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Why is my dog drinking a lot of water? Vet's guide to excessive thirst in dogs

dog drinking a lot of water
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Just like their appetites, the amount of water that dogs drink can vary between dogs. But what does it mean if your dog is drinking a lot of water? If your dog is drinking a lot of water and peeing a lot, it can be frustrating, especially if you're constantly refilling the water bowl and cleaning up accidents. 

It's also a bit annoying if your dog keeps you awake by drinking lots of water at night. Excessive thirst in dogs can also be quite scary for pet parents, especially if your dog is drinking lots of water and throwing up, panting, or seeming distressed.

And with ongoing worries about Alabama Rot, it's understandable to be concerned if your dog is drinking a lot of water and licking their paws. So, what's normal when it comes to drinking? And when should you be concerned?

How much water should a dog drink a day? 

Every dog is different, and the amount of water they drink will also depend on the temperature where they live and whether they're fed wet or dry food. However, the upper threshold for how much water a dog should drink in a day is 100mililitres per kilogram of bodyweight. 

So, if your dog weighs 10kg, they shouldn’t drink more than 1000ml (1L) of water per twenty-four hours. If your dog drinks more than this in a day, it could be an indication of a medical condition.

dog drinking water

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Should I be concerned if my dog is drinking a lot of water? 

If your dog is drinking more water than usual, there's no need to be immediately alarmed. There are lots of reasons why they might be extra thirsty. For instance, if they've done a lot of exercise or the weather has been hot, this could be the reason. 

It's also important to remember that any change in their diet could affect their thirst since different dog foods will contain different amounts of water. However, if you measure your dog's water intake on three separate days and find it averages at more than 100ml per kg bodyweight, it's time for a trip to the vet.

Why is my dog drinking a lot of water? 

If your dog is drinking a lot of water, it could be for one of the following reasons: 

1. Hot weather or exercise

If it's especially hot outside or your dog has recently exercised, you're more likely to notice them lapping up an increased amount of water.  

2. Fever or infection

If your furry friend is fighting an infection and has a high temperature, they might drink more to try to cool off.

Sick dog lying on the couch

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3. Vomiting

Vomiting causes fluid loss, which can make your dog dehydrated. They might drink more to try to rehydrate. However, filling their stomach with water might cause them to vomit even more, so fluid should be offered regularly in small amounts.

4. Diarrhea

Like vomiting, diarrhea also causes fluid loss and can lead to dehydration. You might notice your dog drinking more if they have diarrhea, but they should return to normal once the diarrhea has resolved.

Image of dog feeling poorly

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5. Diabetes mellitus

Diabetes mellitus can cause your dog to be more thirsty and to pee more often. You might also notice them losing weight despite being hungry, and they might develop cataracts in their eyes. If diabetes isn't treated, it can lead to ketoacidosis, which causes vomiting, dehydration, and shock.

6. Pyometra

If your female dog isn't neutered, they are at risk of a condition called pyometra. This is when bacteria enter the womb and cause infection. If the cervix is open, the infection can drain out, and you might see a vaginal discharge.

If the cervix is closed, the pus is trapped within the womb, causing the dog to deteriorate quickly. Both types of pyometra can sadly be fatal if not treated promptly. If your dog has a pyometra, they might also vomit, stop eating or become more lethargic.

7. Cushing’s disease

Cushing's disease is also known as hyperadrenocorticism. It occurs when the adrenal gland produces too much of the stress hormone cortisol. If your dog has Cushing's disease, they will be really thirsty and pee lots. 

They might also look pot-bellied, with thin skin or hair loss. Dogs with Cushing's disease often pant a lot, even when they're not exerting themselves. If left untreated, Cushing's can lead to diabetes and problems with the heart and lungs.

dog lying on sofa

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8. Kidney disease

Your dog's kidneys are responsible for controlling urine output and maintaining hydration. If they aren't working as well as they should, this can cause an increase in thirst and urination. As well as these symptoms, dogs with kidney disease often lose weight, vomit, and go off their food.

9. Liver disease

Some types of liver disease can cause your dog to drink more. You might also notice them eating less, having vomiting or diarrhea, and acting quiet and lethargic. Some kinds of liver disease can cause jaundice, where the skin, eyes, and gums begin to look yellow-orange.

When to visit the vet 

If you think your dog is drinking too much water, it's worth measuring the amount they drink first. Do this by adding a known amount of water to their bowl — say, a litre — and subtracting any left 24 hours later. If you need to top the bowl up, don’t forget to make a note of how much extra you add. 

If your dog drinks more than 100ml per kilogram in a 24 hour period, then it's time to take them to a vet. However, amounts less than this can be abnormal too, so trust your instincts. It's best if you can keep a diary or a mental note of any other symptoms they might have. Of course, if your dog is suddenly drinking a lot and seems unwell or is vomiting, you should seek veterinary advice immediately rather than waiting to take measurements.

Conclusion

Many things can cause your pooch to drink more than they normally would. Thankfully, there's a simple calculation that can let you know whether their thirst is excessive or not. However, if you think your dog is drinking a lot of water and you’re worried, it's best to book a check-up with their vet, even if the calculation says that they may be normal. 

Dr Hannah Godfrey is a small animal vet with a love of dentistry and soft tissue surgery. She lives in Wales with her partner, son, and their two cats.