Why Is My Dog Drinking a Lot of Water?

Katie Grzyb, DVM
Written by:
Published: December 15, 2022
Why Is My Dog Drinking a Lot of Water?

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Many things can influence how much water your dog drinks every day, from the weather to your pet’s exercise, diet, and medical conditions.

Excessive thirst, which is known medically as polydipsia, can often go unnoticed. However, it’s important to know how much water your dog normally drinks so you’ll notice any change in their routine. Drinking a lot of water can be a sign that something is wrong, and an early diagnosis of a medical condition often makes treatment simpler and less invasive.

Learn more about why your dog’s water intake may have increased and what your next steps should be.

How Much Water Should a Dog Drink Daily?

A general guideline for a dog’s water intake is about 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight. For example, a 10-pound dog should drink about 10 ounces of water per day.

Puppies, very active dogs, dogs that are nursing, and dogs that live in warm climates will typically drink more water than the general guideline. Your dog may also drink less than normal if they eat canned food that contains water.

No matter how much your dog is drinking daily, NEVER deprive your dog of water unless specifically directed by your veterinarian. Your dog should have access to water at all times, even overnight or if they seem to be drinking a lot and needing to go out more often. Water deprivation can cause dehydration and lead to electrolyte imbalances and sometimes kidney malfunction.

How to Determine How Much Your Dog Drinks Daily

To see how much water your dog is drinking, fill the water bowl to the same level at the same time every day. If you want to be precise, measure how much water you put in the bowl in the morning, then measure how much is left at the end of the day.

There are also bowls that have measurements on the side. This might not work if the bowl tends to spill or get tipped over by any pets or young children in the house.

If you have multiple pets and they are microchipped, you can get separate bowls that will open only to specific microchips, making it easier to isolate how much one dog is drinking daily.

But if you notice that your dog is drinking a lot more than usual or needing to go out to pee a lot more often, make an appointment to see the vet.

Try these water bowls and fountains to keep track of your dog’s water intake:

Why Is My Dog Drinking So Much Water?

There are many factors that affect how much water a dog drinks throughout the day. There are also many medical reasons dogs can have excessive thirst. Here’s a list of possible causes for drinking more water than usual.

Canned Food Diet

Canned food contains more water than dry food, so dogs that eat canned food may drink less water. This is because they are getting a portion of their daily water intake from their food.

Age

Puppies often require more water because their kidneys don’t concentrate urine as well, which leads to increased urination. They also tend to be more active and lose more water through vomiting or diarrhea. Geriatric dogs can also drink more (or less) due to cognitive dysfunction or medical issues.

Medications

Certain medications can cause increased thirst and urination. These medications include diuretics (such as furosemide or torsemide), anti-seizure medications (such as phenobarbital), and corticosteroids (such as prednisone).

Hot Climates

Dogs that live in warmer areas can become dehydrated more easily, increasing their water intake requirements.

Frequent Exercise or Increased Activity

Dogs that exercise frequently will require more water to hydrate themselves. Puppies also might drink more water than adult dogs due to higher activity levels.

Health Conditions

Certain medical issues can lead to excessive thirst. The most common reasons include:

Electrolyte Imbalances

Sodium or salt imbalances can lead to increased thirst and urination in dogs. Sodium draws water to it, and the kidneys will not hold or store water appropriately if there is an imbalance of sodium and potassium in the water.

Dehydration, high-sodium meals, certain toxins, and other medical conditions can cause electrolyte issues. If you notice vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, not eating, weakness, and/or neurologic signs (e.g., circling, falling over, ataxia, or seizures), take your dog to the vet.

Dehydration

Heat, exercise, and illness can all cause dehydration and lead to water-seeking behavior. Signs associated with dehydration can include lethargy, tacky gums, ropy saliva, bright red gums, excessive panting, and skin tenting. Severe dehydration can be very harmful and even fatal, so it’s important to get your dog to a veterinarian if you see these signs.

Vomiting or Diarrhea

These can lead to dehydration, causing a dog to drink more water. If your dog drinks too much water at once, it can cause more vomiting/regurgitation. If the gastrointestinal signs are frequent, severe, or persistent, seek veterinary care.

Hyperthermia or Fever

Elevated body temperature can cause increased thirst in dogs, whether from infection, inflammation, pain, immune-mediated disease, toxin ingestion, excessive exercise, and/or heat stroke.

