Why isn't my dog drinking water? Recognizing dehydration in dogs

Is your dog not drinking water? Have you noticed it lapping up a drink far less than it should be or than usually does? This is something you should take seriously. Here's why.

If your dog isn't drinking water all of a sudden, you should go to the vet.
If your dog isn't drinking water all of a sudden, you should go to the vet.  © IMAGO / YAY Images

Dogs don't need to drink quite as much as humans, with their water consumption being linked directly to their size, weight, and breed.

Like us, dogs tend to consume more water after getting all worked up or in hot weather, but sometimes they'll drink less than you'd expect.

Don't freak out immediately if your dog stops drinking water – it could just mean it's already had its fill.

But if your pooch has stopped drinking altogether, or the reduced water intake is dragging on, dehydration could soon become an issue.

The TAG24 dog guide will take you through the reasons why your dog might be drinking little or not water – and what to do about it.

Why won't my dog drink water?

The most common – and least concerning – reason behind a dog staying away from water is that it's simply already well hydrated.

Other possible reasons, though, can be less reassuring and can be related to a dog's health and diet.

1. Dietary reasons

Think about what you feed your dog. If it's mostly wet food, then the high quantity of water in the product may have provided your dog with enough water. That means your canine friend won't need as much water, especially if it was once used to dry food.

Fun fact: Dogs get thirsty after eating food that is high in salt or very dry, which means you should always provide them with plenty of water after that type of meal.

2. Dangerous diseases

A number of diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, as well as pain in the abdominal or anal area, may actually cause your dog to drink less. In such a case, this could present a very real health impact and you should immediately visit the veterinarian.

Some other symptoms to look out for include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Changed behavior such as increased sensitivity when being petted in the abdominal area

If your dog has recently undergone an operation or received an infusion of some kind, it may drink less over the following few days and weeks. Make sure that you keep your vet up-to-date on its progress.

3. Their position in the pack could be an issue

If your dog is a new addition to the same household as several other dogs, drinking less could be an issue relating to its status in the pack. Maybe the other pooches aren't letting it near the water bowl, or it could even be suffering from severe anxiety. In any case, if in doubt, provide your new four-legged addition to the family with water separately.

Dogs will only drink together if their rank in the pack allows it.
Dogs will only drink together if their rank in the pack allows it.  © 123RF / Fotomagique

4. Your dog may be in heat

If you have a female and male dog living in the same environment, both can reduce the amount that they eat or drink when the female is in heat. This may be coupled with symptoms like restlessness, unusual yelping, and regularly running away.

5. Something has changed

Dogs like to have stable, fixed lives with predictable habits and activities. If there's suddenly a change in this structure, they may become stressed and stop drinking. One example may be that you've used a different drinking bowl or have moved its location.

Something interesting: Puppies who are having a hard time weaning their way off their mother's milk might not drink much water.

6. Your dog may be experiencing fear or stress

If your dog is experiencing high levels of stress, it may exhibit all sorts of symptoms. Some dogs bite their leash, some bark excessively, and others might stop drinking water. This fear and anxiety may come from a bad experience they have had while drinking. They are on high alert when they drink or eat, so if they've been badly scared, they may develop a negative association.

7. Hygiene

Dogs are incredibly sensitive creatures and their sense of smell is so strong, they will pick up stuff that we humans won't even notice. As a result, if their water smells funky in some way and for whatever reason, they might turn it down.

Reasons not liking the water's smell may include:

  • The water is dirty.
  • You've cleaned the water bowl with a chemical disliked by dogs.
  • A foreign substance is emitting a smell they hate.

Another (slightly disgusting) fun fact: One possibility for why your dog isn't drinking from its bowl is that it has decided to drink from the toilet, faucet, or watering can without you knowing.

Why is my dog eating but not drinking water?

There are several reasons why your dog might stop drinking water while still eating food, with one of the most common being a bladder or urinary tract infection. This is a serious condition that needs serious treatment by professionals, so the only answer here is a trip to the vet.

Signs and symptoms of dehydration in dogs

If your faithful pooch stops drinking on its own, then you should keep a firm eye on it. A lack of water will quickly lead to dehydration, which can be dangerous for most mammals.

There are a few signs to watch out for when it comes to dehydration in dogs:

  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Excessively dry gums
  • Restlessness
  • Rapid breathing
  • Excessive licking, especially of the muzzle and lips

Is your dog dehydrated? Here's how to test it: Place your pooch in a lying position, and then carefully fold some of its neck-shoulder skin. Release the skin. If it doesn't immediately snap back into place, this indicates a lack of fluids. It's time to visit a vet!

Offer your dog a drinking bowl when it is playing outside, to incentivize it to drink.
Offer your dog a drinking bowl when it is playing outside, to incentivize it to drink.  © 123RF / Iciakp

How to make your dog drink water

If you are concerned that your dog is drinking too little, but it isn't bad enough to take your pooch to the vet, then there are a few things you can do to incentivize your dog into drinking more.

Here's how to trick your dog into drinking water:

  • Offer several drinking places, including outside in the garden
  • Use a variety of drinking bowls in case this is the problem
  • Set up a doggy drinking fountain
  • Soak your dog's dry food in water
  • Always have water with you to offer to your dog when out
  • Slowly change your dog's diet from dry to wet food
  • Play diving games with your dog for treats or toys
  • Add flavoring to drinking water

Warning: While it can be very effective to give your dog some kind of broth, you need to be careful. Only give it broth that you have cooked yourself, with very low quantities of salt. Stock powder or tablets contain far too much salt and could harm your dog and actually make it more dehydrated.

Why won't my puppy drink water?

There are many potential reasons why your dog might not be drinking, and not all are as alarming as you may have otherwise thought. It is very possible that your dog may simply not need to drink much water at the moment, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be vigilant.

But whatever the case, if your dog's drinking habits have changed and you're even slightly worried, you should play it safe and take it to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

Cover photo: IMAGO / YAY Images

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