Water Requirement For Dogs: Quenching Your Dog's Thirst

By Chyrle Bonk, DVM July 09, 2020

With the abundant sunshine and warmer weather during the summer, you probably have been reaching for a cold drink more frequently than those cooler winter days. And with good reason. Cold water helps to cool you off and rehydrates your body to aid in sweating and other bodily functions. But what about your dog? While they don’t sweat, they still need plenty of water to keep them hydrated and cool. So, how much water should your dog be drinking? Let’s find out.

How Do Dogs Drink Water?

If you’ve ever watched your dog at the water bowl, then you probably realize that the way that they drink water lacks some finesse. But their method is very effective. Most of us think that dogs drink water by curling their tongue into a dish shape and basically spooning the water into their mouths. Instead, dogs curl the tip of their tongues backwards when they drink, which actually propels water onto the front of the tongue. The rapid action of their lapping creates a water column that draws more water into their mouth, similar to the action of a straw. They can then bite off the water column and swallow it. It’s a messy, yet amazing process that works well for dogs to efficiently get rehydrated.

Why Do Dogs Need To Drink Water?

Water is necessary for nearly every function that occurs in the body. It’s a major component of blood, the fluid inside every cell, and the fluid around those cells. Water helps to transport nutrients, remove waste, digest food, cushion joints and nerves, and maintain body temperature. Water is everywhere inside your dog’s body, and it needs to be replenished often. Without proper replenishment, dogs can become dehydrated which can lead to organ failure, hyperthermia, and even death.

How To Tell If Your Dog Is Dehydrated

Unfortunately for us, dogs aren’t equipped with a water gauge to let us know if they’re running low. So, it’s up to us to recognize the signs of dehydration in order to correct the issue before it becomes a bigger problem.

Most of the time, our healthy pups are going to be able to drink enough water to stay adequately hydrated. They can get into trouble when they don’t drink enough due to health conditions or when they’re losing more water than normal due to weather, overexertion, or health conditions.

The signs of dehydration in dogs include:

  • Tacky gums: Normal, hydrated gums should be wet and slimy. Dehydrated gums will feel sticky or dry.
  • Tented skin: When you pinch the skin on the back of your dog’s neck and then let it go, it should bounce right back into place. Dehydrated skin will stay tented, or wrinkled, in the position that you pinched it momentarily and then return to normal.
  • Sunken eyes, dry eyes
  • Vomiting or dry heaving
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dry nose

It’s important to catch dehydration as early as possible to avoid potentially permanent organ damage and death.

How Much Water Do Dogs Need A Day?

The amount of water that your dog needs to drink a day is going to vary on their size, activity level, the ambient temperature, and if they’re getting water from other sources, such as their food.

Most dogs should drink about one ounce of water per pound of body weight per day. That means your five pound chihuahua needs just over half a cup and your 120 pound Great Dane will need 15 cups, or nearly a gallon, per day!

Puppies and senior dogs may require more than that. Puppies are usually very active and tend to drool more with teething and chewing on things, so they will need more to rehydrate their body. Senior dogs may have some decrease in kidney function and need to drink a little bit more to make up for the loss.

Remember that some amount of water is provided in their food as well. For those pups that get canned food, they may drink less water per day due to the high amount of water in their diet.

How Many Times A Day Should I Give My Dog Water?

Rather than focusing on how often you should give your dog water, you should instead focus on always having it available. This means fresh, clean water, not the puddle from last night’s storm. Keeping water in front of your dog at all times may help encourage them to drink more and can reduce the likelihood that they will drink too much at one time that they vomit. It’s especially important to have water at the ready when it’s hot and humid. Just because dogs don’t sweat in the way that we do, they still need to stay hydrated in order to cool themselves through panting.

If keeping water out readily available is not an option for you, then try to offer your dog a drink at least three times a day. The more often your dog has access to water, the less likely they are to overdo it and cause an upset stomach.

What Would Cause My Dog To Drink More Water?

Overdosing on water usually isn’t a concern for dogs. However, there are definitely times when they may drink more than usual. Some of the reasons that a dog may drink more water include:

  • Dehydration

Maybe they ran a little short of their water quota the day before and need to replenish their body by drinking more today. Mild cases of dehydration can usually be treated by increased water consumption. More severe cases will need intravenous or subcutaneous fluids.

  • Diet

It’s hard to eat a lot of bread or salty snacks without having a drink. Your dog is no different. Depending on what is in their dry dog food, it may lead a pup to drink more water.

  • Medications

Certain medications may increase your dog’s thirst, mainly steroids, diuretics, and seizure medications. Your veterinarian will often recommend starting these drugs at lower levels and then working up to higher doses to help their body adjust to their extra thirst.

  • Health conditions

Diseases like kidney failure, diabetes, Cushing’s, liver disease, some cancers, and anything that causes a fever or diarrhea can increase your dog’s water consumption. This is most commonly due to increased loss of water because of the disease process.

One disease, diabetes insipidus, is caused by a hormonal imbalance that causes a dog to drink and urinate more than they should. Diabetes insipidus occurs rarely in dogs, but may be a reason that a pup would drink more than usual.

If you think your dog may be drinking more water than usual, then it’s time to measure their water consumption. You can actually measure the amount of water that you put into their bowl each day and only refill it when the bowl is empty. That will give you an idea of how much water your dog is drinking. If it’s more than the normal amount, or if your dog has any other symptoms, see your veterinarian.

What Should I Do If My Dog Refuses To Drink Water?

There are times when your dog might not be drinking enough water. This can get pretty serious, pretty fast. So it’s important to always be in tune with how much they are drinking. Dogs may decrease their water consumption or cut it off completely for any number of illnesses.

Something as simple as a tummy ache to something as serious as cancer can cause your dog to stop drinking water. Anytime your dog goes without drinking water for more than 12 hours or drinking less water for 24 to 48 hours, then it’s time to see your veterinarian. Again, dehydration can happen quickly and it’s more easily corrected the sooner that it’s caught.

What Types Of Fluid Can My Dog Drink?

When it comes to hydrating your dog, it’s hard to beat plain, old water, but if your dog isn’t interested in water because of illness or otherwise, it may be time to get creative. Fortunately, water isn’t the only thing your pup can drink. You can encourage fluid consumption by adding some low sodium chicken or beef broth to their water. The low sodium aspect is important as too much salt can lead to dehydration more quickly. You can even add some low sugar sports drinks or Pedialyte electrolyte drinks to their water. Some dogs might actually appreciate a little flavor and they’ll also get a little more for their drink out of any of these options.

Another way to sneak more water into your dog’s diet is by making a slurry with canned food. Aim for that tomato soup consistency so that they will still feel like they’re getting a food treat while also getting a lot of fluid. You may try soaking their dry kibble in water as well for the same effect.

Steer clear of high sugar, high salt drinks like soda or juice, and also stay away from milk. Of course, coffee and tea are also a no due to their caffeine content.


Water consumption is always an important aspect of your dog’s health. With warmer weather, getting enough water is even more important. Providing fresh, clean water at all times will help keep your pup stay hydrated and healthy. Any change in water consumption should be taken seriously, and don’t hesitate to involve your veterinarian if you’re concerned about your dog’s water intake.

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Watch how a dog drinks water in slow motion ...