How to encourage dogs to drink water for healthy hydration

On a hot summer's day, there’s no better feeling than sipping on a glass of cold and refreshing water - especially after a long walk or run in the park!

Water is hugely important for good health, and it's no different for our furry friends.

The problem is, not all dogs are as keen to frequently lap up water, and a reduced water intake can quickly lead to dehydration and sickness.

So if you find your dog not drinking water throughout the day, it's important to try to get to the root cause and do your best to promote healthy water drinking habits. 

To help with this, we've put together a list of ways you can gently encourage your dog to drink water during the summer months.

How to get a dog to drink water:

  1. Clean water bowls
  2. Daily exercise
  3. Increase access
  4. Ice cubes & frozen treats
  5. Positive reinforcement
  6. Mix water in their food 
  7. Trial flavoured water 

Dog Not Drinking Water and Staring At Bowl. Photo Credit: FreeSplash, Canva

How much water should a dog drink a day?

Generally speaking, a dog should drink between 40 - 60 ml of water per kg of body weight per day.

However, according to Purina (a leading global organisation made up of expert nutritionists, scientists and veterinary professionals), the exact amount of water a dog needs varies, depending on their:

  • Diet
  • Physical activity levels
  • Size

Why won't my dog drink water?

There are a number of reasons why you might find your dog drinking less water than they usually do.

As soon as you notice a reduced thirst, it's important to try to identify the cause to help encourage healthy hydration. 

If you notice your dog drinking less than usual, it could be because: 

  • They’re in unfamiliar surroundings: Just like us, dogs can feel unsure and nervous when they’re placed in environments they aren’t used to. It’s common for dogs to eat and drink less when they first go to stay with friends, in kennels or at doggy daycare. 
  • They’re getting older: As dogs start to age and move into the senior stage of their life, it’s common for them to show a reduced thirst and appetite. Not only do they have less energy, their receptors start to weaken. Despite this, it’s important to provide your golden oldie with the best dog food for senior dogs, and make sure they sip on enough water each day. 
  • Their water bowl is dirty: In the same way that we wouldn’t enjoy drinking dusty, muddy water, dogs are far more likely to want to drink fresh and clean water. An unclean bowl is not only a drinking deterrent, it’s also a health hazard.

Owner Helping Dog to Drink More Water. Photo Credit: Felix Blieck, Unsplash

Checking for signs of dehydration:

When a dog isn’t drinking enough water, it’s important to check for signs of dehydration. One way to do this is to check the colour of their gums. 

If you notice that your dog’s gums are red in colour, this could be an indication that they have a high temperature or are suffering from heatstroke. If their gums are blue, their may be a shortage of oxygen in their body tissues. 

Another way to identify dehydration is to gently pinch the skin on their back and lift it very slightly so as not to cause pain.

When you let go of the skin, it should fall back to place quickly. When a dog is dehydrated, their skin will slowly move back into position. 

How to get a dog to drink more water: 

If you’re worried about your dog not drinking enough water, there are steps you can take to encourage them to drink more. 

Ensuring your pup gets the right dog nutrition is an important part of responsible pet ownership - and that includes making sure they stay hydrated.

So while these steps are a good starting point to get a dog to drink water, if you don’t notice any changes you must contact a veterinarian for expert advice. 

1. Make sure the water is clean and fresh 

As mentioned before, your dog’s water bowl should be replenished with fresh, clean water several times a day.

A dirty water bowl could be the reason behind their reduced thirst, and in this instance, it’s a quick fix to help with hydration! 

Change the water throughout the day and be sure to wash the bowl thoroughly with warm, soapy water before topping it up with water for the night,. 

2. Ensure they get plenty of daily exercise

Physical activity can encourage dogs to drink water and quench their thirst! Because long walks or runs require more energy, even the best runner dogs will need to rehydrate after a big exercise session. 

However, if your dog is not drinking water for a prolonged period of time, this is not necessarily the right course of action.

