Why won’t my dog drink water is something pet parents may worry about from time to time. Water is the basic foundation of life, so if your dog refuses to drink, you must figure out the reason why. Thankfully, in 30+ years of being a dog mom, I’ve learned some simple hacks and tips to encourage dogs to consume more water.
Some starter tips to help a dog that won’t drink water include:
- Purchase a new water bowl
- Clean the water bowl frequently with warm water and dish soap
- Place water bowls in different locations around the house
- Allow your dog to drink some low-sodium soup broth for hydration
- Offer him an ice cube with caution so he doesn’t choke
- And many other suggestions we’ll share in this article
Fortunately, there are many techniques and tips to keep a dog hydrated if he won’t drink water, but if your dog refuses to drink overall, call your veterinarian. This article is designed to get your dog to drink more water along with tips to ensure dogs are well hydrated at home and on the go.
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Why Won’t My Dog Drink Water?
Dogs stop drinking or cut down on the amount of water they consume for a variety of reasons. Dogs have an innate desire to chew, so occasionally he might chip a tooth or cut his gums or tongue. Oral pain can make it painful for a dog to drink.
Changes in a family situation, anxiety, a move, physical or verbal abuse, being left alone for too long, kids going back to school, arguing, or emotional stress can contribute loss of thirst or appetite in dogs. Dogs can’t tell us how they feel, so nonverbal cues are important to recognize before things get worse.
Any change in the type or quality of water can cause a dog to stop drinking. For example, if you switched bottled water brands or changed from filtered water to tap water, dogs may notice the difference. Some dogs couldn’t care less, but there are dogs who turn their snouts up at a change in water source.
Always know what “normal” is in your dog so that when abnormal happens, you can act fast. I keep a log of how much food and water my dog should have for easy reference or should something happen to me. If your dog stops drinking or cuts back on the amount he consumes, think back to any circumstances that may have caused the change.
Cocker Spaniel mom, Ellen Toomey, says her 14-year-old dog, Chloe went from seemingly happy and doing well to having a huge mass appear on her dog’s gumline. It was found during a routine exam, but Chloe continued to eat and drink. Not all dogs will behave in this way, so proper oral care is essential to a long, healthy life.
Dogs who are sick and have been vomiting or experiencing diarrhea may refuse to drink water. This can get very dangerous very fast because he is losing moisture and can easily dehydrate.
Hidden Reason A Dog May Refuse To Drink Water
One of the lesser talked about, but very common reasons a dog may lose interest in drinking is due to a bladder or urinary tract infection.
A urinary tract infection is silent but painful, and it can be caused by bacteria or stones. My first Cocker Spaniel experienced many UTIs, and we finally were able to stop them thanks to cranberry capsules added to her diet.
Dogs, like people, feel pressure when they have a urinary tract infection. It may even hurt to try and urinate. The stream slows down to next to nothing, and dogs may squat without any output. In some cases, dogs won’t drink water, or they reduce the amount they consume.
A bladder infection or urinary tract infection must always be addressed by a veterinarian. There are some things you can do to prevent a urinary tract infection in dogs.
How Much Water Should Dogs Drink Daily?
According to the Merck Veterinary Manual 10th Edition, “Dry pet foods contain 3 to 11% water and semi-moist foods contain 25 to 35% water. As a result, dogs (and cats) consuming predominantly canned food generally drink less water than those consuming predominantly dry diets.”
In response, some dog owners add water to kibble to encourage water consumption. This isn’t a good idea because plaque may more easily form on teeth and the food will soften.
Canned dog food contains more moisture, but dogs still need to consume a decent amount of water on a daily basis. Since dogs don’t chew as humans do and don’t have the “side-to-side motion” to break food down, there are other better ways to encourage your dog to drink more water.
The folks at petMD say that as a rule of thumb, dogs should drink approximately one ounce of water per pound of body weight each day. So a 35-pound dog should consume about 35 ounces, which comes out to a little over a quart of water.
Further, “dogs suffering from illnesses like kidney disease, metabolic disorders (such as diabetes), cancer and pregnant/nursing animals are at risk of becoming dehydrated more readily.”
