Dehydration Safety: How long can a dog go without water?

How long can a dog go without water?
How long can a dog go without water?

The period between how long should and how long can a dog go without water is serious. Dogs have a high need for hydration, and extended periods without drinking are a typical sign of a more severe condition.

Dogs can survive without drinking water for up to 72 hours. Sadly, within 24 hours, dehydration will have started, causing the body to decrease blood flow to the organs risking organ damage or failure.

Dogs have a huge water demand, with the average dog requiring fluids equal to two 16 oz water bottles daily.

A dog can safely go without drinking water for 8 to 10 hours. But, with dogs’ hydration needs, it’s best when dogs have unlimited access to fresh water

When a dog stops drinking water, it’s often a symptom of a more severe issue. This article details the potential risks and explains the symptoms of dehydration so you can spot the signs quicker.

How long can a dog go without water?

Dogs love to lap fresh water from their bowl, which is great because they need a lot of it.

Like us, water makes up sixty to seventy percent of a dog’s body. Water helps flush waste from the body, transport nutrients, regulate body temperature, and assist digestion.

Dogs can safely go 8 to 10 hours without drinking water and begin to risk dehydration after 12 hours. Within 72 hours without water, it’s unlikely for a dog to survive due to extreme dehydration.

As a general rule for hydration, dogs require 1 ounce of fluids per pound of body weight — approximately 4 cups for a 32-pound dog. 

To put into perspective, the US Dept of Agriculture reports the average person only drinks 3.9 cups of water.

Why do dogs stop drinking water?

With so much thirst, why hasn’t your dog been drinking water today? Reasons dogs stop drinking water can be as simple as cooler weather, but not drinking water is also a symptom of severe medical conditions.

Once you notice your dog not drinking water, observe closely for additional symptoms. After 8 to 10 hours without water, your dog’s actions will help your veterinarian correctly diagnose what’s wrong.

Here’s a list of common causes your veterinarian will consider:

Change in water quality

When you first notice your dog not drinking water, check their water bowl to confirm the water is clean. Even if the water bowl looks sparkling, give the bowl a good cleaning and fresh filtered cold water.

Dogs have an incredible sense of smell and may detect an odd scent you can’t.

If you’ve recently switched from filtered water to tap water, consider changing back. Tap water has additives like chlorine, minerals, and fluoride that your dog may be tasting.

Diet change to wet food

Wet food provides a substantial amount of fluids for dogs. With an average of 75% to 80% moisture in wet food, a recent transition from dry food decreases a dog’s daily water requirements.

Dry dog food typically contains 10% to 20% moisture. Switching to wet foods only for hydration isn’t recommended, but you can add hydrating snacks to a dog’s diet, like watermelon and cucumbers.

Mouth injuries or oral disease

If you’ve noticed your dog attempting to drink water hesitantly, the water might be causing pain.

Our dogs use their mouths often, making injuries common. Between tug-of-war, chewing a bone, eating hard food, and getting into trouble when we aren’t looking, it’s possible drinking water hurts.

Aside from accidents, dogs can suffer from oral disease. A silent disease, symptoms of oral disease typically don’t show until reaching advanced stages.

Your dog’s behavior towards eating will be telling for mouth injuries. Monitor if or how your dog eats and inspect your dog’s mouth closely for sores, discoloration, or bleeding.

Nausea or upset stomach

When a dog is vomiting or showing signs of nausea, like excessive drooling and gagging, sustaining from drinking water is expected. 

Nausea and vomiting are substantial causes of concern. Common causes include:

  • Ingesting toxins or bad foods (chocolate, onions)
  • Liver failure
  • Kidney failure
  • Bacterial or viral infection
  • Heat stroke
  • Bloat

A simple upset stomach does happen. It’s important to distinguish between regurgitating and vomiting. When a dog throws up whole food shortly after eating, it’s regurgitating and less concerning until it becomes frequent.