Exercising a dehydrated dog can have disastrous consequences, so always err on the side of caution and keep their health in the front of your mind. 

3. Increase their accessibility

While most dogs tend to have one bowl for food and one for water, it can be a good idea to place multiple water bowls around the house when a dog won’t drink water. 

During the summer months when the weather is warmer, it’s important to research how to help a dog stay cool as this is something that they may be struggling with. 

When your dog is hot and bothered, it’s likely to have less energy than normal. For lethargic dogs, easy access to water can be a good way to encourage them to drink without having to move too far from their chill spot. 

💡 Top Tip: Think about areas of your home that your dog enjoys relaxing. Whether it’s lying by your shoes, under your feet or at the end of the couch, these are ideal places to put down a water bowl and encourage them to drink more. 

Dog Water Bowl By Front Door for Easy Access. Photo Credit: SolStock, Canva

4. Consider ice cubes and ice lollies

Ice cubes and frozen treats like dog ice lollies can be a great way to encourage dogs to drink water without actually drinking water. 

As well as boosting hydration, they can also be great for helping dogs stay cool on a hot summer day. 

Whenever you give your dog an ice cube, it’s vital to make sure that the cube is the correct size for your dog’s size to avoid choking. 

5. Provide plenty of positive reinforcement

Dogs thrive off positive reinforcement and more often than not your pup will be eager to please you!

With this in mind, one of the best ways to encourage dogs to drink water is to provide lots of verbal praise each time they head to the bowl and take a drink.

After they lap up water, you can praise them happily and even give them a treat to indicate good behaviour. 

6. Add small amounts of water to their food

While some dogs eat less in summer, you might find your dog eating but not drinking water.

And if they still have a healthy appetite, you can use this to your advantage to encourage hydration.

When feeding a dog dry food, it’s even more important for them to drink the right amount of water throughout the day. This is because unlike wet dog food, dry kibble only contains around 20 - 30% water. 

To increase hydration when a dog won’t drink, you might want to consider adding water to their food bowl and leaving it for 5 - 10 minutes to allow the water to be absorbed.

Because wet food has a higher moisture content than kibble, if you find your dog’s reduced thirst to be a prolonged problem you should consider contacting your vet for advice about switching food.  

7. Trial flavoured water

In the same way that we tend to have a preference of still, sparkling or flavoured water, dogs can also be fussy when it comes to the type of water they enjoy drinking most. 

If you feel the reason behind your dog not drinking might be because they’re indifferent towards the taste, you can consider adding one or two flavoured ice cubes to their bowl. 

If you’re not sure what to flavour it with, some good ideas can include: 

  • Bone broth 
  • Chicken broth 
  • Tuna juice 

Just make sure that the content of these water flavourings are low in sodium, as high levels of salt can in fact worsen dehydration. 

How to trick your dog into drinking water: 

Another clever way of tricking a dog into drinking water is to take your dog outdoors and turn water drinking into a fun game. 

We all know that dogs love to play, so appealing to your pup’s playfulness can be a great way to encourage them to drink water, without them even realising it! 

To trick your dog into drinking water using this method, you’ll need a gentle water hose or sprinkler system. As you spray the water in short spurts, encourage them to come forward and try to bite it. 

How To Trick A Dog To Drink Water With Fun Games. Photo Credit: Jack Geoghegan, Unsplash

More often than not, you’ll find that your dog will start to prance and jump around the water, opening their mouth to try to catch the water as it shoots from the sprinkler. 

When they do so, it’s important to encourage them with rewards like dog toys, yummy treats and plenty of verbal praise. 

By engaging in interactive fun games, your dog will also be benefitting from the mental and physical stimulation needed for a high quality of wellness. 

National Pet Hydration Awareness Month: 

July is National Pet Hydration Awareness Month, a time when pet owners are encouraged to think about their pet's drinking habits and learn about the common signs of dehydration. 

Get involved by helping to spread the word, and encourage fellow dog parents to do the same!

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