My dog doesn't drink or only drinks a little water

From time to time we hear how important it is to drink enough water.

The same is true for our dogs, because daily fluid intake is essential for all bodily functions.

Water intake is especially important on hot or sporty days, as the body loses more water on these days (especially through evaporation when panting).

But what happens if our dog is a non-drinker or suddenly drinks too little?

This article gives you an overview of possible reasons and tips on how you can increase the amount your dog drinks.


  1. How much water does my dog need to drink daily?
  2. How do I know that my dog is thirsty?
  3. What can be the reasons behind the lack of thirst?
    1. Feeding
    2. Other sources of water
    3. Illness
    4. Gastrointestinal diseases
    5. Brain diseases
    6. Renal insufficiency
    7. General fatigue/nausea
    8. Pain
    9. Stress
    10. Hormonal causes
    11. Problems in the pack (group)
    12. After an operation
    13. Vaccination
  4. Simple tips and tricks to help your dog drink more water
    1. Fruits
    2. Liver sausage
    3. Powdered goat's milk
    4. Water dispenser
    5. Yogurt/Buttermilk
    6. Sausage water
    7. Boiled bone soup
    8. Infused Water
    9. Honey
    10. Dog ice cream
    11. Other practical tips
  5. And when do I have to go to the vet?
    1. When do I have to go to the vet?
    2. How can I tell if my dog is dehydrated?
    3. What can the veterinarian do?
  6. Conclusion

1. How much water does my dog need to drink daily?

The water requirement depends not only on the body weight but also on the feeding and activity of your four-legged friend, as well as the ambient temperatures.

The water requirement of a dog is therefore in the range of 40-100 ml/kg body weight in 24 hours.

If only dry food is fed, the upper value should be considered.

The values refer to an ambient temperature of about 20°- 22° C with normal physical activity.

Calculation example:

If your dog weighs 20 kg, its water requirement is 800 - 2000 ml/day.

Now you have an indication of how much your dog actually needs - just measure how much he drinks daily and you will see if it is really too little.

It also explains exactly how you can calculate the amount your dog drinks by measuring.

2. How do I know that my dog is thirsty?

  • He licks all sorts of things, especially cool and damp objects.
  • He won't leave you alone and may try to lure you into the kitchen.
  • He pants, which regulates his body temperature through evaporation → this can lead to thirst.
  • He has recently played, romped or chewed something - this can make him thirsty.
  • He has recently eaten (especially dry food).

As a general rule, a dog (irrespective of the feeding method) should always have enough fresh water at its free disposal, because this is the only way to ensure that it can drink enough.

3. What can be the reasons behind the lack of thirst?

First, let's start with the most common cause, which is the

I. Feeding

As a general rule, a dog that eats only dry food will drink considerably more than a dog that also eats other food.

The water content in dry food is very low (3-12%) compared to other types of feeding.

Wet food: contains 60-84% water - a huge difference compared to dry food.

BARF or home-cooked rations: again, depending on the food, the water content is much higher than with dry food.

There are actually a lot of dogs who drink virtually nothing with this form of nutrition, because they simply don't need it any more.


If you have recently changed your dog's diet to less or no dry food, it is very likely that your four-legged friend hardly drinks any more water.

His need for "extra" water is simply not as high and the expansion of the food in the stomach, as is the case with dry food, is also eliminated.

Especially with a dog that only eats dry food, sufficient fluid intake should be ensured.

II. Other sources of water

Some dogs actually drink almost exclusively outside in puddles, streams or springs. It can happen that we dog owners do not notice this during the walk.

Likewise, some dogs also particularly like the toilet bowl as a drinking bowl...

Be careful with rain puddles or standing water: they can contain pathogens.

III. Illness

A positive thing first: "Reduced water intake" is not a classic symptom of a certain disease or rarely the sole symptom of a disease.

It is more likely to be the result of an illness or a special hormonal condition (heat, false pregnancy, shortly before birth) that the dog does not want to drink or is too weak.

IV. Gastrointestinal diseases

The body loses a lot of water, especially during severe diarrhea or vomiting.

If your dog suffers from gastritis or gastroenteritis for a longer period of time, he may not manage to replenish his fluid balance sufficiently.

Some dogs are simply too tired or too nauseous, so they don't want to drink.

Then, at the latest, you must take your four-legged friend to the vet as soon as possible!

After a few days, this can lead to dehydration, which can quickly become life-threatening.

V. Brain diseases

In absolutely rare cases, diseases of the body's "control centre" (tumours, abscesses, infections, etc.) lead to reduced thirst.

