How Long Can a Dog Go Without Water?

It’s not something that any pet owner wants to think about, but you may have wondered: In case of emergency, how long could a dog live without access to drinking water?

A dog can go without water for 2 or 3 days — but that’s until they die, and that’s under the best of circumstances. It takes less time for negative health effects to start to appear, however.

If you’re worried about your dog, we go over everything that you need to know about canine dehydration in this article.Divider 1

How Long Can Dogs Go Without Water?

The upper limit that a dog can survive without access to water is 72 hours. However, that number could be drastically reduced if the animal is already sick or if they’re in extremely hot conditions.

Chances are that you’re worried about more than your dog dying, though. Your dog will start to experience negative effects from dehydration after 24 hours without water.

Generally speaking, dogs can go 6-10 hours without water, without much in the way of ill effects. That means that if you forget to fill the bowl before you left for work, there’s little risk that you’ll come home to find that your dog has perished as a result. Just don’t make a habit out of it.

beagle drinking water
Image Credit: 584652, Pixabay

Once they’ve gone 24 hours without water, they’ll start to become lethargic. This will likely be accompanied by panting, as the dog will have difficulty cooling themselves off without having had a drink.

After the second day, you’ll begin to see serious symptoms set in. They’ll become extremely lethargic, to the point where they might not be able to move at all. They may also start vomiting or experience diarrhea.

When your dog’s gone three days without water, they’ll basically be at death’s door. At this point, there’s little that can be done for them without veterinary intervention, and even then, it’ll be touch and go. Organ failure will set in before too long, and they’ll need IV fluids to have any hope of survival.

Why Would a Dog Stop Drinking?

There are a few reasons that a dog would stop drinking water. However, for the most part, a dog won’t go more than a day or so without drinking unless something’s seriously wrong.

The most common culprit is a sore mouth or other painful condition. If it’s physically painful for your dog to drink, they’ll naturally avoid doing it as much as possible. Checking their mouth should be your first step to diagnosing the problem.

If everything seems to be fine with their mouth, you may need to get them checked out for other diseases and illnesses. Diabetes, kidney disease, and bladder infections have all been known to put a dog off drinking, so your vet will likely start there.

Sometimes, dogs stop drinking for other reasons, but these will likely be short-term issues. Things such as lack of exercise, fear of the water bowl, and nervousness over being in a new place may cause them to stop drinking. Eventually, though, your dog’s thirst will win out over these reasons.Divider 4

How Do I Get My Dog to Start Drinking Again?

If your dog isn’t drinking due to pain or disease, there’s little that you can do other than take them to the vet to address the underlying issue. You shouldn’t dawdle when doing this either, as you don’t want your dog to go without fluids for long.

Sometimes, the water bowl is the issue, especially if the dog has had negative experiences around it. In that case, moving the bowl or replacing it entirely may do the trick.

pug drinking water from faucet
Image Credit: wriemis, Shutterstock

Your dog may also be hesitant to drink from the bowl because it’s dirty. If it’s been a while since you’ve cleaned it out, you should give it a good scrubbing and start over (be sure to rinse it thoroughly first).

If all that fails, you can try mixing food into the bowl or adding water to their food. Your dog may not be interested in drinking, but if they want to eat, at least you can sneak water into them that way. Some dogs will also drink chicken broth or similar liquids; just make sure you give them a low-sodium option, as too much salt will only exacerbate the problem.

Ultimately, though, if the refusal to drink lasts longer than a day, you’ll likely want to consult your vet.

What Are the Warning Signs of Dehydration in Dogs?

There’s a difference between a thirsty dog and one that’s dehydrated. Here are the signs that your dog’s refusal to eat has shifted from a minor issue to something truly worth worrying about
  • They stop wanting to eat.
  • They’ve become listless and lethargic.
  • They pant excessively, as they’re unable to cool themselves.
  • Their nose and gums are dry to the touch or have begun cracking.

If you notice any of these signs, take your dog to the vet right away. Most of these are warning signs, rather than indicators of impending death, so you’ll want to act while there’s still time to save your dog from long-term damage or death.

Don’t Forget Water on Walks

Many instances of dehydration in dogs occur on long walks, especially during the summertime. Remember that your dog is wearing a fur coat, so they can become overheated much more quickly than you can — and they might not have the good sense to realize it either.

As a result, it’s imperative that you take water with you on walks. It’s less important on short little jaunts, but anything over an hour requires toting along a bottle or two.

There are many bottles that are designed specifically for dogs to use on walks. They’re both easy to carry and for dogs to drink out of, so your pup should stay hydrated with little effort on your part.

Don’t rely on your dog’s ability to find water along the way either. Many water sources that your dog will encounter are full of germs like Giardia, which can cause all sorts of health issues for your pup. It’s better to bring along your own water that you know is clean.Divider 8

Don’t Let Your Dog Run Dry

It’s absolutely essential that you make sure your dog has plenty of water to drink every day. Like humans, dogs can go for weeks without food, but it only takes a few days without water for them to perish.

If your dog is refusing to drink, you should take them to the vet immediately, as there may be an underlying health condition involved. Even if there’s not, your vet can make sure they get fluids in them before there’s any damage to their health.

Nobody likes watching their dog suffer. Having a dog that refuses to drink, though, is an issue that requires immediate action — or else you may not have to watch them suffer for long.


Featured image credit: Pixabay