Many dog owners leave out water for their dogs all the time with the thought that they’ll drink as much, or as little, as they need. But how much water does a dog need? Monitoring your dog’s water intake can improve their health, prevent illness and insure proper hydration. While some dogs naturally do this on their own, some either under-drink or over-drink. Too little water can lead to dehydration in dogs, kidney stones, organ failure and even death. Drinking too much water can lead to stomach bloat, electrolyte imbalances, and Hyponatremia (water toxicity).
Also, keep in mind that if your dog is under-drinking or over-drinking, it could be a sign of an underlying illness. Under-drinking can indicate Parvo, Leptospirosis, or Pancreatitis. Over-drinking can signify a bladder infection, another type of infection, or diabetes. Have your vet check your dog if he’s doing either.
How much water a day should a dog drink? How much and how carefully you have to monitor him depends on several factors:
- Size: On the average, a healthy dog drinks about 1/2 to 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight per day.
- Food: A healthy diet is as important as water and the type of food your dog eats affects his water intake. Dogs that eat only dry food will need a little more water than those that eat canned. Also, avoid ingredients that can artificially increase your dog’s thirst such as sodium.
- Age: Puppies need about a 1/2 cup every two hours and need to be closely monitored. Senior dogs tend to naturally monitor themselves.
- Exercise: Bring water along on any exercise excursion with your dog. The bottles that have the drop down cup work well. After exercise, give your dog ice cubes to start and then just a little water at a time to prevent bloat.
- Weather: Summer means more panting which means an increase in water intake.
- Medications: Check with your vet to see if you need to decrease or increase your dog’s water intake while taking a medication.
Checking for Dehydration in Dogs and Overhydration in Dogs
To look for dehydration in dogs, grab a piece of skin at the back of your dog’s neck. Stretch it out, then let it go. A properly hydrated dog’s skin will snap quickly back into place, while the skin of a dehydrated dog will return slowly and form a “tent” in the process. You can also check your dog’s gums for dehydration – wet, slippery gums are healthy. Dull, sticky gums suggest dehydration.
Dogs who overhydrate will often vomit, act confused or become lethargic.
Insuring Proper Hydration
Knowing the amount of water your pet should drink helps you determine if your dog is an under-drinker or an over-drinker. There are a few ways to manage these pooches:
- Behavior Modification: Whenever your dog goes to get a drink, praise him and give him a treat.
- Strategic Placement: Keep water near his bed, near his food and anywhere he normally plants himself.
- Up the Flavor: There are flavor packets such as chicken, bacon and beef that you can add to your dog’s water to make it more tempting.
- Break Out the Broth: If your dog is refusing to drink water, offer him some chicken or beef broth. Gradually add plain water into the mixture.
- Let Them Lick: “Lick” bottles, like the ones used for horses, can limit how much water your dog takes in. Also, you can monitor the amount they are drinking easily.
- Free Refills: You can still leave water out in a bowl for your dog but you need to ration it during the day. This means several refills so someone needs to be home to oblige.
- Automate It: The problem with most automatic water dispensers is they fill up whenever the water gets low so you can’t control the amount. One option is to use an automatic feeder instead, the kind that opens separate compartments at specified times.
- What’s Up Doc: For nighttime control, try using a rabbit water feeder in your dog’s crate.
Clean Water For All
To help insure that the water supply for both humans and canines is protected, you can do one simple action – clean up after your dog. And by providing a healthy diet and the right amount of clean water to your pooch, you can prevent illness and promote health. For as Mark Twain says, “Water, taken in moderation, cannot hurt anybody.”
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