VI. Renal insufficiency

This condition does not directly cause the dog to drink less. The case is rather the other way round: a chronic lack of water can, in the long run, lead to the kidneys no longer being able to work properly (renal insufficiency) and most dogs show increased thirst.

In an advanced stage, however, some dogs also like to drink and eat less. The subsequent course of action in this case will be discussed in detail with the vet.

VII. General fatigue/nausea

In severely ill dogs, the associated exhaustion sometimes leads to less food and water intake.

In severe cases, your dog may need an infusion, which the vet will discuss with you.

Your dog may be very nauseous due to illness or anesthesia.

VIII. Pain

If your dog is experiencing pain, especially in the mouth, he may not want to drink.

If you suspect this, you should take your dog to the vet as soon as possible, who will check the dog for toothache or injuries to the mouth.

Likewise, abdominal cramps or flatulence sometimes make the dog prefer not to eat. Again, please consult your vet.

Attention: If your dog is very bloated and chokes white foam ("unproductive vomiting"), this can indicate a life-threatening gastric torsion.

You must contact your vet immediately(!) if you suspect this, as gastric torsion can lead to death within a few hours.

IX. Stress

Unwellness or stress (moving houses, loss,... - the list of possibilities is long) can also lead to your four-legged friend's stomach being upset and him spurning his bowl.

Some dogs only drink (and eat) when all family members are home.

In extreme cases, it can also happen that your dog has a bad experience (e.g. a loud bang or something painful) at the exact moment of drinking and becomes afraid of the bowl or the environment where the bowl is located.

In this case, wait a short while to see if the fear subsides during the course of the day.

If not, move the water bowl to another place or change it.

Some metal bowls make shrill noises - in this case, replace the bowl with a ceramic or glass bowl.

X. Hormonal causes

During both heat and false pregnancy, a female dog may show changes in temperament.

Similarly, many female dogs stop eating and drinking water shortly before giving birth.

Both of these are usually safe. Try to offer your female dog water regularly or give her something to drink.

Likewise, the male dog can sometimes forget that he needs to drink and eat when he is looking at a female dog in heat in the neighborhood.

He then also needs some animation to drink enough. But he will not be dehydrated for this reason, don't worry.

XI. Problems in the pack (group)

If a dog strongly dominates another dog, in some cases it will not let the dog reach the bowl (especially the food bowl) or the "subordinate" no longer dares to reach the water bowl.

In this case, separate the dogs, regularly provide the affected dog with water alone, distribute several bowls in the household and, if necessary, get professional help.

But sometimes we humans also have to recognise and accept the distance zones of our dogs - maybe your four-legged friend just needs peace and quiet to feel safe at the bowl (more likely the case with traumatized dogs). If your four-legged friend has not been with you for long, give him time until he has gained enough trust in you.

XII. After an operation

On the day of anesthesia, many dogs do not take food or water because they are still dazed or nauseous. This is usually normal and everything is made up for the next day.

If your dog has been under anesthesia for a long time, he will probably have had an infusion during this time. Sometimes you will see a shaved area on the leg where the catheter was placed.

Some dogs get an IV after an anesthetic if they "can't get up properly".

It is best to discuss any questions directly with the vet who is treating the dog.

XIII. Vaccination

Some authors report about the so-called "vaccination damage syndrome"

Due to a vaccination, the dog falls ill with various diseases shortly or long afterwards, which are said to range from allergies and intestinal inflammations to epilepsy and cancer.

In addition, the reduced feeling of thirst is also mentioned.

My personal experience: I and my colleagues have never experienced a dog with a reduced feeling of thirst after a vaccination. However, I do not want to exclude other consequential damages caused by a vaccination.

4. Simple tips and tricks to help your dog drink more water

Probably the easiest way to make your dog drink more water is either to change his food (less dry food) or to soak the dry food a bit.

However, some dogs don't like it and may leave a lot of it. The rest must then be disposed of, as it spoils quickly.

Depending on the dog's characteristics, you will usually have to experiment a bit, so here are some more options:

I. Fruits

If you give e.g. blueberries or cranberries with a little water (with/without food), the dog will also slurp up water when trying to fish them out of the bowl.

II. Liver sausage

Mixing some (organic) liver sausage with the food gives a delicious taste for the dog (please without salt if possible).

III. Powdered goat's milk

Mix with a little water and give to the dog pure or to slurp up with the food.

Goat's milk contains less lactose (milk sugar) than cow's milk and is therefore more suitable. Lactose can cause diarrhoea as many dogs cannot digest it well (they often only produce the enzyme lactase when they are puppies and still drinking their mother's milk).

