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How Long Can a Dog Go Without Water?

Dogs, like humans, need water to keep their bodies functioning effectively. However, they will naturally lose water through sweating and urination. Your pup must always have a fresh supply of water. However, how long can they go without drinking it? Our vets in Lafayette explain.

Why is Water Important For Dogs?

Water is a crucial but often overlooked nutrient for dogs. While it doesn't directly provide nutrients like energy or vitamins, it plays a vital role in how nutrients are processed and utilized in your dog's body. Proper bodily functions such as digestion, absorption, circulation, and waste removal all rely on adequate water intake.

  • Digestion - Water is involved in all parts of digestion. Water in your dog's body helps produce saliva, stomach acids, and bile and plays a role in every stage of digestion.
  • Cell Health—Water is one of the core components of a cell. Without sufficient water in your dog's body, the cell cycle, especially cell growth and division, will be hindered.
  • Detoxifying—Water in your dog's system helps to flush out toxins from the bloodstream and during digestion. Harmful toxins and excess water-soluble nutrients are filtered out through the kidneys and excreted in urine by the water in your dog's body.
  • Temperature - Dogs typically don't mind warm weather, but summer's extreme heat and humidity can lead to a dog quickly overheating. Proper hydration is vital to your dog's natural ability to regulate their body temperature.

How much water does a dog need?

Water makes up more than 70% of your dog’s body by weight, so your dog needs to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water each day.

A general rule of thumb for dogs is to provide about an ounce of water for every pound of body weight. For example, a 25-lb. dog needs approximately 25 oz. of water (or 3 cups), while a 75-lb. dog needs almost 2 liters of water daily.

There is an exception to this rule. Puppies who are being weaned and transitioning to solid food need to drink around half a cup of water every other hour to replace the milk they’re not getting and keep themselves hydrated. Once your puppy is weaned, it will start to need more water, eventually requiring as much as a fully grown dog.

Is my dog dehydrated?

Extreme dehydration in dogs is typically associated with illness or overheating, but a consistent state of mild dehydration can have risks, too. It’s helpful to be able to identify signs of dehydration in dogs so that you can take action.

  • Dry Nose
  • Dry, Tacky Gums and Pasty Saliva
  • Low Skin Elasticity
  • Dark Yellow Pee, or Very Little Pee
  • Low Energy Level and/or Lethargy
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Sunken, Dry Eyes

If you notice your dog is displaying these signs, contact your vet immediately to discuss the need for urgent veterinary care or to receive guidance about safely rehydrating your dog at home.

How can I tell if my dog is Dehydrated?

Some signs may not be as visible as others so you can conduct simple tests to confirm whether your dog is dehydrated or not. First, you can check the elasticity of your pet’s skin by following these steps:

  1. Gently hold a pinch of your pet’s skin close to its shoulder blades. 
  2. Lift the skin up, then release it gently.
  3. Observe your pet’s skin as it returns to its position. If your dog is well-hydrated, the skin will quickly stretch back into place. If your dog is dehydrated, it’ll take longer for the skin to return back to place.

You can also examine your dog’s gums to check for dehydration. To perform this test, gently press your pet’s gums with your finger. If your dog is properly hydrated, the area should turn white and then return to pink almost immediately. The capillary refill takes longer for dehydrated dogs.

How long can my dog safely go without water?

Typically, your dog can survive without drinking water for about 72 hours (three days). However, it’ll show signs of dehydration after the first 24 hours. While this is generally considered to be the case, every dog is different, and several variables can affect the time frame.

  • Age—Adult dogs need more water per day than puppies, so a puppy can go without water for much longer than an adult dog. An elderly dog likely has health issues that dehydration could make worse.
  • Health—If your canine companion has health issues, it’s important to ensure they drink water daily. Dehydration in dogs affects every organ in the body, intensifying any illness. Also, a pregnant dog must drink plenty of water daily.
  • Weather - If you live in a mild climate, your dog will be fine without water for longer than that same dog living in a hot, dry, or humid environment. More heat means more panting, which means more water loss.
  • Breed - Breeds with big thick coats, more active breeds, and breeds that drool may need more daily water intake to combat normal water loss. The more water your dog loses through daily activities and habits, the more water will need to be replenished. 
  • Lifestyle—If your dog is a lazy house pup, it may be able to endure a longer period without water than a more active dog would. Generally speaking, the more active your dog is, the more frequently it will need water.

How long can dogs go without food and water?

Dogs need food and water to survive. However, even if they are otherwise healthy, they can survive for around five days without food as long as they drink water.

Although some dogs have survived for longer periods without food, doing so carries a great risk of irreversible damage to their organs and tissues or even death.

If your dog hasn't eaten anything for two days, you should speak to your veterinarian and book a check-up. If it appears unwell, it's best not to wait, as its condition may deteriorate.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your dog drinking enough water? If you are concerned that your dog might be dehydrated, contact our Lafayette vets immediately for urgent care.

New patients are always welcome.

We look forward to meeting your beloved pet at St. Francis Veterinary Hospital.

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