It is normal for dogs to drink water during the day, but it might be a valid concern if you notice your dog drinking much more than normal. So is your dog drinking too much water? This may be temporary and nothing to worry about, or it may be a sign of illness. You should be concerned if your dog drinks an entire dish of water and is still looking for more. Excessive thirst in dogs is not a symptom that should go unchecked, so here's what you must know.
If you notice a sudden increase in your dog's water consumption on a regular basis, it's usually a symptom of a more serious health problem. Watch for these changes in behavior, and notify your vet immediately if they continue for more than 24 hours:
- if you have to fill the water bowl much too often;
- your dog starts drinking from the toilet or searching for other places to get a drink;
- your dog asks to go outside far more than usual;
- you notice that your dog pees more than normal or begins having accidents in the house.
It is possible that excessive thirst in dogs could be a sign of a potential disease or condition. This is a good time to start keeping track of your dog's water consumption. Pay attention to how much your dog drinks in the course of a day so you have something to compare an excessive thirst to, and write that down. If you see a big change in your dog's water consumption (that is not expected due to medication, excessive exercise or excessive heat), then it is time for a visit to the vet's office.
Excessive Thirst in Dogs
8 reasons why your dog drinks too much water and what to do
There's a name for drinking too much water and dog excessive thirst – Polydipsia. This is common issue that vets encounter. Polydipsia in dogs can have many underlying causes. For example, dogs will drink more water in warm weather, especially if they are not acclimated to a sudden change in temperatures.
Illnesses that can cause excessive thirst in dogs
When your dog drinks more water than normal or drinks so fast that they vomit as soon as they finish, they are likely ill and the vet will have many tests to do to rule out symptoms one at a time; this may or may not become a long process, but it will eventually lead to an answer.
While excessive thirst and urination in dogs is a broad symptom that can point to many different ailments, below are some of the most common illnesses to be aware of.
1 Kidney Problems
Malfunction of the dog's kidneys is when the kidneys fail to remove poisons out of the bloodstream. The normal balance of water in your dog's body is disturbed. Kidney failure in dogs can happen quickly with major health issues or slowly build over time, and it can be fatal for the dog.
Kidney disease in dogs has to be treated as soon as you suspect a problem. Two of the ways that your dog can get kidney disease are health problems the dog may already have or injuries such as being hit by a car.
Two of the early signs are drinking more and peeing more. Dogs with kidney issues drink too much water as the kidneys get worse. Their kidneys no longer remove poisons the way they should and more water is needed to try to do the job.
Dogs may develop kidney disease when they are exposed to contaminated food; this can also stem from dog's dental disease that releases infection into the bloodstream. Medications and other related diseases that he may have can also contribute to kidney disease and failure.
Treatment varies with the type of kidney disease that your dog has, which is why it's important for you to seek veterinary help and not try at-home remedies.
Being kept at the vet’s for intensive treatment to stabilize the kidneys and get a good diagnosis is a must. Intravenous liquids are used to reduce the toxins in the body. Proper dog's pain management methods and anti nausea drugs may be given to stabilize the kidneys so they can heal.
The disease can be slowed with IV liquids and a diet with low protein that will help the kidneys so they don’t have to work as hard. It is also a possibility that blood pressure medication and something to decrease stomach acid may be prescribed.
The kidney disease is only slowed by the treatments, it is not cured. It will buy your pet more time. Some dogs can get up to four years of good quality life with early treatment. Ultimately, you'll need to switch to low protein dog food brands indefinitely, or start feeding your pet homemade dog food diet that's designed specifically for this condition.
2 Diabetes Mellitus
Diabetes is quite common in overweight dogs, and it also contributes to a wide variety of health problems among pets. It's also one of the more common conditions that causes excessive thirst in dogs.
Canine diabetes is diagnosed by the presence of:
- excessive thirst in dogs
- excessive hunger
- excessive urination
- weight fluctuations
- chronically high levels of blood and urine glucose
Just like with kidney disease, this is something you cannot treat at home. If you suspect that the reason for excessive thirst in dogs is potentially diabetes, then you must seek your veterinarian as soon as possible.