IV. Water dispenser

This makes it more fun for your dog to drink water. Please make sure to clean them regularly, otherwise they will calcify (due to tap water) and bacteria will settle. Attention: never use distilled water, this can be potentially fatal in larger quantities, as it causes a strong electrolyte shift in the blood!

For those dogs that prefer running water, the drinking fountain is the method of choice (can be tried first with running water in the bathtub).

V. Yogurt/Buttermilk

Depending on the size of the dog, adding 1-5 tablespoons to the food often helps wonders. In addition, yogurt contains healthy lactic acid bacteria and is therefore, if your dog does not get diarrhea from it, also well suited as a snack.

VI. Sausage water

Rinse out feed cans and pour this water over the feed. Chicken broth, meat broth, carrot juice, tuna juice are equally good - please only with low to no salt content.

Tip for less work: boil broth once and pour into ice cube molds and thaw as needed.

VII. Boiled bone soup

However, never feed cooked bones, they can splinter in the digestive tract and cause life-threatening injuries!

VIII. „Infused Water“

Fill a bowl with water and infuse it with various fruits and vegetables. If you let the water stand for a while, the water will take on the taste - some dogs (and humans too ;)) find this super tasty.

IX. Honey

Add a little (!) honey to the water. Positive side effect: Honey (good quality) in moderation is rich in nutrients and keeps you healthy - best ask the local beekeeper you trust.

X. Dog ice cream

Our four-legged friends also love a cool refreshment in summer. You can now purchase dog ice cream in some shops or make it yourself at home - there are many recipes on the Internet or you can freeze flavored ice cubes (see "sausage water"). Of course, dog ice cream should be suitable for dogs, i.e. free from sugar, chocolate etc..

Some dogs' stomachs are also sensitive to cold. For these dogs, it is better to look for another alternative.

XI. Other practical tips

  • Move the bowl to another location or place a second bowl in the home (somewhere easily accessible for your dog to drink in peace).
  • Replace plastic bowls. These quickly give off a bad taste to the water over time and may also contain toxic substances. Ceramic bowls are more suitable.
  • Some dogs find that the tap water itself contains too much lime or chlorine. Run it through a special water filter (against lime) and let it stand for a few hours (chlorine evaporates). Or simply change to store-bought water (without carbonic acid).
  • Do not offer the water too hot or too cold. Room temperature is optimal.

5. And when do I have to go to the vet?

I. When do I have to go to the vet?

Here the principle applies:

If your dog does not drink for 2 days.

If he shows further symptoms such as:

Weakness, apathy, restlessness, pain, appetite-loss (does not eat), increased or no (emergency!) urine output, diarrhea/vomiting for longer than 1 day.

In short: any sign of impaired general condition or illness.

It is better to visit the vet once too often than once too little - this also gives you more security as the owner.

If you suspect your dog has a stomach bug, you must immediately drop everything and drive to the vet with your dog. Every minute really does count.

II. How can I tell if my dog is dehydrated?

There are 2 ways to tell, and ideally you should ask a vet to show you:

1. Mucous membranes

Lift one lip of your dog and press on the mucous membranes above the gums. These should not feel dry but appear moist and shiny. The mucous membrane should also look pale pink again after 1-2 seconds (however, it takes a little practice to assess this).

2. Skin fold test (test of skin texture)

Take a skin fold on the back of your dog's neck, pull it up and let go. Normally, the skin will immediately return to normal. If your dog is dehydrated, the skin fold will remain for a short or long time, depending on the degree of dehydration.

If you notice that your dog is dehydrated (especially during the skin fold test), take him to the vet on the same day.

III. What can the veterinarian do?

In addition to the general examination, he can initiate further examinations. The degree of dehydration can also be determined from the blood count.

In case of severe desiccosis (dehydration), your dog will be given an infusion through a vein.

If your dog is clinically fine and the tests do not show any signs of illness, a behavioral problem or stress should be considered as the cause.

6. Conclusion

In most cases, the concern about not drinking enough fluids is unfounded and your four-legged friend knows best how much he needs to drink.

If he really does drink too little or always at the lower limit, try to "cheat" him out of a little fluid here and there during the day - but please make sure that you don't "overhydrate" him.

No healthy dog is dehydrated without a reason when his water bowl is full.

But be careful: unlike food, without which a healthy dog could theoretically survive for weeks, a lack of water is quickly life-threatening. Therefore, do not hesitate too long with a visit to the vet if you have an uneasy feeling about your pet.

Alex Hodzitsky