Is Your Dog At Risk For Dehydration?
Dogs who don’t drink enough water are at risk of dehydration. When your dog’s fluid output is more than his fluid intake, blood flow and fluid volume decrease. This is dangerous and can lead to dehydration.
Read our in-depth article on the topic to learn how to tell if your dog is dehydrated.
10 Easy Tips To Encourage A Dog To Drink Water
Teach Your Dog The Word Drink
No matter how old your dog is or even if he is deaf, teach your dog a word associated with water. For us, the magic word is “drink.” Every time your dog takes a drink of water, say “drink” a few times in a super happy, pleasant voice the way you would if rewarding your dog for a job well done.
When your dog comes into contact with the clean water bowl, say “drink” and maybe even lightly clap. It’s a mini party that your dog knows “drink.”
When my Cocker Spaniel was a puppy, he would saunter over to his water bowl, start drinking, and without scaring or startling him we would say, “drink, Dexter,” or “good boy, drink Dexter.” When he was done, we would say drink again.
If you have a deaf dog, hand signals are the way to go. Here’s what the folks at Deaf Dogs Rock have to say about teaching a deaf dog hand signals. When you see your deaf dog take a drink because you nonverbally instructed him to do so, the effort is so rewarding.
In the same way you taught your dog other words, like sit, stay, food, play, etc., you will teach drink. It’s all about the association of the act with the verbal word. He drinks, you say drink.
Change Your Dog’s Water Frequently
Keep the water bowl clean by scrubbing it with warm, soapy water daily. I use the Scrub Daddy scratch-free sponges ever since I saw them on Shark Tank and love them! You don’t want that nasty slime building up around your dog’s water bowls.
That nasty slime around your dog’s water bowl is called biofilm and is a thin layer of bacteria that adheres to the perimeter of your dog’s bowl unless cleaned.
Put Multiple Water Bowls Around To Encourage Hydration
Not all dog water bowls are created equal. We aren’t fans of plastic bowls because they are very porous, and can easily get scratched, thus creating a perfect environment for yukky things like mold, bacteria, and algae to form.
Some dogs can even develop a sensitivity or allergy to the plastic in their bowl. Lip fold dermatitis and other oral issues are on that list, so avoid plastic. I also get really nervous about the presence of chemicals like BPA in plastics.
Multiple water bowls mean multiple opportunities for the dog to consume water. I am a single-dog household, but if you have a dog who roams the house all day and/or have a multiple dog household, consider spacing out multiple water bowls throughout the house (a few different rooms, floors) for easy access.
Buy a Dog Water Fountain
Dog fountains constantly circulate and filter the water, so it stays cleaner and tastes fresher. Also, running water is often more enticing to a dog, so consider an in-home dog water fountain.
One of our favorite dog water fountains is the PetSafe Drinkwell Platinum Fountain. Its free-falling stream of water encourages dogs to drink more water. All the parts are made with BPA-free plastic, and you simply replace the activated carbon filter to keep it fresh.
Take Water With You On The Go
Dogs can’t ask for a drink while out for a walk, trip, or car ride, so be sure to take cool, clean water with you on the go. I’ve done this for all of my dogs and wish I had a dollar for every time a stranger’s dog stopped by and wanted a drink from our dog’s water bowl. I’d be rich!
Note: I am not about sharing my bowls with other dogs because of viruses, diseases, and bacteria. To each their own, but I don’t know what a strange dog might harbor in his mouth or saliva.
One of my favorite on-the-go water containers for dogs is the Swell bottle. I love how cool it keeps the water for hours and hours on end. I’ve been using the same portable water bottle for Dexter for the past three years. If you prefer something more minimalist that has its own bowl on board, here’s a portable water bottle to try.
Feed Your Dog Fruits High In Water Content
Many dogs love a variety of fruits in their diet, plus many fruits contain a large percentage of water. Fruits high in water and considered safe for dogs to eat in moderation include seedless watermelon, strawberries, and blueberries.
