A dog can go for up to three days without water, but dehydration can set in much more quickly. It’s vital that your dog has free access to water throughout the day. Water is especially important in hot weather when dehydration can set in very quickly.
On average, a dog needs twice as much water as food. In other words, a dog who eats two cups of food per day might drink four to five cups of water. A dog won’t drink all of this water in a single sitting. Instead he will drink in sips throughout the day when he feels thirsty. If your dog eats wet food or kibble with a high moisture content, he will need to drink less water than if he eats dry food alone.
Whenever possible, you should offer free access to clean water. This means keeping the dog’s water bowl topped off and in a location he can easily reach. You want a bowl that can’t be easily tipped over especially if you will be leaving the dog alone. If your dog is in a crate during the day, you may wish to provide a water bottle with a spigot that he can drink from rather than a bowl that can be spilled or befouled. An automatic waterer is another good choice as it may be easier to keep clean and eliminate spills.
How Long Can I Keep My Dog in a Crate?
Most adult dogs can sleep through the night without interruptions, so leaving a pet without food or water for eight hours while the family is asleep is rarely a problem. Small dogs and puppies may need a break after four hours to relieve themselves and get a drink. If the weather is hot, your pet may also want to get up and get a drink before going back to sleep.
It’s not a good idea to leave a dog alone for longer than eight hours without access to water or the ability to go outside for a potty break. If you work during the day, you might need a dog-walker who can let the dog out for you. Otherwise, it’s best to let your dog free-roam or at least have a room to himself where he can drink, sleep, and stretch his legs.
If you’re traveling, you should give your dog fresh water to drink every time you stop for gas or a bathroom break. Think of it this way: If you’re thirsty or need to use the bathroom, your dog probably feels the same way. Bring a bottle of water and a bowl that can be used to water your dog while traveling.
How Can I Tell if My Dog is Dehydrated?
Dehydration can set in quickly in hot weather, and some dogs are especially prone to dehydration and over-heating.
Water is necessary to maintain many of a body’s functions like waste removal, nutrient transportation, joint lubrication and digestion. Without water, the body’s natural processes begin to shut down. If not corrected, dehydration can lead to a slow and painful death through organ failure.
Dehydration has several noticeable signs:
- Dry nose and gums
- Sunken or dry-looking eyes
- Loss of appetite
A good way to tell whether a dog is dehydrated is through a simple skin elasticity test. Gently pitch some of your dog’s skin between your thumb and forefinger. When you release it, a healthy dog’s skin will spring back to shape. A dehydrated dog’s skin will take longer to move back into position.
Of course, some dogs have looser skin than others. You’ll want to get in the habit of testing your dog’s normal levels of skin elasticity so you have something to compare to.
Another way to test for dehydration is to check the dog’s gums. Healthy gums will be moist or even slimy and bright pink. A dehydrated dog will have dry or tacky gums. If you press a finger into healthy gums, color will return to the area quickly after the finger is removed. In a dehydrated dog, the gums may stay pale longer.
Causes of Dehydration in Dogs
A dog who has access to fresh water can still become dehydrated. One reason is vomiting and diarrhea. If a dog is losing more water than he can take in, he will become dehydrated. This is one reason why vomiting and diarrhea should be taken seriously as a potential medical emergency when the symptoms are severe.
Other problems include kidney disease, diabetes and heat stroke.
If you identify symptoms of dehydration in your pet, it’s important to get him to the veterinarian right away. Your vet might advocate putting the dog on IV fluids or providing other treatments to help restore water to the body until the dog is feeling better.