How Long Can A Dog Go Without Water? Canine Hydration Facts
Water is one of the most essential things for all living beings. In a dog’s life, it’s just as vital.
Dogs need water to regulate their body temperature, digest their food, lubricate their joints, and flush out toxins. Without proper hydration, dogs can develop serious health problems.
But how long can dogs go without water safely? What are the signs of dehydration in dogs? And how can you prevent your furry friend from dehydrating? In this blog post, we will answer these questions. Read on to learn more.
How Long Can Dogs Go Without Water Safely?
The short answer? Dogs can go without water for up to 72 hours.
But we can’t stop there. Look how long this blog post is! We have other factors and variables to consider.
Let’s talk about this “72 hours” statement first. It’s a bit misleading because it assumes that your dog will be fine until they’ve gone without water for 3 days.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Your pup will start to show signs of dehydration within as little as 24 hours without water. Dehydration can affect their energy levels, appetite, mood, and organ function. If left untreated, dehydration can cause kidney failure, liver damage, shock, coma, and death.
Your dog can become dangerously dehydrated way sooner than 72 hours. How?
The answer to this question depends on several factors:
Larger dogs need more water than smaller dogs. We’ll look at just how much water your dog needs on a daily basis in the next section. But spoiler alert: it relates to your dog’s bodyweight.
Younger, smaller dogs need less water than adult dogs. In fact, if you have an elderly dog, you may notice that they drink way more than they did when they were younger.
Sometimes this is because they tire more easily. So after exercise, they need much more water to regulate themselves again.
However, sometimes it’s because of an underlying health condition, as
Certain health conditions make dogs more prone to dehydration. A common one is canine diabetes. In fact, one of the first signs that your dog has diabetes is excessive thirst. (1)
Naturally, if your dog is exercising, they will need more water. The type of exercise will vary hydration needs too. For example, a leisurely stroll is unlikely to demand as much water as a run around the dog park.
Try to be mindful of your dog’s activity level when thinking about their daily water intake.
In the spring and summer months, your pup will need more water than when the temperatures cool down in the autumn and winter.
Likewise, if your dog is a keen sunbather, they are likely to dehydrate quicker.
Even the temperature of your home can affect your dog.
“An ideal temperature doesn’t exist for all dogs, since their normal body temperature will vary according to size. Most dogs begin to show signs of overheating when the air temperature is between 81 and 85 degrees F (27 and 29 degrees C).” - American Kennel Club (2)
So if you like to keep your home toasty in the winter, make sure your dog is sufficiently hydrated and has unheated places in your home to cool down.
If any of these factors cause your dog to dehydrate quicker, then they could reach dangerous levels well before the aforementioned 72 hours. So take that factoid with a grain of salt.
How Much Water Should A Dog Drink Daily?
Before we continue the conversation about dehydration, we need to know what’s normal for a dog to drink.
Again, it depends. Annoying I know, but what can I say? Dog ownership is not an exact science.
Here’s a general rule of thumb:
In Aussie terms, that’s about 30 mL of water per half a kg of body weight.
All of those factors we discussed that affect how fast your dog dehydrates, also affect how much water your dog needs to have every day. In short:
Usually, dogs are quite good at keeping themselves hydrated if there is water readily available. Especially when compared to cats, who are notoriously bad at regularly drinking water.
Dogs have keen senses around their own thirst and hunger cues.
But, occasionally dogs resist drinking water and can display signs of dehydration. Let’s cover a few of those now.
What Are The Signs Of Dehydration In Dogs?
Some of the common signs of dehydration in dogs are:
If you notice any of these signs in your dog, you should immediately offer them some water and contact your veterinarian.
Your vet may perform some tests to determine the severity of dehydration and recommend the best course of treatment.
Depending on the case, your dog may need intravenous fluids, electrolytes, or medications to restore their hydration and balance.
How Can You Prevent Your Dog From Dehydrating?
Prevention is the best medicine, right?
The best way to prevent dehydration in your dog is to ensure that they have access to plenty of clean and fresh water at all times.
You should also check their water bowl regularly and refill it as needed. I recommend having several drinking points depending on how big your house is. If you have an outdoor space, have a water bowl out there too. All drinking points should be full to the brim with fresh water every day.
Consider a dog water fountain that replenishes itself.
But I guess the above is super obvious!
What are the other more creative ways to keep your pup hydrated?
