Reasons Why Your Dog Won’t Drink Water

Veterinary Emergency Group

Dec 3, 2020

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If you’re a dog owner, you probably have experienced your thirsty friend run over to his water bowl and make a complete mess as he slops up gulp after gulp. As distressing as this can be, it’s even more distressing to see that your dog won’t drink any water. If you’ve noticed that your dog’s water intake has decreased down to almost nothing, you’re probably going to find yourself starting to worry.

Water is an essential part of life for dogs, just like it is for humans. Dogs should consume one ounce per pound of body weight every day to ensure that they are hydrated. This number then doubles when it’s especially hot or after rigorous exercise.

Your dog is at an even higher risk of dehydration when it’s hot than you are because he can’t sweat. The only sweat glands on a dog are on his paws, and those are not enough to keep him cool. The higher risk factor of dehydration comes from their inability to cool their body as quickly. Water is the key to keeping your dog cool, healthy, and happy.

Potential Causes for Why Your Dog Won’t Drink Water

There are a variety of factors that could play a role in why your dog won’t drink water.

Change in Weather

One reason that your dog may not be drinking much water is a change in weather. When fall comes around, many dogs will slow their water intake causing their parents to be alarmed. There’s a good chance they just aren’t as thirsty because of the cooler temperatures. This also goes for if your dog hasn’t gotten much exercise.

Without a high level of exertion, they may not be as interested in slopping up a gallon of water as soon as they reach their bowl. This is completely normal as long as your dog doesn’t stop drinking completely.

Unfamiliar or New Places

If you’re in an unfamiliar or new place, your dog may behave a little different in general. They might not be as lively and may not eat or drink as they normally would. Dogs have very sensitive noses and if they smell a water source that they aren’t used to, their genetic makeup will possibly tell them that it isn’t safe. This was one of their many survival tactics developed centuries ago.

If you’re heading to an unfamiliar place, try bringing a water bottle or bowl from home to make him more comfortable. 

Health Problems

There are also many health issues that can mess with your dog’s water intake. Bladder infections or urinary tract infections are two major culprits of reduced thirst. It could also be diabetes or kidney disease.

If you notice other symptoms like lethargy and lack of appetite, and feel like something might be wrong, it’s important to call your veterinarian and discuss what’s going on. If your vet isn’t available and your dog needs care right away, call an emergency vet immediately. Make sure to keep track of about how much water your dog is drinking so that the vet has an idea of what’s going on.

Old Age

As your dog gets older, he may start to drink less water. It could be because it’s a lot of effort to go into the other room or simply because his thirst and hunger receptors are starting to diminish. Older dogs don’t tend to get the same amount of exercise as younger ones and don’t exert themselves as much. It’s to be expected that your dog won’t drink as much water.

However, if you have an older dog you still need to make sure they’re drinking some water. At this point in their lives, it might be a good idea to switch over to wet food to allow for some water intake that isn’t just lapping it up out of the bowl.

Associate the Activity with a Negative Experience

There are also dogs that may associate drinking water with a negative experience. If you adopt a shelter dog, he may refuse to drink out of the same type of bowl that the shelter provided because he associates it with a negative experience.

There are an abundance of reasons he could have negative feelings. It could also be that he is just truly picky and doesn’t like the type of bowl or the location of it. If you suspect this to be the case, try buying a new bowl that looks totally different and placing it in a new location. This might clear the issue up right away.

Injury in Their Mouth

Another potential reason why your dog won’t drink water is because of an injury in his mouth. Check for splinters, plastic, or rocks in his mouth if you notice that he’s not drinking. It could be something that you can easily remove or you might need your vet’s help.

Teeth Damage

Damage to the teeth could be another reason why your dog won’t drink water. The pain of the cold water on sensitive teeth will make him avoid it.


Anxiety is also a potential reason why your dog won’t drink water. It could be that one of the kids left for college, there’s been a death in the immediate family, or a divorce. In this case, your dog is experiencing severe separation anxiety. That kind of change can really affect your canine companion and he may lose his desire to eat and drink.

If you’ve recently moved into a new house that could cause an issue as well. Your dog will need to get used to new surroundings, new smells, and new sights. It can be overwhelming for them just like it is for us and one reaction might be to ignore his water bowl.

How to Help a Dog Who Won’t Drink Water

Some tricks to getting your dog to consume water are to add a little water to his dry food making it moist. You can also give your pup ice to snack on. Dogs love the crunchy texture and there’s no additional calories! Try a new bowl or a new place to place the bowl to tempt him.

In addition to the tips mentioned above, you can also try offering your dog Pedialyte, low sodium soup broth, or the juice from canned chicken/tuna.

If you aren’t getting anywhere within 24 hours, it’s best to call your vet and discuss what’s going on. They will be able to provide additional advice. You definitely don’t want it to go so far that your dog is totally dehydrated and in need of fluids, which is why you should contact an emergency vet if you can’t see your primary veterinarian right away.

At every VEG location, our emergency veterinarians are available 7 days a week and are fully equipped to help find the underlying reason why your dog won’t drink water. We’ll work with you on the best treatment plan to make sure your dog gets the amount of fluids they need to stay healthy.