Why Won’t My Dog Drink Water?

Dehydration is a dangerous condition for humans and canines alike. That’s because water is such a critical component of several core body processes, including digestion, blood circulation, and waste removal. As a dog owner, there are few things more concerning than when your dog refuses to drink water, particularly if it’s been more than a day or two since he’s had his last sip. Could they be sick? Unhappy? Or are you just overreacting?

At Wapiti Labs, there’s nothing we value more than keeping your pets healthy and strong. So today we’ll be teaching you about your canine’s daily hydration needs, why they might be ignoring their water dish, and what you can do to get them drinking again.

How Much Water Does Your Dog Need?

Before you worry too much about your dog refusing to drink water, you have to understand how much water he or she should be drinking daily. There are several factors that influence how much water your dog needs, including its size, diet, and how much exercise it gets. Fortunately, there’s a handy little rule you can follow. Generally, dogs require about 60 milliliters of water per kilogram of bodyweight (or roughly 1 fluid ounce per pound of bodyweight).  

Bear in mind that a dog drinking slightly less than the recommended amount of water is perfectly normal and healthy, especially if they haven’t been very active recently. But if you’ve crunched the numbers and your pet is drinking significantly less than the recommended amount, then something is definitely wrong.

If you’re still not certain whether your dog is drinking enough water, be on the lookout for other symptoms of dehydration. Sunken eyes, lethargy, a dry mouth (the gums will feel very sticky), and depression are all textbook signs of of dehydration in dogs.

OK, so you’re offering ample amounts of fresh water and your dehydrated dog still won’t touch it. Why would a thirsty dog refuse a drink?

The Reasons Dogs Stop Drinking

In most cases, refusal to drink can be linked to an injury near or inside of a dog’s mouth. Dogs love to chew on things, particularly objects that are tough enough to give their teeth a challenge. It’s pretty easy for chunks of wood, plastic, or rock to end up grinding around inside your pet’s mouth, causing small cuts and scrapes that can make it painful to drink. Damaged teeth will also produce very similar effects.

Nerves and anxiety can also cause a loss of thirst and appetite in dogs. These emotions can be linked to a change in surroundings or lifestyle, including new pets or people staying in the house. An absent family member can cause a significant amount of stress as well. In most cases, dogs acclimate to these changes quickly on their own, causing their desire to eat and drink to return after a few days. However, particularly sensitive dogs may need additional assistance to calm down and get well again.

Changes in water can also influence your pet’s willingness to drink. Even small differences in taste and smell can be a big deal for your dog. So if you’ve swapped from using well water to city water, your dog might not be drinking because they’re uncomfortable with it. If this is the case, you can try mixing some bottled water into your dog’s dish to help them get used to the change.

Regardless of the reason why your pet stopped drinking, your next step should be arranging a checkup with your local vet. They should be able to examine your pet to determine exactly what the trouble is and how you can go about fixing it. This step is particularly important if your dog has a mouth injury that won’t heal over the course of a few days. Even if you’re confident that your dog will return to normal after a few days, it never hurts to have them go in for a checkup.

Now you just need to focus on keeping your pup hydrated until the vet can see them.

Coaxing Your Dog to Drink Water

Fortunately, there are several techniques you can use to keep your dog hydrated when it doesn’t want to drink from its dish. First of all, try adding some fresh water to your dog’s food. Most dogs focus so intently on chowing down that they’ll get some water in their system this way.

You can also try feeding your dog some watery treats. Believe it or not, most dogs love ice cubes with a passion. Fruits like seedless watermelon, apples, and blueberries are all great for your dog and contain a substantial amount of water as well. There are a few veggies that can help to hydrate your dog too, including carrots and cucumbers. Keep in mind that not all fruits and vegetables are safe for pets to eat. In fact, grapes and onions are incredibly poisonous to dogs. Use this article as a starting point for snack safety and always do your research before feeding your dog new foods.

Making broth with bits of fresh chicken or beef is an excellent way to tempt your dog into hydrating itself as well. Very few canines have the willpower to turn down a meal that tasty! Just remember to keep onion, garlic, and any other dangerous ingredients out of any meals you make them.

