in severe pain, you can offer the water bowl routinely when your dog is laying down. You can also take advantage of every time your dog is getting up to encourage him to drink. For example, take him to his water bowl every time he comes back inside after going out to potty or after meals.
- If your dog has vision problems, try offering water in a flatter container.
- For dogs with nausea, it may help to offer some ice-cubes and a bland dog diet. Consult with your vet if this is an ongoing issue or if your dog is manifesting other signs.
- For dogs with neck pain, an elevated water bowl may help.
- Adding some low-sodium chicken stock (with no garlic or onion in the ingredients) can help reluctant dogs drink; however, consider that this can quickly become habit-forming, meaning that there may be risks that dogs may refuse to drink plain water unless of this addition.