Pet Health, Pets and Family

Dogs and Water: How Long Can a Dog Go Without Water and Stay Healthy

Dogs, like pet owners themselves, may need to go without water for a period of time. Whatever the cause, whether it be because you have a sick dog that is refusing to drink, you are on a hike and find yourself without clean water, or in another emergency situation. You may have found yourself in this situation and asked how long can a dog do without water?

Brown and white corgi at the beach drinking from a small plastic green water bowl.

Here are the facts related to dogs and water and how much water healthy dogs need to drink to stay healthy. Since water is critical to our dog’s wellbeing and your dog’s body functions and lack of water can be one of many common reasons that dog’s experience several health issues including kidney issues, dehydration and more. So the question really is how long a dog can go without water and stay healthy at the same time since consistent lack of water can create a health issue.

Brindle boxer with white chest enjoying a drink from a water fountain.
Lack of water can be one of many common reasons that dog’s experience several health issues

How Much Does a Healthy Dog Drink?

Clean and fresh water nourishes, cleanses and hydrates all living creatures on earth, including our furry friends.  As a good rule of thumb a healthy adult dog should drink about  8.5 to 17 ounces of water per 10 pounds (55 to 110 milliliters per kilogram) per day, according to Cynthia Otto, DVM, PhD, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s school of veterinary medicine in Philadelphia.

Of course, activity levels, weather, age and disease and health issues can affect the water intake needs of dogs. That is almost 1 ounce of water for each pound of body weight.

A dog’s body needs water for essentially all bodily functions, similar to people, so to avoid health problems and distress as a result of a lack of water it is best to always have a lot of water available at the ready.

Dog Water Intake Calculator Infographic Calculator

Sometimes it is difficult to determine the amount of water dog owners need to drink let along our furry friend, use this handy dog water intake calculator to put that to rest and ensure that your dog is getting enough water. Note that a typical dog’s water bowl is about 16 ounces. In order to get your dog plenty of water it may be necessary for him to drink several bowls of water.

An infographic calculating the amount of water a dog needs to drink in a day to be healthy.  on a blue background with water bottle and water bowl graphics.

How Dogs Drink Water

A dog drinks by lapping water this means they cannot create suction to drink, like humans or elephants and horses do. Instead, dogs must quickly move their tongues down into the water using momentum to bring the water up and into their mouths. Dogs lap, or take up, the water with their tongues curled backward that forces the water into a column and up into their mouths. As they lap, they move their tongues very quickly to build up momentum. 

Virginia Tech researchers discovered the detail of how dogs drink water (what we all have seen a thousand times) by filming 19 dogs of different sizes and breeds as they drank water. They created different laboratory models to measure tongue motion, and the amounts of water taken in to study how dogs raise fluids into their mouths to drink. They discovered that sloppy-looking actions at the dog bowl are in fact high-speed, precisely timed movements that optimize a dog’s ability to acquire fluids.

Small brown white and dark frown beagle dog drinking from a clear glass bowl.
Virginia Tech researchers studies dog’s water intake and tongue mechanisms and also learned the way dog’s drink is different than cats.

What Factors Affect How Much Water My Dog Needs

Many factors affect how much water your dog will drink in day including:

Brown dog drinking water out of a tap outside in the sun.
Many factors affect how much water your dog will need in a day

My senior dog Zooey needs quite a bit more water and overheats a lot quicker than the other dogs in our family.  Be sure to pay attention to dogs with special needs.

How Long Can My Dog Go Without Water?

A healthy dog can go without water about 3 days, however, certain environmental factors or if your dog has any factor that could increase water needs then it could be significantly shorter time period. As you can see from our dog water intake infographic the larger a dog is the more they water they need to consume, this and many other factors including disease, age, weather and other health conditions will affect this timeframe significantly.