The first symptoms of canine diabetes to appear are excessive thirst and urination in dogs. Once at the clinic, your vet will test the dog's urine for the presence of ketones and glucose. If the results show the need for further tests, the vet will measure the glucose in the blood.
A diagnosis of diabetes is positive when glucose is in the urine and concentrated in the blood. Treatment in this form of diabetes is similar to humans. Glucose is monitored with the same meters that humans use, diet is watched, exercise is monitored and insulin may need to be administered.
Fortunately, diabetes in dogs can be reversed with proper treatments and the right type of diabetes diet. Your vet or canine nutritionist should be your source of information how to feed your specific diabetic dog, but they are likely to recommend some regular and/or prescription dog food brands. You can also feed your pet homemade dog food diet that's designed for diabetes (see this recipe and this one).
3 Diabetes Insipidus
Diabetes insipidus is a rare and not well-known metabolic disorder in dogs that affects how water is used by their body. One of its symptoms is that it prevents the canine's body from holding onto the water and instead passes out too much.
Diabetes inspidus can be identified by excessive thirst and urination in dogs, very pale urine and the increasing need for more water.
Dogs with diabetes insipidus condition always drink a high amount of water, but can still get dehydrated very fast, and become disoriented as a result. This is caused by the imbalance of electrolytes because of the body’s inability to conserve water. It is diagnosed through many blood and urine tests to rule out other diseases.
Diabetes inspipidus is a very rare illness in dogs, however, and it is also sometimes referred to as water diabetes in dogs. It is controlled with diet and sometimes medication. The medication used for water diabetes in dogs is usually a hormone replacement for the normal one that every dog should have. Your vet will keep a close watch to make sure treatment is working, and adjust medication if needed.
4 Adrenal Hormone Disease
Excessive thirst in dogs may also indicate a problem with your pet's adrenals and several diseases related to your dog's hormones. The most common examples are Cushing's disease and Addison’s disease – they are two opposite types of diseases in dogs that are of the same gland.
Same as with other cases, testing at the vet's office is needed to define the disease and formulate a treatment plan for your dog. Several studies observed (Labelle et al. 2004) that the common cause is a small tumor in the dog's adrenal glands.
Adrenal problems in dogs are usually treated with medication and constant monitoring. The extensive testing involved is to decipher which disease the dog has in the first place.
5 Liver Disease
Depending on your dog's age, liver disease can another likely cause of excessive thirst in dogs, and it's another serious problem that needs immediate treatment by your veterinarian.
The liver is essential for many life-sustaining functions in all animals. Something that might be diagnosed as liver disease in dogs could be caused by another organ or system.
The most common symptoms associated with liver disease in dogs are:
- loss of appetite
- vomiting (often intermittent but usually chronic)
- weight loss
- increased thirst/water intake
- increased frequency of urination
- increased volume of urine output
Research has shown (Hirose et al. 2014) that liver disease is generally not a suspect in a young dog. This condition is generally seen in middle-aged and elderly dogs. However, if the breed has a history and hereditary liver disease, then it may occur even in a younger dog.
Here's an example of a possible diet and feeding structure for a dog with liver disease:
Ruling out other diseases is the first thing to do, because of the extensive testing needed to diagnose liver disease in dogs. The liver runs the whole body, so when it breaks down many other systems do as well – including brain function.
A canine with an infection will often have a fever, and this will cause them to become dehydrated and results in unusual and excessive thirst in dogs. This can come from almost any source or even flu-like illnesses that dogs can contract.
The most common types of infection that may cause excessive thirst and urination in dogs are inflammation and infection of the dog's uterus and/or kidneys (different to kidney disease). Your veterinarian will be able to quickly find out whether that is the case with a simple test of urinalysis.
