How Long Can a Dog Go Without Water?

Water is an essential part of life and is necessary to keep the body functioning correctly. Like humans, dogs rely on water to sustain their health. This critical ingredient ensures that your dog doesn’t suffer from dehydration, which can lead to death in a short amount of time.

You may have many questions regarding dog dehydration, including, “How long can a dog go without water?” and more. We aim to answer your questions in this article, so keep reading to find out everything you need to know about water and your dog’s health.

Benefits of Proper Hydration

It’s important to make sure your dog gets enough water throughout the day, as a healthy water intake will:

  • Lubricate joints
  • Cushion organs
  • Regulate body temperature
  • Aid digestion
  • Allow cells to absorb nutrients

Without enough water, your dog will start to dehydrate.

What Is Dog Dehydration?

It’s natural for your dog to lose water throughout the day. Normal water loss happens through panting, urinating/defecating, and sweating through the paws. Dogs make up for water loss by eating and drinking more water, but there are some situations in which a dog’s regular fluid intake will not make up for the water he or she has lost.

According to Pets WebMD, losing just 10-15% of fluids can cause severe sickness and even death in dogs. When a dog cannot take in enough water, blood and oxygen flow decrease, which can lead to organ and tissue damage, as well as a deficiency in minerals like sodium, potassium, and chloride (a.k.a. electrolytes).

Electrolytes play an essential role in regulating your dog’s nerves, muscle functions, and pH levels.

What Causes Dehydration in Dogs? 

Dehydration can occur if a dog does not have access to water, is playing and exercising for an extended amount of time, or if the dog can’t drink enough due to illnesses like:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Heatstroke
  • Kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer

Some of these situations, like vomiting, are more easily observed and can be taken care of quickly. In contrast, underlying causes, like kidney disease, may go undetected until a vet examines the dog.

Whatever the case, it’s important to make sure your dog always has access to clean water, and that if you notice signs of canine dehydration, you take immediate action.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Dog Dehydration?

Although our four-legged friends can’t verbally tell us that they need more water, there are several ways they can physically tell us they’re thirsty. Take note of these signs of dehydration, so that you can respond quickly should the need arise.

Symptoms of Canine Dehydration:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy and loss of energy
  • Sunken eyes
  • Dry nose or mouth
  • Thick saliva
  • Excessive panting
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

There are two tests you can use to check your dog for dehydration: skin elasticity and capillary refill time.

To check for loss of skin elasticity, gently lift some of the skin near your dog’s shoulder blades, then let it go and watch it fall back into place. A hydrated dog’s skin will spring back to its original position right away, while a dehydrated dog’s skin will take longer to sink back to its normal place.

You can also check your dog’s gums for color and moisture levels. To do this, gently press your finger against your dog’s gums, then remove them. The spot should turn from white to pink almost instantly. Also, notice if the gums are dry or sticky. Slow capillary refill and dry gums are a sign of dehydration.

What to Do if a Dog is Dehydrated

If you’re wondering how long can a dog go without water, the answer is simply – not long. Age and overall health are contributing factors, but in general, three days without water is a death sentence for any dog.

Whether it’s a mild or severe case of dehydration, it’s important to act quickly to make sure your dog gets back to a healthy state. Begin to rehydrate your dog by offering it fresh, clean water in a bowl, and bring it indoors, out of the heat, if possible. You can also provide an electrolyte solution, like Pedialyte, to replace important minerals.

If your dog is experiencing heatstroke, vomiting, or cannot keep down any water, take your pet to the vet immediately. The vet can administer intravenous fluids, which will quickly replace lost fluids and prevent further loss.

The vet may also want to check for damage due to dehydration or for any underlying conditions causing dehydration.

How to Prevent Dehydration in Dogs

Unfortunately, we can’t always monitor our dogs or keep them from illness, but we can do a few things to make sure they get enough water throughout the day.

  1. Make sure a bowl of clean water is accessible at all times. If you are away from your dog for several hours, provide a big bowl of water to ensure the dog doesn’t run out while you’re out of the house.
  1. Keep your dog out of high temperatures to avoid heatstroke and dehydration. It’s never a good idea to leave your dog in a hot car or outdoors without shade for long periods of time. If you’re going out with your dog, bring a water bottle or travel bowl.
  1. If your dog is a picky drinker, consider flavoring the water with bone broth or providing wet dog food as a supplement.

Keep in mind dogs can dehydrate at any temperature, so you’ll want to note their water intake every day.

Final Thoughts

Water is a vital part of life to dogs, humans, and nearly every living thing. Even the slightest loss can cause damage to joints, aches and pains, and loss of energy. As water intake lessens, organs fail, the blood becomes thick, oxygen flow slows, and it doesn’t take long before dehydration leads to death.

Although scary to think about, it’s important to educate yourself about canine dehydration, which you’ve started by visiting and reading this blog.

How long can a dog go without water? Now that you know about the signs of dehydration, you’ll be able to assess your dog’s health and prevent dehydration problems before they become life or death situations.