How Long Can a Dog Go Without Water: The Importance of Preventing Dehydration

dog drinking water
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

You want to be there for your dog all the time. But there are times when you just can’t do so. You may have to go on an important business trip. Or a family vacation where you can’t bring your dog along. When these events occur, you may ask questions such as: “how long can a dog go without water?”

It has been said that water is life. This not only applies to us humans but also for our pets. Dogs can’t live without water, but the question is, how long can they survive without it? Knowing the answer to that question can help you prevent potentially life-threatening situations.

You may also be wondering why there are times your dog’s water intake drops. You may also be interested in learning how to ensure that your dog stays hydrated in case you will be away from him for an extended period.

Those are some of the things you will learn after reading this post. We promise you that by the time you are through with this article, you will become more knowledgeable about the importance of water to canine health and you’d know what to do to encourage your furry pal to drink more water for better health.

How Long Can a Dog Go Without Water?

puppy and bowl of water

Let’s get to the bottom of things by answering the question that may be bugging you: “how long can a dog go without water?”

Our canine friends can last 2-3 days without water. The number of days may vary depending on factors like the health, breed, and genetic makeup of the dog. Even the healthiest dogs will struggle to survive beyond three days without water. Dogs with health issues like kidney disease are more likely to die quickly if they don’t drink water.

Even other factors such as the temperature and weather conditions can affect the survival of dogs without access to water. Suffice to say, it is more dangerous for dogs to go thirsty during the summer as it is during colder months.

Generally speaking, dogs should drink at least half an ounce of water per pound of body weight per day. So if you have Labrador Retriever weighing 70 pounds, they should get at least 35 ounces of water daily.

Dehydration in Dogs

To say that water is important to the health and general well-being of dogs would be a huge understatement. This vital resource plays many critical functions in a dog’s body. In fact, it can be argued that water is far more vital than food because dogs can generally survive longer without food.

#1: Why It’s Important to Prevent Dehydration

dog and water

Water transports important nutrients in and out of the cells. Without it, a dog will be tired and lethargic. It also helps in digesting food and enabling the body to absorb nutrients from it.

Dogs also rely on water to keep their bodies working under normal temperature. It cools the body down and allows it to maintain normal body temperature. Water likewise plays a role in movement as it lubricates and cushions the joints. This, in turn, makes a dog’s movement a lot easier and smoother.

In short, almost every important function in a dog’s body requires water. Without an adequate supply of water, dehydration in a dog occurs. Dehydration is simply the state wherein a dog loses more water than he is taking in.

Keep in mind that a dog loses water throughout the day. He loses it when he sweats, pees, or poops. As such, it is important that a dog is given access to water all day long. When he loses just 10% of water in his body, his major organs such as liver and kidneys can get damaged. If the deficiency persists, those organs will shut down, resulting in the death of the canine.

#2: Signs of Dehydration in Dogs

dog not eating

Many dog parents overlook dehydration in their pets. They may be too busy to notice the warning signs of dehydration. Or it may simply be due to lack of awareness of the symptoms of dehydration in canines.

It is important that you are aware of the signs and symptoms of dehydration in dogs so that you can avoid its potentially fatal repercussions.

Below are some of the warning signs of dehydration in dogs:

  • Poor appetite. When a dog is not getting enough water, he has difficulty swallowing or digesting food. If you notice your dog uncharacteristically being disinterested in food, then it may be because he is suffering from dehydration.
  • Lethargy. Dehydration causes a drop in energy in dogs. There’s less blood flowing through their muscles, affecting the energy levels to fuel their muscles. As a result, a normally energetic dog will be uncharacteristically lethargic.
  • Sunken eyes. Lack of water in the muscles behind the dog’s eyes causes those major organs to appear sunken.
  • Excessive panting. Panting is actually one of the early signs that a dog is feeling hot. Excessive panting would mean that your dog is getting dehydrated.
  • Dry gums and nose. A healthy dog has wet or moist nose and gums. But when he’s dehydrated, those parts of the body are noticeably dry. A dry nose can also quickly become cracked.
  • Low skin elasticity. Lack of water in the body will cause a dehydrated dog’s skin to hold shape for several minutes and take a longer time to go back in place. This is in sharp contrast to a healthy and well-hydrated dog whose skin will immediately go back into place after it is pulled.