7Electrolyte Imbalance and Disturbance
Electrolyte imbalance and disturbance in dogs, also known as Hypophosphatemia, is directly related to your dog's consumption or water and can be caused due to many different reasons. Your vet must be notified and tests performed to find out the exact cause of hypophosphatemia in dogs.
Typically, this condition is due to high calcium and/or low potassium, and it can often be the reason for excessive thirst in dogs as well as water intoxication. Symptoms are very similar and it can happen in conjunction with kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes and many other ailments.
8 Side effect of medication
There are many drugs that will have a side effect that causes dog excessive thirst. This should be self-limiting and stop when the treatment is over, but if you're concerned – notify your veterinarian. However, when using prescription drugs for your dog, your veterinarian will likely warn you about possible increase in water intake and whether that is something you should worry about or not.
IMPORTANT INFO: 25 Most Serious Dog Health Symptoms That Cannot Be Ignored
Is there such a thing as a dog drinking too much water?
In and of itself, excessive thirst in dogs is not only a symptom of a greater health problem in your pet, but it could be much more. For example, your dog drinking too much water can be a psychological problem or learned behavior rather than a specific and known physical illness.
These types of compulsive behaviors may end in over-stimulation and failure of the dog's kidneys, which can result in death. Sometimes the problem is compulsive behavior, which is treatable with medication and behavior modification, and you should speak both with your veterinarian and possibly a professional canine behaviorist on how to fix the root of the problem.
The bottom line is that it's definitely possible for a dog to drink too much water.
Hyponatremia (low sodium levels) is a rare but often fatal condition in dogs. At highest risk are dogs that enjoy playing in the water for long periods of time. Even a hose or lawn sprinkler can be hazardous for dogs that try to catch spraying water in their mouths and do this for a prolonged period of time.
Hyponatremia in dogs happens when your pet swallows more water than the body needs or can handle. This dilutes bodily fluids, creating a dangerous electrolyte imbalance. Too much water lowers sodium levels in the fluid outside of cells.
This condition affects blood pressure as well as nerve and muscle function. When sodium levels drop, the water goes into the cells and makes the cells swell. This includes the brain, meaning the central nervous system is affected. Water intoxication can be deadly to dogs.
Water intoxication symptoms include:
- staggering/loss of coordination
- dilated pupils, glazed eyes
- light gum color
- In severe cases: difficulty breathing, loss of consciousness, coma, seizures, and death
Dogs of any size can end up with this illness, but the condition is typically seen in dogs that enjoy a pond or lake, and dogs that enjoy retrieving objects thrown in the water for them. Sometimes this can happen after a lot of activity or play with a sprinkler or hose. Several precaution methods must be taken.
Dogs with the compulsion to play in their water dish are also in danger of water intoxication. Water intoxication can affect any size or breed of dog. Smaller dogs show symptoms quickly because of their smaller body mass.
Treating hyponatremia in dogs includes:
- IV electrolytes
- drugs to reduce swelling in the brain
Aggressive veterinary care is the only remedy and even then, some do not survive.
As the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Make sure that you monitor your water-loving pooch. Limit sprinkler and hose play and give lots of breaks if she is playing in the water. Know the symptoms of water intoxication, and observe your dog’s behavior when she’s enjoying water play. If you have a misting system in your backyard to cool down your dog in summer heat, be vigilant.
After playing hard or exercising, watch your pets when they go to drink. If the whole bowl disappears, wait a while before refilling it. When you take your canine for walks or to the dog park, carry water with you for frequent breaks and to avoid dehydration, and observe how much water your dog is asking for.
Salt water poisoning
While we're on the subject of excessive thirst in dogs, we should also mention the dangers of a dog drinking too much salt water. Just like for people, too much salt water can result in salt poisoning, which is the opposite of hyponatremia.
Initial signs of hypernatremia include diarrhea and vomiting, but it can escalate to:
- loss of coordination
- progressive depression
- severe brain swelling
Hypernatremia in dogs is life-threatening, and immediate vet care is the only answer to save your pet. If you take your dog to the ocean, carry fresh water in a doggy water bottle, and give it to your pets often so they won't want to drink the salty water. Restrict throwing things in the ocean for the dog to retrieve, or at least limit this activity. This can cause a problem if too much sea water is accidentally swallowed.
