Water is an important part of every dog’s diet. Dehydration can occur quickly if your dog is not drinking enough, especially during hot weather and activity. Insufficient water can lead to kidney failure, lethargy, and even death. Older dogs are even more prone to dehydration.
How Much Water Does an Older Dog Need?
Although most adult dogs can monitor their water intake, different factors such as illness, advanced age, and depression can make it hard for your dog to get enough water.
There are several ways to calculate how much water a canine will need, but on average, a dog requires between a half-ounce to one ounce of H2O per pound of weight each day.
So, if your canine weighs 20 lbs and is fairly passive, it will need a minimum of 10 ounces of water a day (1.25 cups). Increased activity, however, can require as much as twice that amount.
Therefore, knowing how to tell if your pet needs increased liquids and familiarizing yourself with ways to help hydrate is important.
How to Tell If Your Dog Needs Water
The first step is to learn to “listen” to your dog. Next, familiarize yourself with their distinctive behaviors. For example, canines often pant when they are hot, in need of liquid, or uncomfortable.
Older dogs can be particularly prone to panting in pain but can also rapidly become dehydrated. Familiarizing yourself with your friend’s pain indicators is important for identifying warning signs of either pain or dehydration.
Some dogs will tell you directly when they need water by leading you to the bowl, sitting down next to it, or tipping the bowl over (no problem communicating here!) If not, do a physical check of the canine’s snout, gums, and skin. It’s a good idea to do this on a routine basis.
Feel the nose. Is it dry? Are the gums pasty and dry, or are they sufficiently wet and “slimy”? Can you pinch the skin on the back of the neck, and does it spring back to normal appearance, or does it appear wrinkled?
Lack of hydration, just as in humans, will give an elastic appearance to the skin. Physical signs of dehydration, especially in an older dog, must be checked by your veterinarian.
Ways to Increase Water in Your Dog’s Diet to Avoid Dehydration
- Make sure there is a water bowl in each room that they spend time in
- Refresh the water bowl regularly.
- Increase the water proportion in food recipes by adding water to the bowl of food or increasing the proportion of water in home-cooked recipes.
- Serve homemade soups using beef, chicken, or other (unsalted or low sodium) broths that are easy for a dog with decreasing appetite to eat.
- Give ice cubes as a treat. Be conservative with this technique, as elderly canines often have sensitive stomachs.
- Train the dog to hydrate on command from your hand or the bowl
- Offer water by dipping your finger into the bowl and letting the canine lick the water at first so that it stimulates interest
- Set specific times for hydration so the animal comes to anticipate the event, just as they would expect food, a treat, or other attention.
- If your canine is still not drinking adequately, consult your veterinarian.
Older Dogs and Drinking Water
A dog’s scent capability is much stronger than a human’s, so while the water in yesterday’s bowl may look fresh, dogs can tell by scent if it is stale. In addition, older canines can have more sensitive digestive systems and may refrain from drinking the water if it smells off.
Many of these tips are learned from specific experiences. Elderly dogs and those with arthritis or degenerative diseases will often conserve energy and refrain from going to the water bowl as frequently as they used to. For this reason, having a bowl in the room where you work or spend a lot of time is a good idea since the canine will likely gravitate to where you are.
If you have a particularly close bond with your friend, pouring a little water into your palm first and letting them lick the liquid (which will have your scent) may give comfort to an animal that is elderly, in pain, or can’t see well enough to see the way to the water bowl.
You can use the command method, such as “drink water” or “hydrate,” while holding the bowl close enough for scent to encourage drinking further.
During travel, many animals will refrain from drinking, either for comfort or lessen the need to relieve themselves. Therefore, setting a schedule for hydration and developing language that will encourage the dog to drink when the opportunity is available is extremely important.
Stress, nervousness from travel, heat, disorientation, or discomfort can increase the need for water. Learning how to “read” your dog’s signs of stress and pain is part of ensuring sufficient hydration and a healthy best friend.