A change to cooler weather

A quick potty break outside can be exhausting for our furry friends living in hot climates. Dog’s bodies already run at a hot 102 degrees; in extreme weather, they constantly fight to remain cool.

An abrupt change to cooler weather drops your dog’s hydration needs, decreasing their water demand.

Bladder infection or urinary tract infection

Urinary tract infections and bladder infections are both common in dogs. Intact dogs — those who haven’t been spayed or neutered — and female dogs are at the highest risk. 

When affected, most dogs show an increased thirst, but when in enough pain, it can provoke a dog to quit drinking water.

UTIs and bladder infections give dogs the impulse to pee often. Usually, each squat provides trace amounts of urine or none. Look for signs of repeated squatting to identify.

Lack of exercise

Did you suddenly go from days of sunny walks to pouring rain? A lack of exercise decreases a dog’s water requirements.

Even in the worst weather, indoor games with your dog are essential for their physical and mental health. 

Aging

As dogs reach their senior years, activity levels and metabolism start to slow. This slow down also decreases their need for water.

Senior dogs are at a high risk of many health conditions, including weight gain and obesity. Always remain observant of your senior dog’s behaviors and maintain regular exercise.

Dedicate at least 30-minutes a day of exercise for senior dogs.

What are the risks of dehydration in dogs?

Like all mammals, dogs are in a constant cycle of water loss and rehydration. By failing to regain hydration after a long day of sweating, urination, defecation, and panting, a dog begins to dehydrate.

Dogs who are overweight and obese, senior dogs, miniature and toy breeds, puppies, and nursing moms have the highest risk of dehydration.

Symptoms of dehydration in dogs include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Dry nose
  • Sticky gums
  • Panting
  • Thick saliva
  • Excessive drooling
  • Sunken eyes
  • Loss of elasticity in the skin

What are the first steps to identify dehydration?

If you’ve ever tested your own hydration by pinching the knuckle skin to see how quickly or slowly it forms back, the same test works for dogs. 

Skin elasticity is the simplest way to determine a dog’s hydration. But, it’s essential first to observe how their elasticity performs when well hydrated. When your dog is back to full health and hydrated, pinch the skin on the shoulder or near the neck. A well-hydrated dog’s skin will immediately form back to its original shape.

Aside from skin elasticity, a dog’s gums can show dehydration signs. Inspect your dog’s gums for a sticky tackiness when touched. After pressing, the pink gums should turn white and quickly return to pink.

Finding additional forms of hydration is vital when your dog fails the initial tests and refuses to drink water.

Preventing dehydration in dogs

After determining a dog is suffering from mild dehydration — with no additional symptoms to cause concern yet — try introducing fluids through different methods.

Many healthy foods have high water content. Cucumbers have the highest water content of any food, comprised of 96% water. Sweet fruits like watermelon and strawberries are over 90% water. 

Adding flavored electrolytes or chicken broth to water also entice dogs to drink. Even plain ice cubes give dogs something to chew on while receiving much-needed hydration.

Final thoughts

If our dogs could speak, caring for them would be much easier. But dogs do communicate through body language and behavior.

To identify early signs of dehydration in dogs, monitor your dog’s water bowls and check their skin elasticity and gum tackiness. A dry nose and lethargy are also telling signs of discomfort and illness.

A dog can safely go without water for 8 to 10 hours but begin to risk dehydration any longer. Once dehydration sets in, dogs risk permanent damage to their organs.

Water carries essential nutrients to cells and is vital for many essential functions in dogs, including:

  • Blood flow
  • Nutrient absorption
  • Digestion
  • Breathing
  • Brain activity
  • Kidney function
  • Liver function

To avoid dehydration, try feeding your dog cucumbers, watermelon, ice cubes, or chicken broth to tempt hydration.

If your attempts to provide hydrating snacks or flavored water don’t succeed, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Dogs need approximately 1 oz of fluid for each pound of body weight daily, and dehydration is dangerous and deadly.

What success have you had hydrating your dog? Share this article and your story to help more dog owners.

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