If your vet decides that excessive thirst and urination in dogs is a behavioral issue, there are a few things you can do to help the situation. These tricks don’t work for every dog, but in most cases, you can get a degree of success. In some cases, you can retrain your dog if the issue is one of boredom. If you can't do it yourself, get help from a professional behaviorist.
The best way to stop your dog from drinking too much water is to distract him. Make sure that your pooch always has toys and safe chews when she is left alone. This will keep her occupied rather than entertaining herself with her water bowl. Another key is to limit the amount of water you do leave in the bowl when she is home alone.
It is best not to fill the water dish, but instead add 2-5 cups of water to the dish depending on your dog's size and how long she'll be alone. If you do this, you will have to be vigilant in noticing when the dish is empty. This practice is especially important if your dog suffers from illnesses like canine diabetes or Cushing's disease.
You should also be careful when you feed your thirsty dog. See that they don’t load up on water right after eating, especially if the food is dry kibble. There is a chance the food will swell and bloat the dog. If this happens, it means a trip to the vet as bloat in dogs can be life-threatening.
Some pet owners find it difficult to monitor their dogs that closely and measure the amount of food and water the dog consumes. The most effective way to do this may be to employ the help of automatic dog food and water feeders, which will automatically distribute a specific amount of each for your canine during certain times. You can set the schedule, amounts and portions to make sure it's all even.
Vigilance is the key, no matter the reason why you find yourself dealing with excessive thirst in dogs. Starting with a vet visit is the best thing you can do to get to the bottom of this condition.
Your vet will look at the dog's history and ask you things like:
- When did you notice the problem?
- Have there been any changes in diet or activity?
- How is her skin/coat?
- How is her appetite?
- How is her energy level?
That’s just the beginning of the trail to figure out the puzzle your dog is presenting to you and the vet. A vigilant owner is able to tell changes in temperament, eating, drinking, etc. Journaling and keeping track of your dog's behavior can be extremely useful in these cases. Based on that, the vet will perform many tests of blood, x-rays and urine to find the illness and figure out how best to treat it.
How much water should my dog drink each day?
The answer to this is approximately 8 to 18 ounces of water per 10 pounds of body weight in a day. This depends on how big the dog is and how active she is. The weather, too, can be a factor. If it is hot outside, then more water will be called for to stay hydrated.
Puppies tend to drink more than adult dogs. They are growing and all the play they do depletes their water level faster than in an adult dog. Puppies should be monitored closely, so they don’t make a habit out of using water as a plaything and you can quickly recognize any signs of excessive thirst in dogs.
What breeds are prone to excessive thirst in dogs?
The larger breeds, like German Shepherds and Great Danes, and canines that are very active are prone to excessive thirst in dogs. Large dogs drink more water naturally, as their bigger size requires is.
Active dogs need stimulation when they have nothing to do but lie around. They will create games to relieve their boredom. Hunting and retrieving dogs can be prone to drinking too much water due to their breed’s occupation.
Not everyone has access to a dog park or doggy day care while they work. Many pet owners do not have a large backyard to play catch in. So, the only options are daily long walks or to hire someone to walk your dog during the day while you are out. This will go a long way in preventing water play and excessive thirst in dogs that stems from boredom.
You do not need to be helpless when your dog shows this tendency. A trip to the vet is in order before deciding how the problem should be approached. If the vet rules out a medical issue, then it is because your dog isn’t getting enough stimulation during the day.
If you do have a local doggy daycare, it would be a good idea for your pup to be enrolled. It gives a change of activity when you are gone for long periods during the day. The social interaction will improve your pup’s mental health when he has playmates, and it will reduce the likelihood of him suffering the symptoms of excessive thirst in dogs due to water play when Fido is bored.