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How to Get a Sick Dog to Drink Water: 12 Vet-Reviewed Steps to Follow

Written by: Brooke Billingsley

Last Updated on April 9, 2024 by Dogster Team

sick Rottweiler dog at a veterinary clinic

How to Get a Sick Dog to Drink Water: 12 Vet-Reviewed Steps to Follow

VET APPROVED

Dr. Amanda Charles Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Amanda Charles

BVSc MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

For many dogs, it’s cause for concern if they refuse to eat or drink. In many cases, this can indicate that your dog is sick or injured. If your dog isn’t drinking water or doesn’t seem to be drinking enough water, then it’s extremely important that you reach out to your vet to determine what’s going on with your pet. A dog that isn’t drinking can become severely dehydrated quickly, and there is likely an underlying medical issue that needs to be addressed by a vet.

The 12 Steps to Follow to Get Your Dog to Drink Water

If your dog has already seen the vet and has been deemed well enough to go home but you’re still having trouble getting them to drink, then there are some steps you can take to encourage your dog to take in more fluids to prevent dehydration.

1. Track Their Intake

If you think your dog might not be drinking enough water, regardless of the reason, you should start tracking their intake. Not just of water but also of food and treats. As a rule of thumb dogs will drink around one ounce of fluids per pound of body weight per day. This is only a rough guide though, and will be affected by many factors including whether they are eating wet or dry food, the weather and what exercise they have been doing.

You should document what your dog had, how much they had, and when they had it. Also, note if you had to do anything special to get your dog to accept what they were offered. This will help you better determine if your dog isn’t taking in enough fluid, and it will help your vet if your dog goes to be seen.

adorable border collie dog drinking from a water bowl
Image Credit: Ksenia Raykova, Shutterstock

2. Provide multiple, easily accessible water bowls

Having multiple water bowls in the house and garden can help encourage your dog to drink. Make sure one is always available in the area where they spend most of their time. For older dogs that may have mobility issues, consider the location of the water bowls and make sure they are easily accessible for them. Some dogs will also have individual preferences as to the type of water bowl they prefer to use whether it be plastic, metal, or ceramic. Try and take note of your dog’s preference!


3. Ensure the Bowl is Clean

Just like you wouldn’t want to drink from a slimy, dirty water bottle, your dog doesn’t want to drink from a dirty bowl. Wipe out your dog’s bowl every day to ensure no algae or other grime is building up inside. If the bowl is old and made from a material that may absorb water over time, like certain plastics, then it might be best to replace the bowl completely.

dog drinking water in white pet water fountain
Image Credit: muslody.com, Shutterstock

4. Always Provide Cool, Clean Water

Equally as important as a clean bowl is ensuring your dog always has access to fresh, clean, and cool water. You should never withhold water from your dog unless you have been explicitly directed to do so by a vet. Cool water is more palatable to most dogs, especially if the weather is hot. Replace your dog’s water completely every day, and check throughout the day to ensure they always have access to water.


5. Add Ice Cubes

Many people prefer their drinks with ice, and some dogs are the same way. Ice cubes can be used to enhance the coolness or fresh taste of your dog’s water, encouraging them to drink more. Some dogs even like to eat ice cubes directly, so you may offer a few to your pup to see if that will encourage water intake.

Sick dog with ice water in bowl
Image Credit: Amelia Martin, Shutterstock

6. Add Electrolytes under vet advice

For dogs that are becoming dehydrated, maintaining hydration is extremely important to keep them out of the hospital. Electrolyte solutions mixed with your dog’s water can be helpful if advised by your vet. Oralade GI Support Tasty Solution is an example of one that is formulated specifically for dogs and cats and is flavored, which can also encourage dogs to drink more. Human products such as unflavored Pedialyte are not ideal and should be avoided unless specifically advised by your vet.


7. Offer Wet Food

Wet dog food contains a significant percentage of water, usually coming in at around 75–80% water content. Wet food is often more palatable to a dog that isn’t feeling well, and it has the added benefit of sneaking water into them.

dog eating wet food
Image Credit: Irina Kozorog, Shutterstock

8. Add Water to Dry Food

Dry food isn’t completely devoid of moisture, but it usually contains less than 12% moisture content. You can add water and/ or wet food to your dog’s dry food to encourage water intake as they eat. If you allow the food to sit in the liquid for a little while, it will soften the food, which may make it easier for some dogs to eat.


9. Offer Low-Sodium Broth

Broth is a tasty, easy, and affordable way to encourage your dog to drink more liquids. Chicken and beef broth are usually available in just about any grocery store, and usually for only a dollar or two. Bone broths are also a good option, and these provide more calories and protein than regular broth. Whenever offering broth to your dog, always choose broths with low sodium or no added sodium and check the label for ingredients that can be toxic to dogs, like onion and garlic. Alternatively make your own with no added salt and dog safe ingredients.

dog drinking milk from bowl in kitchen at home
Image Credit: Dean Drobot, Shutterstock

10. Get a Fountain

There’s just something about running water that seems to make it tastier, and many dogs seem to prefer running water for drinking. Pet fountains provide fresh, running water for your dog, and they’re often a pretty affordable addition to your pet supplies. Just make sure to read up on how to properly care for and clean your dog’s new fountain so you can keep it hygienic.


11. Offer Water by Hand

If your dog isn’t feeling well, then they may just need a little extra TLC from you. Hand-feeding wet food or water can encourage your dog to eat and drink, even when they’re sick. Sometimes, simply holding the bowl for your dog is enough to encourage them, while other dogs may want to literally eat or drink from your hands.

dog drinking water from bottle at the beach
Image Credit: Alla Pogrebnaya, Shutterstock

12. Syringe Water into Their Mouth

In extreme cases, you can use a needleless syringe, spoon, or small baster to squirt water into your dog’s mouth. Oftentimes, dogs will swallow the water once it’s in their mouth. This should be reserved for extreme circumstances, and if your dog is requiring water to be put directly into their mouth to drink, then you need to let your vet know. It’s also important to ensure that you only squirt water toward the front part of your dog’s mouth. Squirting water directly into the back of the mouth or throat can lead to aspiration of water into the lungs.

Conclusion

Dehydration is a major threat to your dog’s well-being, so it should never be ignored. Always let your dog’s vet know if you feel like they may be sick or that they aren’t eating or drinking enough. Don’t ignore these signs or attempt to treat them at home without guidance. This can end up doing more harm than good by delaying potentially necessary care for your pup.


Featured Image Credit: Vera Larina, Shutterstock

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