Drinking too much water is bad for dogs

N.H. Sunday News - Dog Tracks Column - 11/28/10
By: Gail T. Fisher


A reader writes: “Dear Gail, Our four-year-old German shepherd drinks a lot more water than any of our previous dogs did. He empties a water bowl as soon as we fill it. If we didn’t pick up the bowl, we think he’d just keep drinking. He goes to a Doggy Daycare two times a week, and they have told us he drinks a lot there, too. He pees in his crate during their “nap time,” and they want us to take him to the vet. We don’t have housetraining issues and he uses a doggy door, so I wonder what’s going on there. Do you have any idea why he’s so thirsty, or what’s going on at the daycare?”
I do have some thoughts, and in fact, in our kennel and daycare we have had dogs such as the reader describes. Let’s look at the two issues separately –excessive drinking, and urinating in his crate. Excessive drinking, called “polydipsia”, can lead to excessive urination, or “polyuria.” The fact that this dog is urinating in his crate at the daycare is likely because he drank a lot, and didn’t eliminate before his nap. Think of it this way: You drink two big glasses of water an hour before going to bed, and go bed without first relieving yourself.
You might suggest to your dog’s daycare to bring him out to relieve himself about 10 minutes after he’s crated, and not let him drink water at that time. That’s like our getting out of bed for a last bathroom trip before turning off the light.
As for excessive water consumption, the main causes are illness, a behavior issue, or your dog simply likes water. Whatever the reason, it needs to be addressed. The first step is to consult your veterinarian and have your dog examined. There are several diseases that cause excessive water drinking, so it’s important to rule out or treat a possible underlying physical cause. Your vet will more than likely run some tests, including blood work and urinalysis.
Once your veterinarian rules out illness,, excessive water drinking may be a behavior issue or a dog that simply likes drinking water. In any case, it needs to be stopped as excessive drinking can lead to kidney problems. The simple solution is to monitor and control your dog’s water intake. Put measured amounts in a bowl rather than leaving a full dish available all the time. It’s important that you not make a big deal of it when your dog is drinking, as this extra attention can unintentionally reinforce the very behavior you don’t want.
“Normal” water consumption for a dog is about an ounce of water per pound of body weight. With eight fluid ounces in a cup, this means a twenty pound dog needs about two and a half cups of water a day and a forty pound dog would drink about five cups of water. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as putting five cups of water in a dog’s dish and letting him drink. Hydration needs vary depending on weather, environment, exercise and diet, among other things. For example, dry dog food contains little moisture, while an unprocessed, homemade diet contains quite a bit. Consider, for example, the amount of moisture in beef, turkey or yogurt versus kibbled dry dog food.
Most dog owners don’t need to be concerned about water consumption since the vast majority of dogs easily self-regulate water intake. On the other hand, if your dog exhibits unusual behavior such as the reader describes, talk to your vet.

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