Do you worry about making sure your dog stays hydrated? These six tips will help ensure your dog gets all the water that he or she needs.
Why Water Is So Important For Dogs
Water is an essential part of your dog’s health. In fact, while dogs can go for several days without eating and survive (though that’s certainly not a healthy diet), a lack of water will kill them much more quickly and become a serious health risk even quicker.
Dogs need to consume about an ounce of water per pound of body weight each day. Larger dogs may need as little as .5 ounces per pound, while small dogs might need as much as 1.5 ounces per pound.
Risk factors like heat, activity, and illness can increase fluid needs and make dehydration even more serious. Vomiting, drooling, and diarrhea can also increase the risk of dehydration.
“I tell my clients that there are two good ways of checking their pet’s hydration levels,” says vet Dr Linda Simon. “Their gums should feel wet, not tacky, and their scruff skin should be elastic and return to its original position within one second when pinched.”
Other visible signs of dehydration include lethargy or difficulty standing. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should contact a vet immediately. The tips below are for maintaining hydration – not for treating severe dehydration.
6 Tips for Keeping Your Dog Hydrated
There are plenty of steps that you can take to prevent your dog from becoming dehydrated. Here are six tips to help you keep your dog hydrated and healthy.
1. Keep Water Available at All Times
The first step to keeping your dog hydrated is to just make sure they always have access to water.
Keep a few water bowls around your home in case your dog is inadvertently blocked from their bowl. This is also helpful for puppies, who may need the visual reminder of the dog bowl to remember to drink enough, and for older dogs and other dogs with mobility issues that make it difficult to cross the home to get water.
If you frequently find yourself filling an emptied bowl, try a bigger bowl so it takes longer for them to empty and it’s less likely to run dry before you notice. If your dog tends to dump their bowl, try one with a weighted bottom or stand to prevent this.
Avoid leaving your dog alone outdoors for an extended period, especially if on a chain or other tether. Being outdoors increases their hydration needs and water bowls outside are at an increased risk for flipping or becoming dirty. Tethers can also get tangled up, preventing your dog from accessing its bowl.
2. Bring Water with You
Remember that making sure that your dog has constant access to water doesn’t just mean at home. Be sure to bring plenty of water when you take your dog anywhere, even if it’s just a walk around your neighborhood or running a few errands. This is especially important for working dogs who spend much of their time away from home.
When out with your dog offer them water hourly, but remember that if you’re thirsty then your dog probably is too. Collapsible travel bowls can be useful, as they fold down into a backpack or bag.
Don’t count on natural water sources for your dog’s water either, as they can contain dangerous viruses, bacteria, and pollutants. In general, don’t let your dog drink any water that you wouldn’t.
If you absolutely have to let them drink from an unfiltered water source, look for clear, moving water and avoid still or murky water. You should also ensure that your dog has all of their essential vaccines, including those that protect against waterborne illnesses like leptospirosis.
3. Keep Their Bowl and Water Clean
Did you know that the dog bowl is the fourth most germ infested place in the average home according to the National Sanitation Foundation? Your dog’s bowl can be home to dangerous bacteria like E. coli, salmonella, and MRSA, a strain of staph bacteria that’s resistant to the most common antibiotics, and these bacteria pose a risk to everyone in your family, not just your dog.
That’s pretty scary (and gross) to hear, but how many of us really do much to clean our dogs’ food and water bowls other than rinse them and replace the water every so often? You wouldn’t want to drink out of a glass that got that treatment and your dog may not either.
In addition to dirty water just not being appealing, the illnesses caused by the bacteria in your dog’s bowl often lead to symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting, which can quickly leave your dog dangerously dehydrated.
Avoid the whole issue by washing your dog’s bowls with dish soap and hot water daily. If they’re dishwasher safe, you can also just run them through your machine.
Washing, even in the dishwasher, can leave bacteria behind, so disinfect the bowls weekly by mixing a gallon of hot water and a half cup of disinfectant bleach (not all bleaches actually disinfect, so be sure to check the label for an EPA certification) and soaking the bowls for at least 10 minutes. Rinse thoroughly to ensure no cleaning solution is remaining and air dry.
