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There are dogs obsessed with drinking water and there are dogs who drink loads of water because of an underlying medical condition. An important question to ask is whether the behavior is a new one or whether the affected dog has been this way ever since the owner got him. 

In dogs recently rescued from a shelter, water obsession is not uncommon, considering that a shelter environment may be stressful and increased drinking may be a coping mechanism. 

If a dog though becomes obsessed with drinking water out of the blue, a potential underlying medical problem must be investigated. 

Before diagnosing psychogenic polydipsia, your veterinarian will therefore go through  a differential diagnosis list for the most common rule-outs. 

A Word About Restricting Water

Dogs obsessed with drinking water are often simply dogs who are drinking because it's very hot or they have exercised heavily.

Generally, the normal intake of water in dogs is 1 ounce (30ml) of water per pound of body weight in 24 hours, explains veterinarian Dr. Dave. 

For sake of an example, a dog weighing forty pounds, should be drinking around 5 cups per day of water (which is around 1182.94 mL, as one cup of water is 237 mL). 

If your dog is drinking obsessively and also peeing a lot, or if your dog is having accidents in the home and you cannot find a reasonable explanation, it's important to avoid restricting water as this may not be a safe practice.

There is a good reason why restricting water is not safe in a dog who is drinking and peeing a whole lot.

The dog may be suffering from an underlying medical condition where an excess volume of urine is being produced. In this case, the increased drinking is a compensatory mechanism in response to the large volume of urine produced.

Therefore avoid restricting water until you have had your vet rule any possible medical conditions.

See your vet to find the underlying causes for your dog's obsession with water

See your vet to find the underlying causes for your dog's obsession with water

Important Medical Rule-Outs

Dogs obsessed with drinking water may do so because of a variety of medical reasons, it's therefore important to rule out several potential medical problems. Psychogenic polydipsia is indeed a disorder that's diagnosed by exclusion. 

Several of these medical conditions can be ruled out by having the vet perform some baseline tests such as a complete blood count and serum biochemistry profile, a urinalysis, and a urine culture.

Following are several potential medical causes for a dog's excessive drinking. Of course, these are not meant to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. 

Diabetes Insipidus 

One potential medical problem that may appear as obsessive drinking is diabetes insipidus. 

There is no blood test to confirm diabetes insipidus (DI). In the past, veterinarians used to run a water deprivation test, but this can be time consuming and has some associated risks.

 Nowadays,  in order to confirm it or rule it out a trial of treatment for diabetes insipidus is ran (desmopressin) and the dog's response to it is monitored. 

Kidney Disease 

Another possible medical condition is early kidney disease. The dog may be affected by some disorder where the kidney is unable to concentrate the urine and dogs therefore feel compelled to drinking more.

In some cases though the problem may reside in the dog's brain being unable of telling the kidney what to do.

Liver Disease 

Early liver disease may also be a cause for increased drinking in dogs. The symptoms may not be visible until later on as the disease progresses.

In particular, chronic hepatitis is the most common type of liver disease impacting dogs. Commonly affected breeds include Dobermans, West Highland white terriers, Labradors, Skye terriers, American/English cocker spaniels, poodles, and Bedlington terriers. 

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Cushing's Disease 

Other possible medical causes include Cushing's disease (excessive blood cortisol levels). Cushing's disease is common in many middle-aged dogs of specific breeds. 

Predisposed breeds include poodles, dachshunds, German shepherds, boxers, maltese, Labradors, cocker spaniels, Australian shepherds and several small terrier breeds such as Dandie Didmont terriers, Boston terriers and Yorkshire terriers.

Addison's Disease 

Addison's disease (underproduction of cortisol hormone) can also be a culprit for increased drinking in dogs. 

Any dog can get this disease, however, it's most often encountered in young to middle-aged female dogs. 

Accompanying symptoms include weight loss, lethargy, and muscle weakness.

High Calcium Levels 

Hypercalcemia (high calcium levels), is also a potential cause for increased drinking in dogs, but generally this occurs secondary to cancer.

For example, senior female dogs suffering from apocrine gland adenocarcinoma of the anal gland often develop high calcium levels as a result of this cancer due to abnormal hormone secretions from the tumor cells. 

The elevated calcium levels cause increased thirst, increased urination, muscle weakness, vomiting, and constipation, although in some cases, no symptoms may appear.

This type of cancer is often found in female English Cocker Spaniels, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and Springer Spaniels around 10 to 11 years. 


On top of medical conditions, sometimes in dogs obsessed with drinking water, the increased drinking can be caused by certain medications.  

An example for this is steroids. Steroids (like prednisone) are notorious for causing increased drinking and increased urination. Indeed, it's listed a common side effect. 

Other drinking inducing medications include diuretics, such as Furosemide (it's  not known as a ''water pill'' for no reason after all!) and dog seizure medications such as phenobarbital.

High Sodium Diets

 High-sodium diets may also cause increased drinking. Certain types of kibble may contain lots of sodium and certain types of treats too. 

A dog fed kibble high in sodium and given peanut butter as a daily treat (which also contains lots of sodium too, unless you feed the unsalted variety or make a homemade version) may offer a double whammy of salt, causing the dog to drink too much. 

Other Factors

Increased drinking may of course take place when the external temperature and humidity levels rise causing dogs to pant and need to drink more. It also takes places as a dog's level of activity increases. 

Dogs with a fever may also drink more and so may nursing dogs considering the demand of nurturing a litter of puppies which can increase water intake up to two or three times the normal amount. 

Psychogenic Polydipsia, Dogs Obsessed with Drinking Water

Once all medical causes can be ruled out, the veterinarian may suspect a case of psychogenic polydipsia. This is because psychogenic polydipsia is not very common, when medical causes are more likely and treatment of the root cause is important.  

Psychogenic means "having a psychological origin or cause rather than a physical one" and polydispsia is the medical term for increased drinking. Put these words together and you have compulsive drinking in dogs, basically, a dog's mental quirk that convinces him he is always thirsty. 

The excessive drinking stems from a behavioral disorder such as dogs drinking to attain attention from their owners, dogs drinking from boredom/under stimulation, anxious dogs drinking as a displacement behavior,  or dogs guarding their water from other pets sharing the household. 

Canine psychogenic polydipsia is not really a disease per se', but rather an annoyance to the owner who may end up cleaning accidents all the time considering that increased drinking may lead to increased urination up to the point of not being able to hold it anymore. This condition though is overall not very common.

If you suspect your dog may have this condition, it may help to consult with a veterinarian specializing in dog behavior. The veterinary behaviorist can make sure there are no underlying medical causes, and if the case truly turns out being psychogenic polydipsia, the vet may suggest behavior modification, psychogenic drugs and partial water restriction.

Did you know? In some cases, when there is a history of drinking a lot and consequential frequent peeing, a dog's kidneys may somehow "unlearn how to concentrate urine" and get lazy. The phenomenon is referred to as 'medullary washout" and the vet may have to find ways to retrain them through gradated water restriction. This whole secondary ordeal may start from psychogenic polydispsia. 

"Affected animals are usually young hyperactive breeds large breed dogs that have been placed in exercise restrictive environments or subjected to some sort of stress." ~Susan M. Meric DVM

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