If your dog is panting excessively, seems very lethargic, or has significant rope-like saliva and/or cherry-red gums, take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible for evaluation.

Kidney Failure

Kidney failure (or renal failure) is a chronic progressive condition defined as the inability of the kidneys to efficiently filter waste products. As toxins filter out from the bloodstream, they draw excess water with them, which may lead to increased urination. This in turn causes dehydration and an increase in water intake.

Kidney failure ranges in severity, depending on how advanced it is. In the early stages, only monitoring and diet change may be needed. For more severe kidney failure, hospitalization may be required.

Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes is a disease where the pancreas does not produce enough insulin (or the body stops responding the insulin produced). This causes a rise in blood sugar (glucose) levels. The body tries to eliminate excessive sugar through the urine, and the glucose draws water with it. Increased thirst and urination are the first clinical signs of diabetes noted by dog owners.

If you see those signs along with lethargy, decreased appetite, weakness, an abnormal smell to the breath (ketotic breath), and/or vomiting/diarrhea, seek immediate veterinarian care. Untreated diabetes mellitus can lead to a potentially fatal condition called diabetic ketoacidosis.

Diabetes Insipidus

Diabetes insipidus is a rare condition in dogs causing excessive thirst and large amounts of urine. Despite drinking large amounts of water, these dogs can often become dehydrated from the amount of urine they are producing. Though frustrating, this condition does not require immediate medical therapy. However, since you won’t be able to tell the difference between the types of diabetes, see the vet to determine the cause of your dog’s increased thirst and urination.

Cushing’s Disease

Also known as hyperadrenocorticism, this condition is caused by the overproduction of cortisol (stress hormone) and steroids from the adrenal glands. This causes increased thirst and urination. Other clinical signs include a pot-belly appearance, panting, thin skin, hair loss, and increased hunger. It is often diagnosed by the presence of symptoms. Cushing’s disease does not require immediate medical therapy.

Pyometra

This life-threatening condition is an infection of the uterus in female dogs that have not been spayed. Bacterial toxins released into the bloodstream affect the kidney’s ability to hold urine, which leads to increased urination. Dogs will often drink more water to compensate for the increase in urination.

Pyometra often has other symptoms, such as pus originating from the vulva, fever, lethargy, changes in appetite, and vomiting. Pyometra is fatal if left untreated, due to the infection spreading throughout the body (sepsis). 

Liver Infection

Bacterial infection of the liver (most commonly caused by infection with Leptospirosis) leads to increased urine production and increased thirst. This infection is fatal if left untreated. Leptospirosis is passed through infected rodent urine and is most commonly found in stagnant water puddles or ponds.

There is a vaccine that protects dogs against this infection. If your dog has been drinking a lot of water or been recently swimming in a pond or drinking out of rain puddles, and they are not up to date on their Leptospirosis vaccination, get them to a veterinarian as soon as possible for testing and treatment.

Why Does My Dog Keep Drinking Water and Throwing Up?

Dogs will often drink water when they have an upset tummy. Though we are unsure if this is to give them relief or to induce vomiting, it occurs frequently. This can be secondary to many medical issues, including mild inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract (gastroenteritis), pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, foreign body obstruction, and cancers.

Why Is My Dog Drinking Lots of Water and Licking Their Paws?

These signs together can be caused by dehydration, allergies, pain, or even behavioral issues, including anxiety, stress, or cognitive dysfunction (the dog version of dementia).

Why Does My Dog Drink a Lot of Water at Night?

Dogs may excessively drink water at night for all of the above medical issues, but this can also be caused by:

  • Dehydration

  • Cognitive dysfunction

  • High-sodium treats or food at night

  • Not enough water available during the day, especially if a dog is crated during the day with no water bowl.

  • Dry air—You may notice your dog drinks more at night when the heat goes on in your home. This is due to drying out of the air. Consider using a humidifier where your dog sleeps to help alleviate this behavior.

  • Boredom/anxiety/stress—Give your dog plenty of affection and playtime to avoid excessive thirst in the evenings.

When to Go to the Vet for Excessive Thirst in Dogs

It can be difficult to know when to bring your dog to the veterinarian when it comes to excessive thirst.

If excessive thirst is paired any of the following symptoms, then is it extremely important to get your pet evaluated as soon as possible:

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Lethargy

  • Decreased appetite

  • Severe panting  

  • Respiratory distress

  • Ataxia or weakness

  • Collapse

  • Blood in the urine

  • Straining to urinate

  • General malaise

Go to an emergency veterinary hospital if your general practice veterinarian is not available. The emergency veterinary team can help to determine if this is a true emergency, and often will start with a physical examination and general diagnostic testing to investigate the cause of the clinical signs.  