Change your dog’s water frequently and keep the toilet lid down to prevent them from drinking from that bacteria infested water source.
You may also want to reconsider the type of bowl you’re using for your dog’s water.
Stainless steel water bowls are easy to clean and lack the cracks and pores for bacteria to hide that other bowl materials have. Dog water fountains inhibit bacteria growth in your pet’s water by keeping the water constantly circulating, require less frequent washing, and don’t require changing of the water throughout the day.
4. Monitor Your Dog’s Fluid Consumption
Make sure that your dog’s been drinking enough by keeping track of their fluid consumption.
To get an accurate picture, fill their bowl with a fixed amount of water each time you replace the water. When you go to replace the water the next time, measure how much water (if any) is left to see how much your dog drank. Add the difference each time you replace the water throughout the day for a running total of your dog’s water consumption.
If the total seems low, consult with your veterinarian, but don’t forget that if your dog consumes wet or frozen food or treats, they are getting water from those as well.
“I find owners tend to forget about the moisture content in food,” says vet Dr Linda Simon. “If your dog has switched from a dry to a wet food, or is eating foods with lots of moisture (like cucumber or watermelon), they will naturally drink less.”
You should also keep an eye out for signs of dehydration including:
- Sunken eyes
- Dry gums
- Weakness or collapse
- Lack of elasticity in skin
Monitoring fluid consumption is especially important when your dog is particularly active and for dogs that are sick or are recovering from being sick.
5. Use Alternative Fluid Sources
Don’t forget that your dog can get water in ways other than drinking it.
If your dog doesn’t drink much water, give them wet or frozen food and treats so they’re also getting fluid when they eat. You can also add water to the food they already eat, or make it a little more special by following one of the many recipes for dog friendly frozen treats available online.
Don’t underestimate simple ice either. Many dogs love having ice as a treat, especially when it’s hot. In fact, my parents’ dog comes running when she hears someone dispensing from the ice maker! Ice can be a choking risk though, so be careful if your dog likes to chew rather than lick ice.
If your dog is already showing signs of dehydration, give them Oralade or Lectate, or a similar electrolyte drink made specifically for dogs, to replenish both the lost fluids and electrolytes. If they won’t drink the electrolyte drink, try broth.
You can also try giving your dog liquids via a feeding syringe, but this is stressful for both you and the dog, and not a sustainable long-term method of hydration.
Of course, if your dog appears seriously dehydrated or won’t eat or drink anything you give them, contact your vet immediately for advice. At this stage, dogs almost always need IV fluids to give them the best chance of recovery.
6. Don’t Let Your Dog Drink Too Much at Once
It may sound counterintuitive, but letting your dog drink too much water too fast can prevent them from properly hydrating.
Your dog may want to drink a lot if they’ve become dehydrated, but this can actually cause them to vomit, especially if they’ve been sick, leading them to lose even more fluid.
Instead, give your dog a little bit of water at a time to force them to slow down.
Ice is a great tool here as well. Letting your dog lick ice can help hydrate them slowly as well as lower an elevated body temperature.
If your dog is due for a meal, giving them wet or frozen dog food is also a great idea. Your dog will get the hydration from the fluid in the food, plus it helps add back the electrolytes that they also expended and having food in their stomach will help them keep down any additional water that they drink.
Dehydration is a serious medical issue for dogs and there are lots of risk factors that can make it even more of a danger.
That’s why it’s important to take preventative steps to keep your dog hydrated, to be able to recognize the signs of dehydration in dogs, and to know how to help rehydrate your dog after they’ve begun to dehydrate.
However, it’s also important not to try to handle a dehydrated dog on your own. If your dog is showing signs of serious dehydration, contact your vet immediately for advice. Treating severe dehydration may require you to take your dog to the vet so that they can be hooked up to an IV to administer fluids quickly and safely.
When in doubt, err to the side of caution to keep your furry best friend safe and healthy.
Have any questions about dehydration in dogs or know of any other tips for keeping dogs hydrated? Let me know in the comment section below! You might also be interested in our guide to keeping dogs cool in hot weather.