#3: Possible Causes of Dehydration in Dogs

dog cold

Not having access to clean water is just one of the possible reasons why a dog is not getting enough water. Below are some other explanations for canine dehydration:

  • Being in an unfamiliar place. Thanks to their acute sense of smell, dogs can easily recognize when they are in a new territory, which can cause them to be nervous or cautious. Some dogs refuse to drink as a result.
  • Cold weather. One of the reasons dogs drink water is to replace the water lost due to the heat. It also helps them in regulating body temperature. But when the weather is cool, there is the possibility of the dog drinking less water because he isn’t losing fluid as he would during, say, the summer months.
  • Aging. Older dogs are prone to dehydration because they simply avoid drinking water. One explanation is the loss of appetite in senior canines. This makes them less likely to reach for a food or water bowl.
  • Moreover, older dogs do not exercise as they used to when they were younger. This means that they also don’t get thirsty that often. The lack of activity in older dogs also makes them less energetic to the point that reaching for a water bowl becomes much of a task.
  • Disease. Certain diseases and illnesses such as diabetes and kidney ailments may cause a canine to either minimize his water intake or stop drinking altogether. Urinary tract infection is also known to lower the level of thirst in dogs, so canines with this ailment tend to drink less.
  • Traumatic experience. It is also common for dogs to refuse water after undergoing a traumatic experience like neutering, castration, and dental surgery. The dog may be too shocked and stressed to drink water.

#4: How to Prevent Dehydration in Dogs

water fountain for dogs

Since you now know that a dog can only go without water for 2-3 days, you should ensure that your pet has access to this vital resource if and when you leave him alone for an extended period.

You might be concerned about leaving a water bowl down for your pet all day, fearing he would overdrink. Here’s something you should realize—our canine pals are pretty good at self-regulating their water consumption.

Place the water bowl in an area where your dog can easily access it. If he spends lots of time in the garden, then leave it outside. Leaving him indoors? Make sure that the bowl is in a room where the door is always open. Or if you are to leave him in the cage, then the bowl should be inside it.

One concern that dog lovers have about water bowls is that these can be easily tipped over by their pets. If you share the same concern, then use a weighted water bowl instead. With a heavier bottom, a weighted water bowl is less likely to tip over. It is a pretty good investment if you are always away from home.

The size of the water bowl must be appropriate for your dog’s age and breed, too. A bowl that is too big or too small may limit the pet’s access to water.

Dogs with long ears like Spaniels and Bassets should be made to drink in a tall and narrow water bowl. This will keep their ears out of the bowl and prevent it from tipping. It can also minimize the risks of ear infections.

Small dogs should use a low and shallow water bowl. Medium to large dogs, meanwhile, should use a big and wide water bowl.

Regardless of the size and type of water bowl for your dog, make it a habit to clean it regularly. Placing water bowls on each floor of your home is a good idea if you are to be away from your pet for an extended period.

It’s also a good idea to invest in a water fountain. Large dogs, as well as those picky about their water, may benefit from it. Water fountains filter and recirculate water, making the fluid taste fresh and delicious to a picky dog.

See Also: Best Dog Water Fountain

Another way to prevent dehydration in dogs is to use dehydrated food. This is particularly effective in dogs who need a bit of encouragement first to have a drink. It is likewise ideal for dogs who have been sick and need rehydration fast to get more fluids into their systems.

The beauty of dehydrated foods is that these are easy to use. Simply add warm water to it and stir. You can refer to the feeding guide of the food. Let it sit for 3 minutes so that all ingredients will be rehydrated.

Giving dogs canned food may also help. Canned food has high levels of water. Dogs also love the taste. You can heat canned food to improve its flavor and make it more appealing to your pet. You may also add water to canned food.

You should also try offering fruit and vegetables to your pet. Certain fruit and veggies like apples, carrots, green beans, watermelon, and pumpkin can increase moisture in a dog’s diet. These vegetables have high water content levels. Keep in mind that unlike cats who can’t tolerate fruit and vegetables, dogs are omnivores who can eat those foods without getting any complications.

Finally, you can enhance the taste of water and make it irresistible to the dog by adding some flavoring like chicken broth. Doing so can make water more interesting to your pet. He may even think it’s a treat!

Wrap Up

dog drinking water from a bottle

In short, it would take roughly 2-3 water-less days for a dog to get sick and even die. Water is so important to canines that you should be mindful of the aforementioned fact.

There are many reasons why dogs tend to skip drinking water. Going into the root cause of your pet’s dislike for water can help you address the issue and enable him to drink more of this valuable resource.

Finally, you can encourage your dog to drink more water by putting more water bowls around the house, using dehydrated food, giving canned food, and investing in a water fountain.

Try the tips discussed above so that your dog will be drinking more water in the near future. We hope you found this article helpful! Do share your thoughts with us in the comments section below. You may also want to check out our article on best heated water bowl for dogs. The water may be too cold for your dog during the colder months, and this can be one way to encourage him to drink water.

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.