Causes of Increased Drinking in Dogs

Updated on November 28, 2017
alexadry profile image

Adrienne is a former veterinary hospital assistant, certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

What's causing my dog to drink more water than usual?
What's causing my dog to drink more water than usual? | Source

You are right to be concerned if you recently noticed your dog drinking more water than usual. The medical term used to describe increased drinking is ''polydipsia." The word comes from the Greek word poly, which means "many" and dypsia, which means thirst.

It's likely that dogs affected by polydipsia will also be affected by "polyuria," the medical term for excessive urination. After all, what goes in eventually comes out! The urine will often be very clear, almost like water. In some cases, dogs may drink so much they may not be able to contain themselves and may have accidents inside the home. This is a sure sign that something is wrong.

There are several potential causes of increased drinking in dogs, some benign (like an increase in exercise), and others more serious (like diabetes), but before tackling the list of medical issues associated with polydipsia, it may be helpful to determine how much is considered too much drinking.

How Much Do Dogs Normally Drink?

As a rule of thumb, an average dog generally drinks an ounce of fluid per pound of body weight per day. Therefore, a dog weighing 10 pounds will need a little bit more than a cup of water every day, according to WebMD.

Another measurement is that a dog will generally consume about 2.5 times its daily intake of food in water, according to the Veterinary and Aquatic Services of Drs. Foster & Smith.

For example, if your dog consumed a half pound of dry dog food, you would expect him to drink about one and a half pounds of water. One cup of water is equal to eight fluid ounces.

How to Find Out How Much Water Your Dog Is Consuming

You can track how much water your dog is drinking by refilling your dog's water bowl at approximately the same time each day with the same exact amount of water. Then, subtract the amount that was left in the bowl after 24 hours in order to get an estimate of how much water your dog consumed.

Make sure your dog only has access to water in the water bowl. It is not unusual for some dogs to like to drink from the toilet bowl or from dripping faucets! Some may also decide to drink from puddles or water dripping from a leaky gutter.

Do not try to restrict your dog's access to water, even if it is excessive. This can lead to dehydration.

Generally, dog owners are the best predictors of the development of any unusual drinking patterns. If you know on average how much your dog drinks usually and you find yourself filling up the water bowl more and more without finding a good reason for it, it's a good idea to play it safe and have your dog seen by a veterinarian.

Source

Non-Medical Causes of Increased Thirst in Dogs

There are several factors that may be leading to your dog's increased thirst — here are some of the most common ones that may stem from non-medical issues. Running through them may help you rule out benign or behavioral causes as opposed to ones that are symptoms of medical conditions.

However, if your dog is drinking a lot of water as well as displaying other symptoms like vomiting, shaking, bloating, diarrhea, or other gastrointestinal problems, you'll probably want to see the vet.

  • The dog's activity level: Has your dog been exercising more lately? Is he spending more time outdoors? Have you changed your routine at all?
  • Outdoor and indoor temperatures: Has the weather been getting warmer? Is the air in your home too dry?
  • Diet: Are you feeding the dog foods with more sodium? Have you switched to dry kibble lately? Are you feeding treats that make your dog more thirsty?
  • Medications: Anti-inflammatory drugs like prednisone have a well-known reputation for increasing drinking and urination, and diuretics, such as Furosemide, are not known as ''water pills'' for no reason. Dog seizure medications such as phenobarbital also have a reputation for increased drinking and increased appetite. Look under the list of side effects of your dog's medications to see if there is a chance it could be the culprit.
  • Life-changing events: Lactating a litter of puppies, for example, can considerably increase drinking up to two or three times the normal amount.
  • Your dog's age: Puppies are notorious for being avid drinkers.

If your dog has been drinking more than usual and it's not that hot outside, your dog's activity level is the same as always, they aren't eating particularly salty foods (e.g. hot dogs) and you haven't indirectly added extra sources of fluids to his diet such as canned foods, raw diets, or frozen treats such as ice cubes, there may be an underlying medical condition you should be concerned about.

Your best bet is to have your dog examined by a veterinarian just to be on the safe side since excess thirst can be a sign of serious underlying medical issues.

Your vet will get at the root cause of your dog's increased thirst so the issue can be targeted properly. In the next paragraph, we will take a look at some medical causes of increased drinking in dogs.