Eating fruits alone will not properly hydrate your dog, but petMD says these are the fruits dogs can safely consume. If your dog likes the fruit and they are properly sliced or mashed to prevent choking, allow him to enjoy nature’s natural treats.
Provide Low-Sodium Chicken or Beef Broth
Consider making the water more palatable and pleasing for the dog when all else fails. When my first Cocker Spaniel fell ill with irritable bowel disease, we tried everything, including adding low sodium chicken broth to her water.
Cocker Spaniel mom Julie Anderson says she adds organic chicken bone broth to her dog’s food, which is lower in sodium than cooking broth.
Cocker mom, Christina Haynes, adds unsalted beef broth to her dogs’ food from time to time.
REMEMBER: Never use anything with Xylitol, sugar, or sugar substitutes.
Feed A Whole Food Diet To Your Dog
Dogs who are fed a whole food diet that includes real ingredients, isn’t processed, and isn’t made of extruded bits of kibble tend to be healthier and happier. Many dog food manufacturers tell lies, and they are able to get away with it.
It can be dizzying to figure out which food to give a dog, but the best food is the one that works for your dog. I feed a whole food diet for dogs from Dr. Harvey’s to which I add warm water. I take comfort in knowing the extra source of water added to the food is helping to keep my dog hydrated.
Offer Ice Cubes Or Cool Treats For Dogs
Allowing a dog to lick ice cubes is a great way to promote proper hydration Just be sure the cubes aren’t too big nor too small. Toss that nasty Internet ice cube rumor down the drain with the old water.
“This is not true,” says Dr. Tina Wismer, medical director at the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center. “Dogs do not bloat from drinking ice water on hot days… They can be given as treats or put in the water bowl. Some behaviorists even recommend freezing toys or treats in ice for dogs to chew on.”
However, there are dangers associated with dogs and ice cubes and they are:
- Allowing dogs to chew ice cubes and the possibility of the cube(s) getting lodged in the dog’s throat;
- Dental damage to teeth due to chomping on ice;
Bonus Noms: Here are some cool frozen treats to make for your dog year-round.
Change Your Water Source
We live in modern times and most tap water has changed. In most parts of the United States, bottled water tastes good and is actually better for dogs. Have you heard about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan? If you wouldn’t drink the water, neither should your dog.
We have a filtration system installed on our kitchen sink, drink bottled water, and and serve bottled or filtered water to our dog. Municipal and well water contaminated with bacteria or any number of nasties can harm your dog.
Since hard contaminants in water cannot be smelled or seen, consider testing your home water supply.
Bonus Dog Hydration Tip
Several members in our Club Cocker: Wigglebutts Worldwide Facebook group swear by elevated water bowls. Cocker mom, Celia Campbell, took the advice of her dog’s veterinarian and invested in an elevated water bowl. It worked for her finicky Cocker Spaniel, Angus.
As an added bonus, elevated water bowls also are believed to decrease the risk of bloat in dogs.
Exercise Your Dog To Encourage Him To Drink Water
Since dogs need daily exercise, get your dog used to moving around. If the dog isn’t panting, he isn’t losing moisture and his body may not crave water as much as a more active dog.
In the cooler months, dogs may not be exercising as much so they don’t drink as much water. A slight decrease in water intake is not a cause for concern.
Regularly refusing to drink water on an ongoing basis may indicate a deeper problem, so seek veterinary care for your dog if he or she is consistently refusing water. If my dog didn’t drink water for a day, I’d be very very concerned and at the vet’s office.
Take The Dog Outside To Urinate More Frequently
If there is one thing I have learned in being a lifelong dog parent it is this: Dogs are happier if they can pee more. Their bodies are even healthier if they can pee more. I kid you not. Think about how it feels to hold in urine. If it’s uncomfortable for you, it is certainly the same for dogs.
Knowing the amount of water your dog should drink helps you determine if your dog is drinking too little or too much. Flushing the kidneys and urinary tract is one way to keep crystals from forming and to keep dogs healthy. Take your dog out. Let him pee. Let him sniff. I do this every two to three hours at the most every day with my dog (except during the overnight).
Is your dog a good water drinker, or could he or she use improvement? Bark back in the comments below.