If your dog is otherwise acting normally—eating well, happy, acting alert—then it is okay to schedule an appointment with the veterinarian at their next available time, even if that is a few weeks away.

How Vets Diagnose Excessive Thirst in Dogs

There are many tests that help to investigate the underlying cause of a dog’s excessive thirst. First, your veterinarian will try to obtain a thorough history of your dog. This is the time to give your vet any information you have about their water intake or other abnormal behavior. Next, they will perform a complete physical examination.

They may also discuss multiple diagnostic tests to help explore possible medical issues. These tests may include:

  1. Full bloodwork to assess the kidney enzymes, sugar levels, liver enzymes, electrolytes, and red and white blood cell counts.

  2. Urinalysis: A general urine profile to assess the concentrating ability of the kidneys and assess for protein, blood, crystals, white blood cells, and bacteria in the urine.

  3. Urine culture and sensitivity: This is a more specific urine test to assess for bacterial growth in the urine and determine the best antibiotic to use to kill off this bacteria.

  4. X-rays of the abdomen to look for bladder/urethral stones and tumors in or around the bladder, and to rule out uterine infections and enlargement/mineralization of the prostate.

  5. Abdominal ultrasound to assess all of the internal organs for any abnormalities.

  6. ACTH stimulation testing to rule out Cushing’s disease.

Treatment for Dogs That Drink a Lot of Water

The approach to a dog that is drinking a lot of water depends on the underlying cause:

  1. Dehydration: Treatment depends on severity. For mild cases, offering fresh water frequently can be enough. For moderate to severe cases, subcutaneous or intravenous fluid therapy is performed by a veterinary team.

  2. Vomiting/diarrhea: Treatment depends on the underlying cause of the gastrointestinal signs, and often includes antiemetic (anti-nausea and anti-vomiting) therapy, anti-diarrheal therapy, diet changes, and fluid therapy.

  3. Hyperthermia/fever: Treatment is dependent on the cause of the elevated body temperature. Cooling measures and intravenous fluids are often used for hyperthermia, while antibiotic therapy and fluid therapy are among the other options for treating fevers.

  4. Kidney failure: Treatment is based on the stage of renal failure. These can range from fluid administration at home to hospitalization for intravenous fluids, low-phosphorus diets, appetite stimulants, gastroprotectant medications, or blood pressure medication, with or without antibiotic therapy.

  5. Medication side effects: Often the side effects of these medications are self-limiting, as the body normalizes over the first 1-2 weeks of taking them. Sometimes dose adjustments are made by the veterinarian if urination becomes excessive, to avoid urinary accidents in the house.

  6. Diabetes mellitus: Insulin therapy is the mainstay of treatment for diabetes mellitus. Insulin dosage and type is determined by your veterinarian and often requires frequent dose adjustment in the beginning stages of therapy. Sometimes hospitalization is required if this condition becomes more serious and results in diabetic ketoacidosis.

  7. Diabetes insipidus: Treatment of this condition is based on whether it is central (CDI, or related to inadequate production of a brain hormone called ADH) or nephrogenic (NDI, or related to resistance of the kidneys to respond to a hormone called ADH). CDI is treated using a synthetic hormone called desmopressin, or DDAVP. NDI is often treated using a medication called hydrochlorothiazide and a low-sodium diet.

  8. Cushing’s disease:This condition is usually treated using a medication called trilostane, which is a synthetic enzyme used to decrease the production of excessive cortisol in the body.  

  9. Pyometra: Surgical removal of the infected uterus via ovariohysterectomy is the most common treatment. For open, draining uterine infections, longer courses of appropriate antibiotics can often clear the infection, but these infections often recur until the uterus is surgically removed.

  10. Leptospirosis infection: This often requires hospitalization with intravenous antibiotics, fluid therapy, and gastroprotectants. If diagnosed and treated early on, most dogs can be cured.

  11. Electrolyte imbalances: Treatment for these conditions is dependent on the cause and type of electrolyte imbalance. Sometimes this includes hospitalization and fluid therapy, and in other cases, treatment is as simple as a diet change and avoidance of high-sodium treats.

Featured Image: iStock/milorad kravic


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