Medical Causes of Excessive Drinking in Dogs

There are several conditions that may cause polydipsia in dogs. Notice how in many cases, the increased desire to drink is often a reaction to the accumulation of harmful substances in the body.

Diabetes

Yes, dogs get diabetes too even though they aren't that crazy about eating sweets. Dogs may get two types of diabetes: diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus. Diabetes mellitus is far more common than insipidus in dogs.

Affected dogs may lose weight despite having a good appetite and they may drink more and urinate more. Thirst and increased drinking is caused by high blood glucose levels and the body's attempt to decrease their concentration.

Your dog may also be lethargic, have sweet-smelling or fruity breath, vomit, have cataracts or blindness, and have chronic skin infections.

If your dog has either type of diabetes, it will need to be treated in order to regulate its blood sugar levels. Your vet will be able to do testing and advise on the right course of action.

Kidney Failure

When kidney failure takes place, these bean-shaped organs are no longer able to remove waste and concentrate urine. This causes a need for more and more water to excrete waste.

Affected dogs will increase their consumption of water to prevent toxins from accumulating in the bloodstream, but unfortunately, a point will arrive where no amount of water will suffice to decrease the build-up of toxins.

A variety of things can cause kidney failure, which can be either sudden (e.g. ingesting antifreeze) or acute (e.g. the result of kidney disease). Other signs of kidney problems in your dog are depression, listlessness, and loss of or decrease in appetite.

You should see a vet, who will conduct tests and be able to advise on what to do based on the underlying condition.

Liver Failure

The liver is an amazing organ that has the capability to regenerate when it's damaged, but only up to a certain point. According to Vet Info, the liver fails and can no longer regenerate if more than 70 percent of it is damaged.

Because the liver can no longer assimilate toxins, they end up in the dog's body, which may react with increased drinking to prevent them from accumulating in the bloodstream. The dog may also appear jaundiced, with the eyes, tongue, or gums appearing yellow from the accumulation of bilirubin, and there may also be weight loss.

Other symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, and changes in stool color. The dog may also develop fluid retention in the abdomen (called ascites) which can cause weight gain. See a veterinarian for diagnostics and treatment (which will vary depending on the underlying condition).

Cushing's Disease

Typically found in older dogs, this condition occurs because of excessive cortisol circulating in the bloodstream. Affected dogs drink excessively, urinate excessively, and even may develop incontinence.

Dogs may also have a ravenous appetite, their abdomen have a pot-bellied appearance, and exhibit hair loss or other skin problems. The excessive drinking in this case may be the body's reaction to prevent too much cortisol from accumulating in the body.

Symptoms of Cushing's disease tend to happen gradually and may even seem like a normal part of the aging process. Treatment is available for this disorder. Your vet can advise after conducting diagnostic tests.

Addison's Disease

This condition is triggered by the immune system which damages the adrenal glands, causing them to produce too few hormones that are responsible for maintaining the balance of sodium, potassium, and water.

Though increased drinking and urination are rarely the primary symptoms, according to Dr Mark Peterson and Dr. Peter Kintzer, they have been reported in some cases. In this case, the increased thirst and urination may be the body way of dealing with unbalanced electrolytes.

Any dog can get this disease, though it's most often found in young to middle-aged female dogs. Other symptoms include weight loss, lethargy, and muscle weakness. Since the disease is not too common, other conditions will likely be ruled out before testing for Addison's.

Hypercalcemia

In this condition, too much calcium is being produced in the dog's body. The dog's kidneys perceive these high calcium levels and attempt to flush them out in urine, causing increased thirst and urination.

However, in time, calcium buildup in the kidneys may promote kidney failure. Causes of hypercalcemia include tumors, Addison's disease, and vitamin D poisoning, though sometimes a real cause cannot be found.

Other symptoms include lack of appetite, vomiting, constipation, and lethargy.

Infections

Any infections that cause a fever may result in a dog feeling more thirsty.

Psychogenic Water Drinking

At times, increased thirst behaviors may stem from a behavioral problem instead of a medical one. This can be seen in dogs that were neglected and then drink excessively when water is presented as a form of compensation, and soon, the behavior becomes a habit.

Dogs who compete over resources may drink the whole water bowl just to prevent access to other dogs, and dogs that are stressed may drink water as a displacement behavior.

Water-loving breeds and bored puppies may also drink too much water to amuse themselves.

Fever

When a dog's body temperature rises, its body is trying to fight off the illness. With a high temperature though, cells are depleted from vital water. In humans, sweating is often seen with a fever.

