Help! My Dog Won’t Drink Water

dog won't drink water

If your dog has stopped consuming water or begun drinking dramatically less than is normal for him, that is a sign that he has an issue that needs to be addressed. It can be challenging as a dog owner because you cannot directly communicate with your dog, which leaves you wondering, “Why isn’t my dog drinking water?”

If your dog won’t drink water, the first step you need to take is determining whether or not your dog is dehydrated and then find out why he isn’t drinking water. Once you have discovered the reason why he has decreased his water intake, you can take active steps to address the issue and make sure he is getting the amount of water he needs each day. If your dog won’t drink water, it is important to work with a licensed veterinarian to address the issue immediately as it can be dangerous to their health if your dog is dehydrated over an extended period of time.

Understanding Dehydration in Dogs  

If you have found that your dog has stopped drinking water, it is important to understand what dehydration in dogs is, what causes dehydration to occur, and the overall symptoms of dehydration.

What is Dehydration in Dogs?

Dog won't drink waterDehydration occurs in dogs when there is a lack of water in the body. Dehydration, in either dogs or humans, can result in a number of serious and potentially dangerous symptoms and complications. Water is essential to a healthy life for an animal and a dog must maintain proper fluid intake throughout the day for them to remain healthy and their bodily processes to continue functioning correctly.

Many people do not know that eighty percent of their dog’s body is made up of water, which is why they are incredibly reliant on maintaining proper hydration levels. Water helps to regulate bodily processes such as circulation, digestion, and waste removal, in addition to helping dissolve both unnatural and natural substances within the body. Dehydration can radically affect natural bodily processes in dogs, particularly if a dog is dehydrated for a prolonged period of time.

What Causes Dehydration to Occur?

Dehydration in dogs occurs when the fluid levels within their body dip below what is normal. Dogs are at a much greater risk than humans for becoming dehydrated because their bodies release heat much slower. While dogs do have sweat glands in their foot pads, this is not sufficient to adequately cool their body if they begin to become overheated, which is why dogs rely heavily on panting to regulate their body temperature. Because of how their body is structured, hydration is extremely important for dogs.

Dehydration primarily occurs due to an increased fluid loss, a reduction in the amount of water being consumed, or a combination of both. Common sources of fluid loss can be overheating due to hot weather, vomiting, or diarrhea. Later in this article, we will explore potential reasons why a dog may stop drinking water or drink less water.

Common Symptoms of Dehydration in Dogs

In order to detect dehydration early in your dog so that you can get him the attention and care he needs, it is important to recognize symptoms commonly associated with dehydration. Below are a number of the most common symptoms of dehydration in dogs.

  • Depression
  • Dry mouth
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sunken eyes
  • Reduced energy levels and/or lethargy
  • Panting
  • Dry nose or gums
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Weakness

How to Test Your Dog for Dehydration

If you suspect your dog may be dehydrated, it is important to conduct a simple at-home test to see if they are dehydrated. To see if your dog may be suffering from dehydration, take a small amount of their skin on the top of their head or their back and pinch it between your thumb and forefinger. If they are properly hydrated, the skin will spring back to its original form when it is released from your fingers. As your dog becomes dehydrated, his skin will begin to lose its elasticity and will return to its original form less quickly. If the skin moves back into place more slowly, your dog is likely dehydrated. If your dog is severely dehydrated, his skin may not spring back to its original form at all. Keep in mind that skin elasticity can also be affected by the weight or age of a dog, so be sure to take into consideration these factors as well.

Potential Reasons Why Your Dog May Not Be Drinking Water

Dog won't drink waterWith this understanding of dehydration in dogs in mind, it is now vital to explore potential reasons why your dog may not be drinking water or may be drinking less water than their body requires. Below are a handful of the most common reasons why a dog will refuse to drink water.

Unfamiliar Places

If you have recently moved or taken your dog to an unfamiliar place, this can be the reason why they are unwilling to drink water. Dogs have an acute sense of smell and are able to quickly recognize when they are in a foreign surrounding, which can be a cause for alarm, nervousness, or caution in some dogs. Some dogs may refuse to drink water when in an unfamiliar setting until they become comfortable and determine that there is not a threat. If your dog is refusing to drink water while in an unfamiliar place, be sure to keep an eye on their drinking behavior to see if it resolves itself over time as they become comfortable. In addition, it is also vital to monitor your dog for signs of dehydration is they are not drinking water due to an unfamiliar setting. If you are planning a trip to a new place, it may be beneficial to bring a bottle of water and a bowl from home so that your dog has familiar scents to prompt it to drink water.