Unfortunately, all of these tricks will only work properly if your dog is still willing to eat food. If your dog refuses to eat as well, don’t panic. Just continue to offer food, keep their water fresh, and focus on getting them in for that checkup as soon as possible.

Meeting With Your Vet

Your veterinarian will be a fantastic source of information on why your pet is refusing to drink water. They’ll also be an excellent resource if you need more advice or tricks to get your dog drinking again. Just be sure to follow any health or dietary counsel they give and remember to answer their questions honestly so they can provide an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

Well done! Your favorite canine should be back in peak condition in no time. Moving forward, be sure to keep track of your pet’s eating and drinking habits carefully and report any irregularities to your vet as soon as they come up. Between the two of you, your dog is in very good hands.

When it comes to the well-being of your pup, Wapiti has your back. Whether your dog has stopped drinking water or is starting to show signs of another illness, we can help. Be sure to call or message us today to learn more about how to keep your dog healthy and happy.

10 comments on “Why Won’t My Dog Drink Water?

  1. Lorri on

    I have two water bowls in house, one from tap water and one from well water. Dogs will drink the water from well bowl if it’s outside, but not inside. And both not drinking from tap water bowl at all.

    This started about a month ago, can’t figure it out. worry about my older dog, because once she does drink it’s a lot. I’ve been through the throws with Reinal kidney failure, with another dog, worried Bailey may be doing the same thing. I’ll go to vet and get some blood work done. To check that out.

    Reply
    • Thinas on

      Our 4-year-old Lab does something similar. He’s become very skittish of his inside water bowl, but will go outside and drink from puddles or the pool (I try to catch him before he does that!) or even just lick the deck after a rain! Our water is hard, and I don’t like the taste of it either! But I’ve tried distilled water and he’s not a fan of that. I mixed some water from a can of tuna in with it, and of course he loves that. But I don’t want to leave that sitting out in the house.

      Summer allergies are a big deal for him. I think he might just not feel great being itchy and all… but of course not drinking causes his skin to be drier and itchier. He loves apples and carrots, so that’s a help too.

      Reply
    • Trevor Read on

      Did you ever figure out what is happening, my 13 yr old lab stopped drinking tap water too, but laps up water from a natural drainage ditch which he has NEVER done in 13 yrs

      Reply
  2. Julie on

    My dog has had a recent spinal cord injury leaving her hind legs paralyzed and I believe she has a urinary tract infection. She has never been a big water drinker but lately she’s been refusing to drink any water.
    I started putting water in her wet food, which she eats fine, so I’m not so worried about hydration. I’m just trying to figure out how I’m going to get anything in her that’s going to help with the UTI. I think I’m going to try adding fresh blueberries to her watered down food, first. If that doesn’t work I’ll get some of the recommended herbal remedies I can administer with a syringe..
    I’ll also make an appt for her to see the vet, it’s just really hard to move her right now. Her injury is only about 2 weeks old so I’m trying to keep her calm and still.

    Reply
    • Bridget Titterud on

      Our Strength formula supports liver and kidney function (a good choice for supporting) and would be our fastest means of providing support due to its liquid concentration. This is our strongest liquid formula and also encourages circulation, healthy cartilage and joint function, recovery time and relief from discomfort.

      Watering down her food is a good way to up her intake of water! If she is refusing to drink water at all, a vet call is your best bet as this could be a sign that something is wrong. It’s always best just to let your veterinarian know so they can rule out issues and give you peace of mind!

      Reply
  3. barbara on

    Hey Julie,
    I see you wrote this in May and i;m seeing it now in Aug..I hope you resolved your issue..If by chance you ever go through that again (hopefully not)..Get a pill crusher and crush any tablet and mix in in your dogs food..I’m going through the same thing now with my dog..She used to take every supplement I gave her with peanut butter, now she won’t…I crush and mix in the food..As long as the smell isn’t potent, mine doesn’t even know it’s in there and eats it all 🙂

    Reply
  4. Jessie on

    I just recently had my dog stop or being picky with taking water. I resorted to saying want some treats or ice cream while having a bowl of fresh water and a spoon. I would act like I was eating and the offer the spoon of water to my dog. He lapped it up. I had watered down Pedialyte and also used a small amount of the water flavor additives.

    Reply

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