Again, a dog can do without water up to 72 hours, which may vary, but the appropriate question is how long can my dog go without water to stay healthy? A dog may go without water for up to 72 hours but not on a regular basis and only in an emergency, plentiful water is a core health requirement for a healthy dog. It is best to always offer your dog clean and plentiful water to avoid dehydration and heat stroke and keep your dog happy and healthy.

How to Ensure Your Dog is Drinking Enough Water

Dogs normally will drink plentiful amounts of fresh clean water that is available without any issue. But if you notice that your dog is showing signs of dehydration there are several ways to ensure that your dog is drinking enough clean and fresh water. A favorite at The Popular Pets is flavored water or flavored ice cubes.  These are easy to make and will cool dogs down.

You can make flavored water with dog bone broth see recipe here and just put the cooled bone broth in ice cube trays in the freezer.  Flavored water is another favorite, as we discuss in our article on making flavored dog water with many different options of flavored water to make water more enticing and stave off dehydration.

Really to ensure your dog has enough water it is about ensuring that you plan.  Bring along a water bottle and bowl just for your furry pal so they are never left without.  Having clean and fresh water available when dogs are at the beach or near ponds and lakes is especially important as without clean fresh water they may try dirty water or salt water which could cause vomiting and further put them at risk for dehydration.

Taking a long a water bottle like this one from Chewy complete with treat storage and poop bags is a helpful way to ensure that you have what you need where ever you are to keep your dog hydrated.

Brown and white corgi at the beach drinking from a small plastic green water bowl.
The best way to ensure dogs are drinking is to bring along a water bottle especially at the beach or other places were dogs are tempted to drink whatever water is available and could get sick.

Symptoms of Dehydration in Dogs

Dehydration and heat stroke are both related to a lack of water. In our article about keeping your dog cool in the summer we discuss heat stroke symptoms and signs of dehydration which can include:

  • sunken eyes
  • loss of appetite
  • lethargy
  • color of urine is darker than normal
  • dry nose
  • lack of appetite
  • loss of skin elasticity, a healthy skin elasticity means that skin when pinched bounces back flat.
  • dog’s gums are lighter in color than normal

A dog that’s dehydrated, or in need of water, may have sticky gums, or his eyes might look a little dry. Depending on how fast your dog loses water, your dog may lose his skin pliability, which is a really concerning sign of dehydration.

Most instances of mild dog dehydration can be managed by providing clean and fresh water from a clean water source or a little flavored water. If dehydration occurs as a result of other problems including vomiting or diarrhea or symptoms progress it may be necessary to get veterinary care. A vet will be able to provide fluids intravenously to ensure your pet gets them quickly and they are absorbed by their body.

As we move into summer it is important to watch for signs of dehydration and overheating in our pets. Pets that are more active, older, thicker coats that live in hot weather will be more prone to dehydration and should be monitored and offered plenty of water.

Could your dog survive in the wild?  Take our Quiz to find out!

Learn more about dogs and navigating life with your dog in Motherpuppin’ Adorable: What to do when your dog is better than everyone else’s 

Dogs and Water FAQs

Can a dog go 10 hours without water?

A dog can go 10 hours without water under normal conditions such provided they do not have an underlying condition, have an illness such as kidney disease which may cause them to need more water, it is extremely hot out or they are recovering from a surgery. Also, note that if this is a one off incident and you learn your dog spilled his water by the Furbo camera he will most likely be fine, however, regular ten hour periods without water may affect your dog’s long term health.

Is it okay for a dog to not have water overnight?

A dog will generally not drink water at night as they are sleeping aside from some breeds that are actually nocturnal like Great Pyrenees so it should be fine to not provide water overnight. Your dog can go up to 72 hours without water but may show signs of dehydration after 24 hours. As clean, fresh water is a staple of good dog health it should always be available to dogs.

How long can a dog go on a walk without water?

Dogs can generally survive up 2-3 days without water but may show signs of dehydration after 24 hours, know that activities such as walking, heat and health issues will shorten the time period your dog can go without water so it is best to always provide clean and fresh water and plan to take a water bottle on your walks.