Dogs, just like humans, need water to keep their bodies functioning effectively but will lose water naturally through sweating and urination. It is important that your pooch always has a fresh supply of water, but how long can they go without drinking it? Our Tucson vets explain.
Why is water important for dogs?
One of the most overlooked nutrients for dogs is water. Water is underappreciated because it provides more support than functional nutrition, unlike food ingredients that provide energy, vitamins, and other compounds to support your dog's health. This means that while water doesn't contain any nutrients in and of itself, it is essential for the digestion, absorption, movement, and excretion of nutrients throughout your dog's body. Here are some bodily functions that require water for your dog to be healthy.
- Digestion - Water is involved in all parts of digestion. Water in your dog's body helps produce saliva, stomach acids, and bile, and plays a role in every stage of digestion.
- Cell Health - Water is one of the core components of a cell. Without sufficient water in your dog's body, the cell cycle will be hindered, especially cell growth and division.
- Detoxifying - Water in your dog's system helps to flush out toxins from the bloodstream and during digestion. Harmful toxins and excess water-soluble nutrients will be filtered out through the kidneys and excreted in urine by the water in your dog's body.
- Temperature - Dogs typically don't mind warm weather, but summer's extreme heat and humidity can lead to a dog quickly overheating. Proper hydration is vital to your dog's natural ability to regulate their body temperature.
How much water does a dog need?
Water makes up more than 70% of your dog’s body by weight, so your dog needs to maintain this water content by consuming plenty of water every day.
A good guideline for dogs is about an ounce of water for every pound of body weight. So, a 25 lbs. dog needs about 25 oz. of water (or 3 cups), while a 75 lbs. dog needs almost 2 litres of water every day.
This is not always the case, though. When they are weaning and making the switch to solid food, puppies should drink about half a cup of water every two hours to replenish the lost milk and stay hydrated. Your weaned puppy will eventually require the same amount of water as an adult dog, so they'll start to need more after that.
Dogs that exhibit severe dehydration are usually sick or overheated, but even mild dehydration on a regular basis carries some dangers. Being able to recognize the symptoms of dehydration in dogs will help you intervene.
- Dry Nose
- Dry, Tacky Gums and Pasty Saliva
- Low Skin Elasticity
- Dark Yellow Pee, or Very Little Pee
- Low Energy Level and/or Lethargy
- Loss of Appetite
- Sunken, Dry Eyes
If you notice these signs are being displayed by your dog, contact your vet right away to discuss the need for urgent veterinary care, or to receive guidance about how to safely re-hydrate your dog at home.
How can I tell if my dog is dehydrated?
Some signs may not be as visible as others so you can conduct simple tests to confirm whether your dog is dehydrated or not. First, you can check the elasticity of your pet’s skin by following these steps:
- Gently hold a pinch of your pet’s skin close to its shoulder blades.
- Lift the skin up, then release it gently.
- Observe your pet’s skin as it returns to its position. If your dog is well-hydrated, the skin will quickly stretch back into place. If your dog is dehydrated, it’ll take longer for the skin to return back to place.
To determine whether your dog is dehydrated, you can also look at its gums. Use your finger to gently press on your pet's gums to conduct this test. Should your dog be well hydrated, the affected area should turn white and nearly instantly return to pink. For dogs who are dehydrated, the capillary refill takes longer.
How long can my dog safely go without water?
Your dog can usually go up to 72 hours (three days) without drinking any water. After the first 24 hours, though, dehydration symptoms will appear. Although most people believe this to be true, each dog is unique, and there are several factors that can impact how long something takes.
- Age - Adult dogs need more water per day than puppies do, so a puppy can do without water for much longer than an adult dog. An elderly likely has health issues that could be made worse with dehydration.
- Health - If your canine companion has health issues, it’s important to make sure they drink water every day, as dehydration in dogs affects every organ in the body, intensifying any illness. Also, a pregnant dog will need to drink plenty of water every day.
- Weather - If you live in a mild climate, your dog will be fine without water for longer than that same dog living in a hot, dry, or humid environment. More heat means more panting, which means more water loss.
- Breed - Breeds with big thick coats, more active breeds, and breeds that drool a lot may need more daily water intake to combat normal water loss. The more water your dog loses through daily activities and habits, the more water will need to be replenished.
- Lifestyle - If your dog is a lazy house-pup, they may be able to endure a longer time period without water than a more active dog would. Generally speaking, the more active your dog is, the more frequent they will need water.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.