Avoid extreme heat or cold
You should avoid exposing your dog to extreme heat or cold, as these can increase their water loss through evaporation or panting. You should also provide them with shade, ventilation, and cooling mats if the weather is hot. If the weather is cold, you should provide them with warm shelter and blankets, and if needed, dress them in a dog coat.
Try feeding your dog wet food
If your dog eats dry food, you may want to add some water or wet food to their meals to increase their moisture intake. Lots of dogs adore wet dog food anyway, so this should be an easy addition.
Monitor their exercise
If your dog is very active or exercises a lot, you may want to give them some extra water before and after their activity. You can also offer them some ice cubes or frozen treats as a reward. This is a sneaky way of boosting their hydration on high-activity days.
Remember that although dogs should have a daily walk, not all dogs are built for lengthy walks or frequent running spells. You could be overexercising your dog which can cause dehydration and other issues.
If in doubt, involve your vet!
Invest in a dog water bottle
One of the simplest ways to keep your dog hydrated on the go is to get a dog water bottle. These are fantastic if you take long walks or travel with your pooch.
How Do You Hydrate A Dog That Won't Drink?
Do you have a stubborn pup that is refusing to drink their daily recommended intake?
This can be a huge problem and a symptom of a larger problem. But for now, let’s assume your dog is in good health, but hey just aren’t drinking voluntarily as much as they should. Here are some tips:
Give your dog lots of water during times of exercise
I don’t know about your dog, but my dog isn’t that fussed about grazing around the water bowl when he’s lazing around at home.
On a walk, I can tempt him to drink quite often. This is because he likes to gallop around and burns a lot of energy. So this is the perfect opportunity to get him drinking.
Try giving water from your hand
I don’t advise doing this over a long term. But if you have a puppy that is not drinking enough, feeding them water from your hand is a trick to get them drinking water. I have no idea why this works, but it does! Just don’t make a habit of it because it’ll be harder to get them to drink from bowls and dog mugs in future.
Make sure the water is fresh
Like humans, dogs have a natural aversion to stagnant water. Why? Stagnant water is prone to multiple pathogen overgrowths or even becoming a breeding ground for bugs. No one wants to drink smelly, stagnant water! So make sure that your dog’s water is fresh.
Invest in a dog water fountain
Dogs love to drink running water. There is a science behind it.
So if you want to trick your dog into drinking more water, a dog water fountain could be the perfect solution. There are plenty of options on the market, from electronic fountains to ceramic pieces of art.
So those are ways you can encourage your dog to drink more water day to day.
But what if there seems to be something wrong?
If your dog is avoiding drinking water, there could be a dangerous underlying health condition to blame.
Common causes of reduced thirst include:
If you’ve tried everything and your dog just won’t drink, get a vet involved as soon as possible!
Final Thoughts - “How Long Can A Dog Go Without Water” Is The Wrong Question
We can all agree that water is vital for your dog's health and wellbeing. Dogs can go without water for up to 72 hours (3 days) before they face a life-threatening situation.
But just because they can survive without water for 3 days doesn’t mean they should!
Dogs will start to show signs of dehydration within as little as 24 hours of no water intake.
It’s uncomfortable. It’s damaging. It’s unhealthy.
Therefore, you should always provide your dog with fresh and clean water at all times and look out for any signs of dehydration. If you suspect your dog is dehydrated, you should immediately give them water and contact your vet for further advice.
Prevention is better than cure. Keep your dog hydrated to prolong their life and boost their vitality!
Most dogs will survive the night without water, particularly if they tend to sleep through the night. But it depends on their age and physical health. An elderly dog may wake up several times during the night and want to drink water during one of those times.
It’s important that there is water available if your dog wants to take a sip during the night.
If your dog is severely dehydrated, the fastest way to hydrate them is using an electrolyte fluid given intravenously. This is what vets will do if they encounter a dog with severe dehydration. But if you want to hydrate your dog quickly at home, the best course of action is fresh water and plenty of it. If your dog is avoiding drinking, take them to the vet for a full examination.
- “Diabetes in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment”. April 11, 2022. American Kennel Club. Retrieved April 13, 2023. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/diabetes-in-dogs/
- “Is Your Home’s Heat Too Warm For Your Dogs?”. January 2, 2022. American Kennel Club. Retrieved April 13, 2023. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/temperature-setting-for-dogs-in-winter/
- “How Much Water Should a Dog Drink?”. August 11, 2020. PetMD. Retrieved April 13, 2023. https://www.petmd.com/dog/nutrition/evr_dg_the_importance_of_water