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How Long Can a Dog Go Without Water?

How Long Can a Dog Go Without Water?

Dogs, just like humans need water to keep their bodies functioning effectively but will lose water naturally through sweating and urination. It is important that your pooch always has a fresh supply of water, but how long can they go without drinking it? Our Cincinnati vets explain.

Why is Water Important For Dogs?

Water is one of the most underrated nutrients for dogs. Unlike food ingredients that offer energy, vitamins, and other compounds to support your dog's health, water is often overlooked because its nutrition is more supportive than functional. This means that water itself doesn't supply any nutrients, but it is vital in how nutrients are digested, absorbed, moved, and excreted through your dog's body. Here are a few processes of your dog's body that need water to function properly.

  • Digestion - Water is involved in all parts of digestion. Water in your dog's body helps produce saliva, stomach acids, and bile, and plays a role in every stage of digestion.
  • Cell Health - Water is one of the core components of a cell. Without sufficient water in your dog's body, the cell cycle will be hindered, especially cell growth and division.
  • Detoxifying - Water in your dog's system helps to flush out toxins from the bloodstream and during digestion. Harmful toxins and excess water-soluble nutrients will be filtered out through the kidneys and excreted in urine by the water in your dog's body.
  • Temperature - Dogs typically don't mind warm weather, but summer's extreme heat and humidity can lead to a dog quickly overheating. Proper hydration is vital to your dog's natural ability to regulate their body temperature.

How much water does a dog need?

Water makes up more than 70% of your dog’s body by weight, so your dog needs to maintain this water content by consuming plenty of water every day.

A good guideline for dogs is about an ounce of water for every pound of body weight. So, a 25 lbs. dog needs about 25 oz. of water (or 3 cups), while a 75 lbs. dog needs almost 2 litres of water every day.

There is an exception to this rule. Puppies that are being weaned and transitioning to solid food need to drink around half a cup of water every other hour or so to replace the milk they’re not getting and to keep themselves hydrated. Once your puppy is weaned they will start to need more water, ultimately requiring as much water as a fully-grown dog.

Is my dog dehydrated?

Cases of extreme dehydration in dogs are typically associated with illness or overheating, but a consistent state of mild dehydration can have risks too. It’s helpful to be able to identify signs of dehydration in dogs so that you can take action.

  • Dry Nose
  • Dry, Tacky Gums and Pasty Saliva
  • Low Skin Elasticity
  • Dark Yellow Pee, or Very Little Pee
  • Low Energy Level and/or Lethargy
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Sunken, Dry Eyes

If you notice these signs are being displayed by your dog, contact your vet right away to discuss the need for urgent veterinary care, or to receive guidance about how to safely re-hydrate your dog at home.

How can I tell if my dog is Dehydrated?

Some signs may not be as visible as others so you can conduct simple tests to confirm whether your dog is dehydrated or not. First, you can check the elasticity of your pet’s skin by following these steps:

  1. Gently hold a pinch of your pet’s skin close to its shoulder blades. 
  2. Lift the skin up, then release it gently.
  3. Observe your pet’s skin as it returns to its position. If your dog is well-hydrated, the skin will quickly stretch back into place. If your dog is dehydrated, it’ll take longer for the skin to return back to place.

You can also examine your dog’s gums to check if it’s dehydrated. To perform this test, softly press your pet’s gums with your finger. If your dog is properly hydrated, the area should turn white and then go back to pink almost immediately. The capillary refill takes longer for dogs that lack hydration.

How long can my dog safely go without water?

Typically your dog can survive without drinking water for about 72 hours (three days). However, it’ll show signs of dehydration after the first 24 hours. While this is generally considered to be the case, every dog is different and there are a number of variables at play that can affect the time frame.

  • Age - Adult dog needs more water per day than puppies do, so a puppy can do without water for much longer than an adult dog. An elderly likely has health issues that could be made worse with dehydration.
  • Health - If your canine companion has health issues, it’s important to make sure they drink water every day, as dehydration in dogs affects every organ in the body, intensifying any illness. Also, a pregnant dog will need to drink plenty of water every day.
  • Weather - If you live in a mild climate, your dog will be fine without water for longer than that same dog living in a hot, dry, or humid environment. More heat means more panting, which means more water loss.
  • Breed - Breeds with big thick coats, more active breeds, and breeds that drool a lot may need more daily water intake to combat normal water loss. The more water your dog loses through daily activities and habits, the more water will need to be replenished. 
  • Lifestyle - If your dog is a lazy house-pup, they may be able to endure a longer time period without water than a more active dog would. Generally speaking, the more active your dog is, the more frequent they will need water.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your dog drinking enough water? If you are concerned that your dog might be dehydrated, contact our Cincinnati vets right away for urgent care.

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