Water for dogs

What's there to say about water for dogs? I bet you never went to see your veterinarian to discuss how much water to give your dog. We usually discuss extensively what kind of food to give, when or how much to feed our dog, what kind of treats are best etc and so water is easily overlooked as an essential nutrient.

water for dogs

But water deficiency leads to death much more quickly than any other nutrient. Water is vital for dogs and the same applies to all other mammals.

Regulation of water for dogs

Water for dogs has many functions and if you know the function of water in your body, then these will not come as a surprise.

  • Thermo-regulation.
  • Transport of oxygen and nutrients (as water is a large component of blood).
  • Excretion of waste products via urine and feces.
  • Solvent in which metabolic processes occur in and outside of your dog's cells

Your dog not only gets water from his water bowl or the rain puddles on the street, but also via his food. Dry dog food typically contains about 10% water which is not enough for his needs obviously. Canned dog food consists for 75% or more of water so it's only logic for your dog, when fed canned dog food, to drink less or very little water next to his food. A third source of water is water that is produced in your dog when energy-containing nutrients (proteins, fats and carbohydrates) are digested and metabolized (we call this endogenous water or metabolic water).

water dog playing

Dogs usually do not drink that much. Your dog may not even start drinking until he is mildly dehydrated. And in contrast to vitamins or minerals… a little less or a little more does not do any damage.

A decrease of 0.5% in body weight due to water loss causes your dog to voluntarily walk to his water bowl and replenish his body. For this reason it is wise to make sure your dog has access to fresh water at all times. Healthy dogs can self-regulate water intake to meet their needs so just let your pooch deal with this.

Free-choice is best which means your dog has access to water all the time. When this is not possible for practical reasons, for instance during transport of your pet, then the absolute minimum requirement is to allow your dog access to water for at least two 1-hour periods a day.

More water for dogs

More water is required when it's hot and when your dog has been exercising a lot. In these cases water consumption can double. Other factors that determine how much water your dog needs to drink are:

  • The type of dog food you are feeding him (fresh, dry or canned dog food).
  • The amount of dog food you dog eats.
  • When you have a bitch and she is lactating, she will need extra water to be able to produce enough milk.

Water for dogs: deficiency

Your dog will loose water through panting, perspiration, urine and feces.

When you dog is sick he may experience diarrea and vomiting. This will cause his body to dehydrate. You can withhold water and food for a few hours (a day at max) so his stomach gets a chance to rest. Though do contact your vet when your dog has not recovered within one day as dehydration can quickly become critical. Better be safe than sorry. When your dog has lost 5% of his body weight in water you'll see signs of water deficiency.

Signs of water deficiency in dogs

  • Loss of skin elasticity: lift his skin on his back or forehead and watch how quickly it snaps back to its original form and shape.
  • Decrease in saliva production.
  • Decreased appetite.

At 10% or more, your dog may face severe health issues. His body will try to maintain blood volume for as long as possible at the expense of other cells. When finally blood volume decreases too the circulation is impaired and oxygen and nutrients cannot reach the whole body. Vital organs such as the heart, lungs, brain and kidneys are affected.

Death due to multiple organ failure can occur when dehydration reaches 15%.

When your dog cannot or does not want to drink, take him to the vet as he can be helped with intravenous fluids.

wet Labrador dog at the beach

Water for dogs: Toxicity

Can water be toxic to dogs? Sure… as is the case for us too. Remember Paracelcus' statement that you've perhaps already read at the dog allergy pages:

“It is not the substance that defines what is toxic and what isn't, but the amount”. Paracelcus (1493-1541)

Suppose your dog is severely dehydrated for whatever reason (extended time of water deprivation, prolonged exposure to heat or dehydrated due to extreme exercise) then be careful. When rehydration occurs too fast this can damage the cells, especially cells of the nervous system and the brain.

Signs of water intoxication

dog drinking water
  • Ataxia: Your dog shows a lack of coordination and is tripping, falling or collapsing.
  • Restlessness: Your dog seems unable to lay down and relax.
  • Seizures: Your dog experiences involuntary muscle contractions.

And the last stage is a coma.

As water is usually provided all the time you may not notice how much he (or she) is actually drinking a day. Though when you notice an increase (and an increase in urine production, which you'll notice probably a lot sooner) you should check whether your pooch also displays other signs of kidney failure or diabetes mellitus .

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