In contrast, when dogs have a fever, they may pant and get dehydrated. This may trigger increased thirst. It's important to ensure the dog stays well-hydrated and that a cause for the fever is identified and steps are taken to lower it.

Vomiting and Diarrhea

It's quite normal for dogs to feel thirsty after a bout of vomiting or diarrhea or both. It's the body's natural way to re-hydrate itself. In the case of vomiting though, owners must be careful not to allow the dog to gulp up too much water at once, This could further upset the stomach in the delicate phase of recovery and cause more vomiting. Ice cubes are a good way to allow the dog to re-hydrate slowly.

See a Vet

These are actually only a few of the many health conditions that may be causing your dog's thirst. It may be quite frustrating to sort through all the possible medical causes and several diagnostic exams may be needed at times in order to go to the direct culprit.

In most cases, however, a blood chemistry panel, urinalysis and complete blood cell count will suffice to rule out several conditions and confirm the potential cause.

Questions & Answers

  • My dog is an 11-year-old Pit, Dalmatian mix who won’t eat. My dog is also drinking lots of water, shivering, and lethargic. There is also some vomiting. Can you help?

    I am so sorry your dog is feeling unwell. It sounds like digestive upset, but at this age, it can be so many things! I suggest seeing your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment. Some dogs shiver when they are having pain, and it may likely be abdominal pain if your dog vomited and also lost his appetite. Drinking more can also be a way to recuperate fluids lost through vomiting. However, if you read the article, there are several causes for increased drinking so you may want to have your vet rule them out to play it safe.

  • My dog is fourteen-years-old and is drinking a lot more than usual. They also have an increased appetite, yet losing weight, and now has yellow eyes. What could this be?

    The yellow eyes may point to jaundice, which can be caused by a liver issue or red blood cell destruction. Have your vet do blood work to find the underlying cause of the clinical signs you are seeing.

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    • profile image

      Lisa b 

      3 months ago

      My mother's 16 year old just passed away 2 days at her vet appointment of a grand mal seizure. Two years prior to her death she started drinking massive bowls of water it seems like she couldn't get enough. The vet thought it was age related because her labs were good as well as her ekg and chest xray. Then she start drinking the toliet bowel dry. When it was flushed she would drain it dry again. When it snow she would eat the snow off the walkway or the lawn. So back to the vet to get all normal test back again. Then this year 2 months ago she started passing out but not knowing why and the vet couldn't give a diagnosis with seeing what was stated. So we would bring her home again. Until she started passing out twice a month. Her last exam revealed that head had slight tilt which could indicate a brain tumor. That was discovered when the vet fixed her head in position to look straight. Soon after the exam leah had the final seziure and died. But her water drinking was a sign but nobody could figure it out not even the hospital.

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      5 months ago from USA

      Marie, not normal unless there's a possible explanation for this (your dog has always been this way, increased exercise, hot weather). A vet visit at this age is important. You can start by making an appointment to your vet and collecting a urine sample.

    • profile image

      Marie 

      5 months ago

      my 18 pd weenie dog 12 years drinks at least 5 cups of water a day and goes out to pee about 5 to 8 times a day, is this normal.

    • profile image

      Julie Brankovic 

      9 months ago

      I have just got a German Sheppard puppy,she is 8 weeks old all she does is drink heaps and pees alot she when I take her out side all she does is just lays down I'm outside with her for a long time as soon as she comes inside she will pee or poop inside,take out side again nothing back inside again pees or poop, she doesn't play much and whimpers slot.

    • profile image

      Marlene Clarke 

      10 months ago

      My dog is a 10 year old male , and has increased his water intake and has urinated a couple of times in the house (never did that before) his nose seems to be dry also. Used to be impatient for his breakfast, now takes a couple of hours to eat it. Also burps a lot since a couple of years. ???

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

      10 months ago from USA

      Gulping too much water at once can cause vomiting in dogs. You need to find the underlying cause with the help of your vet if there's no logical reason for the thirst (heat, exercise).

    • profile image

      Barb 

      10 months ago

      My dog is drinking a lot of water. She is also throwing up liquid that looks like water

    • profile image

      JQGus 

      19 months ago

      Check the salt content of the food and treats you give your dog. Also, if your dog is taking Rimadyl, excessive drinking and urination (among other things) are side effects! Check with your vet.

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