Dogs need water every day to help them stay hydrated and regulate their body temperature. Sometimes they drink more or less than normal for various reasons, many of which are nothing serious. While drinking too little can be a sign of illness, increased thirst in dogs can also be cause for concern.
Excessive thirst is known medically as polydipsia. It can be easy to miss, with 11% of owners telling us they'd simply put it down to old age, but if you're refilling your dog's water bowl more often and perhaps cleaning up more accidents too, you may need to see a vet to diagnose and treat the issue.
Learn about why your dog could be so thirsty all of a sudden, how to track it and what to do next.
Just like us, dogs need water to stay hydrated and keep their bodies working and feeling healthy. They can't sweat to cool down quite like we can, though; instead, the main way they regulate body heat is through panting. This causes them to lose water through evaporation from their tongue and they need to replace this water by drinking.
What counts as a normal amount of water for your dog to drink depends on factors such as their age, size and weight, activity level and diet. A rough guide is 20-70ml per kilo of body weight per day. However, your dog could be thirsty for more if:
Knowing exactly how much your dog should be drinking from day to day is tricky, but common sense is your friend here. If it's enough that you notice the change and you can't see an obvious reason for your dog drinking more, it could be a health issue that needs investigating.
Seeing a vet will help to diagnose and, if necessary, treat your dog's increased thirst. Learn about some of the common causes and next steps below.
There are a host of possible reasons for your dog being thirstier than normal, with some more serious than others. Here's what to look out for.
Let's start with one of the more obvious causes: dehydration. Extreme thirst in dogs can be down to simply not drinking enough, which could be because of a lack of access to water. Try to keep their water bowl topped up throughout the day and within easy reach. This is especially important if they're a puppy who's unfamiliar with their surroundings or an older dog who struggles to get around. Keeping their water fresh and their bowl clean will also reduce the chance of your dog rejecting their water due to taste or smell. Extreme dehydration can demand emergency medical attention. If your dog has other symptoms such as low energy, vomiting, diarrhoea, has no interest in food or you've noticed their eyes look sunken, you should move them somewhere cool, give them water and contact your vet right away.
Another more obvious reason for increased thirst in dogs is hot weather, particularly after a long walk or other intense exercise. If your dog shows excessive panting and thirst during or after play on a warm day, they likely just need to drink more to replace the extra water they're losing. Look out for common signs of heatstroke though including drooling, lethargy, nausea and breathing problems. They suggest that your dog is more than just a bit hot and that you should speak to your vet quickly.
Boredom is a trickier problem to spot but a lack of mental and physical stimulation could be the reason for your dog's increased thirst. With little on which to focus their energy, your dog might double down on drinking or other behaviours such as barking or biting. It's a cause of excessive thirst in puppies particularly, who tend to crave more attention while they develop.
Perhaps what you're feeding them could be the cause. If your dog eats solely or mainly dry food, they'll get less hydration from it than they would from wet food and will need to drink more as a result. Another trigger can be giving your furry friend scraps of salty food from your plate. Just like us after a plate of salty chips or crisps, your dog might crave extra water afterwards.
Medication is another possible explanation for your dog's extreme thirst. Like in humans, medication can change how their body works and feels and not always in a good way. If your dog has recently started a new medication for a different health condition and it seems to be making them extra-thirsty, speak to your vet about what you can do. They may suggest new treatments or making other changes to accommodate the medication's side-effects, such as giving them more wet food.
Unfortunately, if your dog is thirsty all the time, it could be a sign of a range of underlying illnesses including:
A vet will be best placed to identify and treat these conditions through an examination.
Cushing's is another condition that can make your pup extra-thirsty due to the overproduction of cortisol. Other key symptoms include increased urination, which drives increased thirst, as well as:
James Walker, Technical Services Manager at Dechra advises: "Increased thirst and urination in dogs isn't always down to old age alone. Speaking to your vet about these symptoms early could help you find and treat Cushing's sooner."
Excessive thirst and urination in dogs go hand in hand. If your pet has started feeling excessively thirsty, they might drink more and go to the toilet more as a result. Alternatively a health issue could be causing them to urinate more and drink more to compensate. As an owner, you may notice having to let them outside more or deal with more accidents around your home.
This might seem annoying or inconvenient at first but don't take it out on them by taking away their water. 23% of dog owners we surveyed said they'd usually blame peeing on the floor on old age but reducing their water in response could worsen an underlying health problem, so try to see it as an urgent reason to see the vet instead.
Other symptoms for which to look out alongside increased thirst include:
Creating a regular water-drinking routine makes it easier to spot if and when your dog is drinking more. You can do this relatively easily by:
Having multiple dogs who share a bowl can make this process harder. If you're worried about their thirst, you may need to temporarily separate your dogs for a day or even a few hours to see who's drinking what.
If you have an energetic dog who spends lots of their day bounding around on high alert, it's usually nothing to worry about if they're drinking lots – especially in a heatwave. Remember, though, that excessive thirst in dogs can also be caused by health issues that are less easy to explain away and which need medical attention.
If you're unsure what's making your dog so thirsty or they have other symptoms, it's best to contact your vet. Noticing their regular drinking habits and any changes will also help your vet decide on the best diagnosis and treatment options, if needed