How long can dogs 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 Edgewater vets explain.

Why is water important for dogs?

One of the most underappreciated nutrients for dogs is water. Water, in contrast to meal ingredients that provide energy, vitamins, and other chemicals to help your dog's health, is frequently disregarded because its nutrition is more supportive than functional.This means that while water does not provide nutrients, it is essential in how nutrients are digested, absorbed, transported, and eliminated in your dog's body. Here are a few bodily systems in your dog that require water to function effectively.

  • 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.

This rule does have an exception.Puppies that are being weaned and transitioning to solid food should drink half a cup of water every hour or so to replace the milk they aren't getting and to stay hydrated. When your puppy is weaned, he or she will require more water, eventually equaling the amount required by a fully grown dog.

Is my dog dehydrated?

Extreme dehydration in dogs is usually connected with illness or overheating, but a constant state of mild dehydration can also be dangerous. It's useful to be able to recognize indicators of dehydration in dogs so you can intervene.

  • 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 check your dog's gums for dehydration. To do this test, gently push your finger against your pet's gums. If your dog is sufficiently hydrated, the region should turn white and then quickly return to pink. Capillary replenishment takes longer for dehydrated dogs.

How long can my dog safely go without water?

Your dog can usually last 72 hours (three days) without drinking water. However, after the first 24 hours, it will show signs of dehydration. While this is generally accepted, each dog is unique, and there are a lot of variables at play that might change 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 Edgewater vets right away for urgent care.