How Much Water Should a Dog Drink, What is Too Much? What Are The Risks?

Written by Shaunice Lewis
Updated: May 6, 2022
Image Credit Svitlana Hulko/Shutterstock.com
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Every cell in the body needs water in order to be healthy and function properly. This goes for dogs just as much as humans. Without enough water, your dog’s body will not be able to function properly or in other words, it will be dehydrated.

Cleaning and refilling your dog’s water bowl every day is important if you want to make sure that this doesn’t happen as some dogs will refuse to drink from an unclean bowl. You’ll also want to make sure that you’re aware of any changes in your dog’s water consumption, as this could be a sign of illness. Read on to learn more about the importance of water in your dog’s diet as well as how much it should have to remain healthy.

How Much Water Does a Dog Need?

There are a few different ways you can go about determining exactly how much water your dog will need. Every dog is different, as there are many different dog breeds and they come in many different sizes. Your dog’s needs will also vary with age and any health problems. But in general, it’s safe to say that a dog will need approximately 1/8th of a cup of water per pound of its body weight each day.

Keep in mind there are many factors that can affect just how much water your dog will drink, so you should in no way restrict its water intake. Unless instructed by your veterinarian, there is no need to measure out the exact amount of water that your pet will drink. Just make sure that it has access to fresh, clean water to drink each day.

Why Does My Dog Drink Less Water Sometimes?

It is natural for your dog to drink less water than it normally does sometimes, and there are a few different reasons why this may be. Some examples are as follows:

If you feed your dog wet food

If you feed your dog wet food sometimes, you might notice that it coincides with your dog drinking a bit less water than normal. This is because wet food contains moisture which will satisfy some of the dog’s need for water. Most wet dog foods are about 65-80% water and can help with your dog’s daily hydration needs. This is why you might notice that when dogs eat wet food, they will drink less water than on the days that they have dry food.

Dry food has no moisture and can oftentimes make your dog want more water to drink, so on these days, you’ll notice the opposite effect. This goes for homemade dog food as well. If you make your dog’s food from scratch with whole foods, you will find that your dog probably won’t need as much water for the day.

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Your dog might be sick or in pain

If your dog is sick from an underlying health issue or has mobility or pain issues, they might not drink as much water as they should. The first thing you’ll want to do is discuss this with your veterinarian, that way they can determine the cause and then help you with a solution to the dog’s issue—whether that’s medication or other strategies to introduce more water or moisture-rich foods into your dog’s diet. This should help your dog stay hydrated and get back on the right track to consuming enough water each day.

Can Dogs Drink Tap Water?

Tap water is generally safe for both dogs and people to drink, however, there are some things you may want to keep in mind. If you live in a place that doesn’t have safe, clean tap water to drink, you may need to discuss your options with your veterinarian and see about feeding your dog bottled or filtered water instead. If your tap water is clean and safe it should be perfectly fine for your dog to drink it regularly.

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Can Dogs Drink Milk?

Many dogs do enjoy snacking on dairy products, so many people wonder if it’s safe for them to drink milk. The answer to this question is maybe. It really depends on your dog specifically. It can be safe in small amounts for most dogs so it should only be given in moderation. There are a lot of dogs that are actually lactose intolerant—so in some cases, drinking milk can actually cause an upset stomach.

If you want to try giving your dog milk to drink, give it a few tablespoons of cow’s milk or goat’s milk and only on an occasional basis. This can be a nice reward for your dog without it experiencing the negative effects of overindulgence. Avoid giving your dog an entire bowl of milk as it will likely cause negative reactions like diarrhea, vomiting, and loose stools.

Although milk may seem like a healthy beverage (which it is in moderation), it is high in both fat and natural sugars—meaning it should always be given to dogs in small amounts. Too much fat in your dog’s diet can lead to things like obesity and pancreatitis, which are both serious health conditions that can greatly lower the quality of your dog’s life.

If you want to err on the side of caution, it’s best to avoid giving your dog milk since many dogs are lactose intolerant anyway and will have a difficult time digesting it. Some dogs tend to handle other dairy products better like cheese or plain yogurt since they’re easier to digest than plain milk, so if you want to give your dog a dairy treat, try either of those instead.

What Happens If My Dog Doesn’t Drink Enough Water?

As we know, water is critical for healthy living. This applies to your dog as well. Many bodily functions require adequate amounts of water in order to operate properly. Without enough, your dog will quickly become ill and dehydrated. Over time, if dehydration persists, your dog’s organs may become damaged. If not corrected, eventually its kidneys, liver, and other organs will begin to shut down.

In general, a healthy dog will have no trouble with getting as much water as it needs every day, but there are a few instances where dehydration can occur. Here are a few things that can increase your dog’s risk of becoming dehydrated:

How Do I Know If My Dog Is Dehydrated?

There are a few steps you can try to check to see if your dog I dehydrated:

  1. Gently and carefully pinch the skin between your dog’s shoulder blades
  2. Slightly pull the skin upwards and then release it.
  3. Watch to see how the skin falls back into place.

You should notice that your dog’s skin falls quickly back into place without any hesitation if it is properly hydrated. If your dog is dehydrated, you will notice that the skin will fall slowly back into place or in more severe cases, will even stay up for a moment before falling back into place.

Some additional signs of dehydration to look out for include:

  • Dry, sticky, or pale gums
  • Dry nose or mouth
  • Dry, sunken eyeballs

If you notice any of these signs, get your dog a fresh, clean bowl of water immediately and get it to the vet afterward for further examination by your vet—especially if it is refusing to drink the water.

What Do I Do If My Dog Is Drinking Too Much Water?

Sometimes you may feel as though your dog is drinking too much water. If you notice that your dog is drinking more water than it normally does, be sure to let your veterinarian know. There could be many reasons why your dog is drinking more water since many diseases tend to show this symptom.

A thorough examination along with blood and urine samples taken by your veterinarian will be able to determine the next steps. Your vet may ask that you measure your dog’s water intake. If you have multiple pets you may need to feed your dog separately from them in order to see exactly how much your dog is eating and drinking.

When doing this, you should still provide your dog with an excess amount of water—just measure how much water you added to the bowl, versus how much is left in it at the end of the day. Also note how much if any was added to your dog’s food, that way you have a more accurate representation of how much water your dog is drinking each day.

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How Often Should I Clean My Dog’s Water Bowl?

Your dog’s food and water bowl should both be cleaned with soap and water each day. Since the bowls come in contact with both food and your dog’s saliva, they can be breeding grounds for bacteria to grow. Dog bowls should always be made of smooth materials that are easy to clean, without any nooks and crannies that food can get stuck in. This lessens the chances that bacteria will have places to grow and survive even with regular cleaning.

If you’re concerned that your dog isn’t getting enough food or water to drink be sure to bring this up with your veterinarian so that they can make a plan that works for your dog based on its specific health needs.

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About the Author

Freelance writer specializing in natural health and wellness.

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