Water and food are both crucial Your dog's body needs vital nutrients and adequate hydration to fully function. This may lead you to wonder' How long can my dog safely go without food and water?'. Here, our vets in Madison focus on the effects of dehydration in dogs, why water is important, and how long your dog can able to go without water.

What is the importance of water?

Water is one of the most underrated nutrients for dogs. Unlike food ingredients that offer energy, vitamins, and other compounds to support your dog's health, water is often overlooked because its nutrition is more supportive than functional. This means that water itself doesn't supply any nutrients, but it is vital in how nutrients are digested, absorbed, moved, and excreted through your dog's body. Here are a few processes of your dog's body that need water to function properly.

  • Digestion - Water is involved in all parts of digestion. Water in your dog's body helps produce saliva, stomach acids, and bile and plays a role in every stage of digestion.
  • Cell Health - Water is one of the core components of a cell. Without sufficient water in your dog's body, the cell cycle will be hindered, especially cell growth and division.
  • Detoxifying - Water in your dog's system helps to flush out toxins from the bloodstream and during digestion. Harmful toxins and excess water-soluble nutrients will be filtered out through the kidneys and excreted in urine by the water in your dog's body.
  • Temperature - Dogs typically don't mind warm weather, but summer's extreme heat and humidity can lead to a dog quickly overheating. Proper hydration is vital to your dog's natural ability to regulate their body temperature.

How much water should dogs drink?

Water makes up more than 70% of your dog’s body by weight, so your dog needs to maintain this water content by consuming plenty of water every day.

A good guideline for dogs is about an ounce of water for every pound of body weight. So, a 25 lbs. dog needs about 25 oz. of water (or 3 cups), while a 75 lbs. dog needs almost 2 liters of water every day.

There is an exception to this rule. Puppies that are being weaned and transitioning to solid food need to drink around half a cup of water every other hour or so to replace the milk they’re not getting and to keep themselves hydrated. Once your puppy is weaned they will start to need more water, ultimately requiring as much water as a fully-grown dog.

If your dog doesn't seem to be drinking enough water you may begin to wonder 'How can I tell if my pet isn't hydrated?'.

Is my dog dehydrated?

Have you found yourself looking at your dog thinking, how does my dog get dehydrated? Many cases of extreme dehydration in dogs are typically associated with illness or overheating, but a consistent state of mild dehydration can have risks too. It’s helpful to be able to identify signs of dehydration in dogs so that you can take action.

  • Dry nose
  • Dry, tacky gums and pasty saliva
  • Low skin elasticity
  • Dark yellow pee or very little pee
  • Low energy level or lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sunken, dry eyes

If you notice these signs are being displayed by your dog, contact your vet right away to discuss the need for urgent veterinary care, or to receive guidance about how to safely rehydrate your dog at home. If you are wondering 'How can I help my pet stay hydrated?', speak with our veterinary team. They are happy to answer any questions that you may have.

What are the signs of dehydration in dogs?

Some signs may not be as visible as others so you can conduct simple tests to confirm whether your dog is dehydrated or not. First, you can check the elasticity of your pet’s skin by following these steps:

  1. Gently hold a pinch of your pet’s skin close to its shoulder blades. 
  2. Lift the skin, then release it gently.
  3. Observe your pet’s skin as it returns to its position. If your dog is well-hydrated, the skin will quickly stretch back into place. If your dog is dehydrated, it’ll take longer for the skin to return to place.

You can also examine your dog’s gums to check if it’s dehydrated. To perform this test, softly press your pet’s gums with your finger. If your dog is properly hydrated, the area should turn white and then go back to pink almost immediately. The capillary refill takes longer for dogs that lack hydration.

How long can my dog safely go without water?

Typically your dog can survive without drinking water for about 72 hours (three days). However, it’ll show signs of dehydration after the first 24 hours. While this is generally considered to be the case, every dog is different and several variables at play can affect the time frame.

  • Age - Adult dogs need more water per day than puppies do, so a puppy can do without water for much longer than an adult dog. An elderly likely has health issues that could be made worse by dehydration.
  • Health - If your canine companion has health issues, it’s important to make sure they drink water every day, as dehydration in dogs affects every organ in the body, intensifying any illness. Also, a pregnant dog will need to drink plenty of water every day.
  • Weather - If you live in a mild climate, your dog will be fine without water for longer than that same dog living in a hot, dry, or humid environment. More heat means more panting, which means more water loss.
  • Breed - Breeds with big thick coats, more active breeds, and breeds that drool a lot may need more daily water intake to combat normal water loss. The more water your dog loses through daily activities and habits, the more water will need to be replenished. 
  • Lifestyle - If your dog is a lazy house pup, they may be able to endure a longer period without water than a more active dog would. Generally speaking, the more active your dog is, the more frequently they will need water.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you are concerned that they may be showing signs of dehydration, contact our Madison vets right away for urgent care.