Cooler Weather

As mentioned above, part of the reason why your dog will pant and drink water is to replenish water lost due to heat and as an attempt to regulate body temperature. When the weather is cooler, your dog may drink less water despite doing the same amount of exercise simply because they are not losing fluid at the same rate. If your dog is drinking slightly less water, this may be the cause. However, if your dog continuously refuses to drink water or goes more than one day without consuming water, you should immediately contact a licensed veterinarian.

Aging

In some cases, older dogs may begin to avoid drinking water for a number of different reasons. A loss of appetite in dogs can also be a result of aging, which may be the culprit. In addition, older dogs will likely do less exercise than they did when they were younger, which means they will be less thirsty in most cases. For some older dogs, the appearance of refusing to drink water may stem from difficulty getting up to get to the water to drink. If this is the case, it is important to consult a licensed veterinarian to determine the best course of action. Older dogs still need to be adequately hydrated in order to remain happy and healthy, so be sure to pay attention to any changes in their drinking habits and consult a veterinarian to determine the best method for keeping them hydrated. For some older dogs, it may be useful to move their water bowl close to where they lay so they do not need to go far to get a drink or to integrate a wet dog food into their diet.

Disease and Illness

Some diseases and illnesses may cause a dog to stop drinking water or significantly lessen the amount of water they consume each day. Kidney disease and diabetes are two health issues that can result in a dog stopping drinking water completely. In addition, if your dog is suffering from a canine urinary tract infection or a bladder infection than they may also display a decrease in thirst. If your dog has stopped drinking water or is drinking much less water than usual, it is important to consult a licensed veterinarian to determine the underlying cause and subsequent treatment. In many cases, by treating the disease or illness causing the decrease in thirst, the issue will be resolved.

Bad Experience and/or Fear

Dogs are extremely aware of their surroundings and their behavior is shaped by their experiences. If a dog has a negative experience that is associated with their water bowl or drinking water, they may become hesitant or refuse to drink water as a result. An example of how this could develop is if your dog is with another dog that is protective of water and growls/lunges at him if he goes near the water bowl. If your dog develops a fear of this, he may avoid going near the water bowl because it associates the water bowl and water with aggression from another dog. Another example of how this could develop is if your dog is drinking water and something falls and hits its tail, which hurts the dog while he is drinking. The dog may become afraid to go back to the water bowl to get a drink out of fear that he will be hurt again if he does. To combat this fear associated with a bad experience, it may be beneficial to get a new water bowl and move the water bowl to a different area that does not have any bad experience associated with it.

Treating Dehydration in Dogs

Dog won't drink waterTo determine the right treatment option for your dog, it is first necessary to identify the underlying condition that is causing the dehydration to occur. In order to correctly identify the cause of the dehydration and unwillingness to drink, it is important to work with a licensed veterinarian. The treatment will be dependent on what the underlying cause is, but to treat the dehydration itself the veterinarian will likely administer fluids intravenously or subcutaneously. To determine the underlying cause, they will also often need to run additional testing to confirm a diagnosis and rule out other potential causes.

Preventing Dehydration in Dogs

There are a number of different steps you can take to help prevent your dog from becoming dehydrated. The below tips are best practices to implement into your life to help prevent your dog from becoming dehydrated to the greatest extent that you can so that your furry friend remains happy and well hydrated.

  • Monitor your dog’s water intake to make sure they are receiving an adequate amount of fluids based on their weight and activity level. As a general rule of thumb, a dog should consume roughly one ounce of water for each pound of body weight per day. This is especially important to be aware of if your pet has been sick and suffering from canine vomiting or diarrhea as a result since these can quickly dehydrate the body.
  • Change the water and wash the water bowl each day to prevent bacteria from building up in the stagnant water. This will keep the water fresh and appealing to your dog.
  • Pack extra water when you will be out with your dog exercising or on a hot day so that he can replenish the extra fluids his body is losing.
  • Invest in a water bowl that is weighted on the bottom so that your dog can’t knock the water bowl over and be unable to access water in your absence.
  • If your dog begins to avoid drinking water or is drinking less than usual, be sure to do the above test to see if his skin is losing elasticity due to dehydration and check inside the dog’s mouth to see if there are any foreign objects deterring them from drinking, such as a burr.

By following this helpful guide, you will be able to ensure the overall health of your dog for years to come. The best thing you can do as a dog owner is to be proactive and act accordingly the second you notice any changes in your pup.

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