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How Long Can A Dog Go Without Water: Answered

Just like humans, dogs need a few things for optimum health, and water is one of them! Your dog should have access to a large bowl of refreshing, clean water at all times. 

But what happens if you forgot to fill up Bailey's water bowl and you're already at the supermarket? Do you have to rush home immediately, or can you finish your shopping trip? How long can your furry friend go without water? Let's explore this crucial question.

How much water should a dog drink, and how long can it go without water?

There is a limit to how long a dog can go without water. The average is about 2-3 days. However, this time can be significantly reduced, depending on various factors. A general rule of thumb is that it's not good for a dog to be without water for any amount of time. 

But, if you forgot to fill up your dog's water bowl, or it spilled out for some reason, your dog should be okay, depending on the following factors:

  • What breed is your dog? - Some dogs can naturally go longer without water because they are from warmer climates and are used to not being as hydrated as their furry buddies from cooler areas.
  • How old is your dog? - Puppies tend to drink more water than older dogs but can go without water for longer. However, at times, even a puppy may require lots of water. So make sure the water bowl is nearby (and small enough for it to get to!)
  • Is your dog having puppies? - A lactating or pregnant dog would definitely need to have more water than usual. 
  • Is your dog healthy? - If your dog is in top-notch health, it may be able to go a bit longer without drinking water. Sadly, the flipside of this is that a dog in poor health may not even last a day without water.
  • How is the weather? - During the summer months, dogs will require more access to water than in the winter due to the temperatures in each season. In warmer climates and seasons, your dog will drink much more.

These factors are only guidelines. Every dog requires a daily intake of fresh water from a clean source. A dog's body is made up of about 60 percent water. If this level drops, even slightly to 10 percent, your dog can suffer severe health consequences.

If you know what to look for, it's pretty obvious when your dog becomes dehydrated. Let's look at some of those signs and what you can do to remedy them before they become chronic or even fatal.

Signs of dehydration in dogs: warning signs

Paying attention to how much water your dog drinks is essential. Keep an eye on them if they are getting water other than their water bowl. If not, and you see a full bowl at the end of the day, this may be an indication that your dog may need immediate medical help.

Here are some symptoms of dehydration in dogs:

#1. A reduced appetite

A dog without water is one thing, but a dog without food means much more. A dehydrated dog may have a hard time digesting food or even swallowing it. 

If your canine companion went from being typically ravenous to all of a sudden not being interested in their kibble, it might mean they are suffering from dehydration. 

A dog not eating but drinking water may be ill. It could be an indication of something entirely different and will require immediate medical attention.

#2. Lethargic behavior

A dog not drinking water could cause a lack of energy and lethargic behavior, which may mean that dehydration has set in. Dehydration affects how much blood will flow through to its muscles. If this flow is restricted, your dog may suddenly look tired.

#3. Excessive panting

It is primarily a sign of a dog overheating, but it could also mean that the dog is thirsty and in need of water quickly. A dog drinks a lot of water when it's thirsty, so if you notice this right away, that quick drink of water will suffice nicely. 

However, if this condition is left for too long, dehydration will get worse.

#4. Sunken eyes

If the muscles behind the eyes (and the eyes themselves) do not receive enough hydration, the eyes will appear sunken in the skull. If your dog has abnormally sunken eyes, it could mean that the dehydration level is chronic, and your pup needs immediate vet care.

#5. Dry nose and gums

The nose and gums of a dog should always feel slightly wet or moist. This wetness means that the dog is well-hydrated and healthy. When a dog is dehydrated, it will have no moisture in its nose and gums, and there may even be cracked skin due to the lack of water.

#6. Low skin elasticity 

If your dog is dehydrated, it will have skin with poor elasticity. To test your dog's elasticity, give a gentle tug on your dog's skin. Notice how fast or slow it goes back into place. If it goes back slowly or holds the tugged shape longer, it means the dog is dehydrated.

For more in-depth information, read this article, "How hot is too hot for dogs?" It will help you figure out if your dog is overheating.

How do you prevent and treat dehydration in dogs?

Life gets busy now and again, and maybe you forgot to refill Fido's bowl of water from the night before. As you rush out the door to a late appointment on the way, you realize your forgetfulness. Then you wonder, should I go back to fill it, or can Fido go a bit without water?

And yes, like humans, dogs can go without water for about 2-3 days. However, unlike humans, dogs don't have the same opportunities to find fresh water. Every vet will tell you that making sure Fido's bowl is always full of water is the best advice for a healthy life.

Preventing dehydration, and knowing the signs of dehydration, is the best way to make sure your dog does not suffer from it. Here are a few simple tips and tricks that will help you to keep your dog hydrated:

  • Multiple bowls - By placing more than one bowl of fresh and clean water in familiar areas around the home and yard, you'll know that your dog will find them and keep hydrated.
  • Fresh water - Dogs may appear to be animals that don't necessarily keep themselves clean, but they prefer clean water. Make sure your dog's water is as clean as possible. Refresh the bowls often throughout the day
  • The size and weight of bowls - A dog is unruly at best, especially at dinner or water time, and this excited pup can easily upturn bowls. Purchase good quality water bowls that are heavy and can hold a lot of water to avoid any spillage and having the dog go without when you're not there.

Smaller dogs like a Chihuahua should have bowls that are low and shallow. Medium and large dogs should have deeper and wider bowls to hold enough water to supply their bodies' needs.

  • Use treats to reward them drinking water - Your dog may develop a distaste for water based on a negative experience associated with it. Override this behavior with praise, cuddles, or even a treat to help them get past any fear.
  • Give them only water - Under no circumstance should your dog be given anything to drink except water. Water is the only liquid your dog should drink and the only thing that can indeed keep your canine companions hydrated.

One of the main liquids to avoid is milk. As a puppy, they require their mother's milk. Just like humans, dogs have to be slowly weaned off the milk as they lose the lactase enzyme when they age. 

A full-grown dog is lactose intolerant, so it is best to avoid milk at all costs. Also on this list are tea and coffee. Caffeine is highly poisonous to dogs, and you should never give a dog even a tiny amount of it.

  • Visit the vet - If your dog becomes dehydrated, take it to the veterinarian immediately. Your doggie doctor will replenish any lost electrolytes or low water levels circulating throughout the dog's body by administering an intravenous drip.
  • Gatorade -  Giving your dog a small dose of any flavorless rehydrating drink (and electrolyte drink such as Pedialyte) will help if the dog is suffering from dehydration. 

However, you should talk to your vet before giving your dog any drink to determine if it's safe and to make sure you give it the correct amount of liquid for its size. If your dog refuses to drink it, use a syringe to administer the fluid orally.

Keep that hound hydrated for health

Dogs need water just as much as humans, and it is up to you to make sure your dog has all the water it requires for a healthy and happy life. Remember, a dehydrated dog is an unhealthy dog. 

It is crucial to make sure your dog has water at all times. But, if you forget, don't beat yourself up over it. Give your pup some extra cuddles and care to make up for it. You could even install a bed ramp for dogs so your furry friend can hop up on your bed easily.

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