One of the things that the body needs more than anything else is water. It doesn’t matter whether animal or human, you must have access to water or you will die. An average dog needs 8 to 17 ounces of water, per ten pounds of body weight, per day to survive.
Depending on their size and state of health, a dog can go approximately 3 days to 7 days without water and then they would perish. The dog body is made up of roughly 60% water. All body functions require water to go about their tasks. Moving the bowels takes water and the cells cannot function without water.
The body cannot metabolize food without water. One by one, the systems begin to shut down. The surface of the skin becomes dry as non-essential functions are shut down first. Eventually, the liver and kidneys cease to function and death becomes imminent.
An indication of illness
When a dog stops drinking water it is almost always an indication of illness and should be considered a serious issue. One day is not serious but warrants watching. If the drinking has not commenced with 24 hours, then it is definitely in the dog’s best interest to make a veterinary clinic visit.
Your veterinarian will ask you if any other behavior has changed. Is your dog acting lethargic? Has he gotten into anything recently that may have caused an issue? Has your food changed? Is he eating? Has he been out of your sight and if so, where?
If there have been any changes at all, document them the moment you realize your dog is off his water. Fill the water bowl with clean, fresh water. Mark the bowl so you can tell if he’s had anything from the bowl at all. If you have more than one pet, you may need to isolate him to a different room alone. This will help you to monitor his drinking and food intake.
Take a moment to check your dog’s gums. Are the pink? Do they pass the capillary refill test? To do this test, poke the pink gum of your dog’s mouth and it should turn white for a moment. It should immediately turn pink again. If the gums are so pale that you can’t tell you pushed the skin, he is anemic. Do not wait. Go see your veterinarian immediately.
There are many things that can cause anemia and not wanting to drink. Some of them are benign and some of these things are more serious. Get vet checked right away so you’ll know and if it is a serious threat, you can get it taken care of before it becomes life-threatening.
Regular Worming and Vet Checks
Make sure that you dog sees the veterinarian at least once per year. Keep a close eye on the warning signs that health issues may be happening. Be sure to worm your dog regularly and that they are on heartworm treatment in areas where this is suggested.
Watch your dog on hot days. Don’t let them get overheated. If they get hot, stop playing and encourage them to cool off in a small doggy pool or under a hose in the shade. Get them cooled off as fast as you can. Apply ice packs to their inner thigh on the rear legs to cool the blood flowing through the dog’s femoral artery.
This will circulate cooled blood throughout the body and bring the body temp down more quickly than other means. Get a dog that has become severely overheated to the vet immediately.
Preventative care is critical. Plan for cold weather, hot weather, get their shots and know what issues are prevalent in your area. If dogs in your neighborhood are getting kennel cough (also known as bordetella) then you should get your dog vaccinated for it.
Veterinarians don’t do this shot with normal yearly shots, you have to ask for it. Sometimes they offer it and people aren’t sure what it is. Get it. It’s worth it.
Take the time to know what foods are poisonous to your dog, what houseplants can be toxic (like Easter Lilies) and don’t have them in your home. Puppies chew on everything. Make sure you’ve properly puppy-proofed your home and yard. Many people don’t do the yard, forgetting i entirely and this is a huge mistake.
Be leary of flea control medications over-the-counter. Ask your vet for guidance on flea, tick, and heart worm control. Let them teach you which products are safe and which are not. These are chemicals that you are adding to your dog’s body and some of them are not meant for puppies. Some of them have horrible reputations and can cause severe side-effects.
You might want to study how to do dog first aid and CPR. Videos are available online and some local shelters will do classes from time to time. It’s worth the time to know how to save your dog in the event that he has a seizure and his heart or breathing stop. They are prone to similar medical emergencies as people are and learning CPR for them is not difficult. It can save their life.
Place a sign in your front window by your door to let firemen and emergency crews know how many of each pet you have in the home. In the event of a fire in your home, firemen will make every effort to try to locate your animals and get them out for you. Fire departments are all equipped with specialized breathing apparatus for giving oxygen to animals at the scene of fire.
You should always plan ahead in the case of medical emergency for your animals and take the time to know how to respond to things like them not eating or drinking. Once you know what is normal for your dog, you’ll know when something is an emergency. Not drinking water is potentially life threatening and most veterinarians will tell you that it is a symptom of an underlying issue nearly 100% of the time. Bring them in and have them checked.
What Happens at the Vet?
If you rush your dog to the vet for not drinking, the first thing they will do is ask you questions about where the dog has been, what behaviors have been different and how long as it been since you noted them not drinking. A blood draw will be taken and they will determine if there are elevated white blood cells that would indicate infections or illness. If your dog is dehydrated, they will likely put a an IV line in them and give fluids immediately.
The blood panel will let them know if the kidneys are functioning correctly, which is the first concern when they are not drinking or urinating. Elevated levels of certain chemicals in the body are like puzzle pieces that point to specific ailments. Your vet has to find the pieces of the puzzle and run the tests to determine positive answers in order to treat your dog most effectively.
Sometimes the issue is simply an illness or a bad case of worms that can be cleared right up. In other cases, a major problem could be happening and catching it early on might save the life of your dog. Sometimes the bowels may be blocked when a dog eats something that will not pass and this makes them very seriously ill and in need of surgery to remove the bowel blockage.
Your vet can determine this by first squeezing the stomach and intestines to feel for lumps and bumps. If he or she feels it necessary, they will order x-rays to determine if a blockage is the correct suspicion.
If a bowel blockage is suspected, sometimes you get lucky and with some medications and fluids pumped into them, the blockage may slowly work its way through. Your veterinarian may choose to keep your dog for observation and take more x-rays in a few hours to determine if the mass in the intestines is moving on its own. If not, they will be forced to go in and remove it. This is a life-saving surgery when necessary.
Sometimes large dogs are prone to gut torsion, where the stomach flips inside of the body cavity and twists the intestines shut. When this happens your dog will not eat or drink and will also exhibit signs of stomach pain, heaving without bringing anything up, and potentially bloody diarrhea. Getting them to the vet, by noticing the signs and symptoms, will get the life-saving surgery to reverse the rotation in the gut and restore blood flow to the intestines.
Your vet may be the doctor who performs life saving surgery, administers medications and shots to keep your dog healthy, but you are the one on the front line. You’re the first line of defense for your dog. You can make the difference by paying attention. Now you know that when your dog isn’t drinking water, it’s a serious situation.
Dawn Greer is a passionate blogger and animal rights activist. She is a pet lover, certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, pet nutritionist, and former veterinary technician. She continues her work while writing blogs for pet lovers around the globe.