Many pet owners are aware that dogs displaying increased thirst could indicate a medical problem, but what about the opposite behavior? If your dog is not drinking water, a quick fix might be available, or the circumstances may involve more complex concerns. It's important to understand the potential causes of decreased water intake to better identify why your dog isn't drinking.
Potential Reasons Your Dog Won't Drink Water
Just like humans, dogs must rehydrate with water throughout the day. If you discover your dog has stopped drinking water completely or is drinking less than usual, this behavior could be caused by one of many reasons.
Some dogs may refuse to drink water because of anxiety. If they are around unfamiliar people or in a new environment, this could explain why they are unwilling to drink. Evaluate your dog and check for signs of anxiety, including panting, drooling, pacing, trembling, or whining.
If you determine they are anxious, try to relocate your dog to a calm or familiar location, or pursue another solution to relieve your pet's fear. When your dog is comfortable, they should begin drinking water again.
The type of food your dog eats impacts their water intake. Dog foods have different volumes of moisture depending on the form. Naturally, dry dog kibble contains far less water at 10 to 12 percent moisture compared to canned dog food, which can contain up to 78 percent moisture. That's not to say that one type is better than the other, but it's important to know that your dog might not need to drink as much water if they eat a canned or home-cooked diet and obtain moisture from their food.
If you recently switched your dog to a diet with higher moisture content, this could explain why they're not thirsty. Check the nutritional information on the bag or can to find the moisture content.
Weather and Climate
The outside environment can contribute to your dog's hydration and may cause them to drink less water. For example, should the temperature drop, or if you've traveled to a cooler climate, it's not unusual to find that your dog may not be as thirsty. Dogs lose fluids while salivating and panting (their method to cool their body), so, understandably, they need to drink less water when it's cooler.
Discomfort in the cervical or neck region can make it challenging for your pup to reach the water bowl, and ultimately may discourage them from drinking. Observe your dog to see if they move their head normally while walking, sitting, or completing other commands. If they appear unable to turn their head or cry out in pain while doing so, this could indicate cervical pain.
In this case, have your dog examined by a veterinarian who can determine the exact cause of the discomfort and prescribe appropriate medications or treatment to make them more comfortable. In the meantime, you can elevate your dog's bowls to the height of their face when they are in the standing position to provide them with easier access to food and water.
Change in Activity Level
Exertion of energy also contributes to the amount of water a dog should drink. As dogs engage in physical activity, they pant to cool down, which results in a loss of fluids. If your typically active dog gets less exercise one day, they likely won't need to drink as much water as usual.
Dogs may avoid water if they have an oral injury or infection. An embedded stick or bone in your pup's gum, fractured tooth, oral mass, or dislocated jaw could make them so uncomfortable they may not want to drink.
Gently inspect your dog's oral cavity if they'll allow it -- don't forget to peek at the roof of their mouth. If you notice any signs of injury, make an appointment with your vet. Unfortunately, many of these culprits may not be visible while your dog is awake. If you are worried about an oral injury, it may be wise to have your veterinarian perform a sedated oral exam.
Sadly, your dog may not want to drink due to a negative experience in the past. Perhaps your rescue dog was abused in a previous situation where they used a bowl similar to their current water bowl, for example. Or maybe another pet in the house chased them previously when they approached the water bowl location.
You may never discover what past negative experiences your dog has been through. However, you can try alternate bowl materials or relocating the water bowl. Just be sure to show your dog where the water bowl is if you choose to move it.
If a dog isn't feeling well, they may be too nauseated to drink water. This is understandable, as humans also tend not to drink water when they feel ill. Your pup could experience nausea for a number of reasons, including dietary indiscretion, toxin ingestion, gastroenteritis, pancreatitis, and renal disease, among others.
Additional signs of nausea include decreased appetite, lip licking, drooling, hunched stance, and retching. If your dog exhibits a few or all these symptoms, it's a good idea to visit your veterinarian to determine the cause.
Although rare, rabies can cause an aversion to water in infected dogs. Your dog is likely protected against rabies because, by law, all dogs must receive the rabies vaccine. The initial dose is administered during puppyhood, followed by a booster one year later, then every three years thereafter.
However, if your dog has not received or is overdue for a rabies vaccine and has come into contact with other unvaccinated dogs or wild animals, it's important to see your veterinarian -- not just for your pet's best interest but also for your safety. Rabies is a zoonotic disease, meaning it is transmissible from dogs to humans.
Promote Hydration and Seek Help When Necessary
Be sure your dog always has access to a supply of fresh water. If your canine companion is otherwise acting perfectly normal, a drop in their water intake should not necessarily be a cause for alarm.
If you do not see your dog drink any water for 24 to 48 hours, however, they may be at risk for dehydration and should have a visit with the vet. Likewise, should they also exhibit lethargy, vomiting, lack of appetite, pain, or any other concerning signs in addition to decreased water intake, seek veterinary care.