Is Your Dog a Heavy Drinker?!
If they are, there might be a problem! An increased thirst can be a sign of several common diseases and should always be checked out by a vet.
A normal animal will drink around 50ml of water per kilo bodyweight every 24 hours. So a 20kg dog should drink about a litre every day. This will vary depending on their diet, with those on dry foods drinking more, and also on the weather but if it starts tipping over this amount, that could be a cause for concern.
There are two ways to test if your dog is drinking too much.
Firstly, you can measure how much they take in. This isn’t always terribly easy, especially if you have several pets who share a bowl or they prefer to drink from puddles and ponds, as many do! However, it is worth doing, even for just a general idea. Take an average over a few days and let your vet know.
The second is for your vet to test their urine. The first wee of the day is the best, both for catching and testing! We don’t need much! It is easiest to use a wide container for collection (like a margarine tub) and then decant it into something smaller for transportation, a jam jar is perfect. Make sure both are clean but they don’t have to be sterile.
Your vet will be able to test the concentration of the urine and from this tell if your dogs water intake is concerning. We are also able to dip stick it (you may have seen the coloured strips being used by your doctor) and look for sugar, blood and various toxins. Sometimes we will extract the sediment and examine it under a microscope. This is helpful if we are concerned about bacterial infections or crystal formation.
In Diabetes, the water intake is huge, many dogs drain multiple bowls a day and they often have accidents in the house because their bladders are so full. Some breeds are more prone than others; Schnauzers, Westies and other terrier types are particularly vulnerable. The disease is easily diagnosed because very high levels of sugar are present in the urine and the blood. The treatment is daily injections of insulin (which isn’t as difficult as it seems!) and the majority of dogs go on to lead full and happy lives.
(Click here to learn more about Diabetes in pets.)
Cushings disease is less common and is caused by the body producing too much natural steroid. This triggers both an increased thirst and appetite, hair loss on the sides of the body and often a pot belly. The urine will be very diluted and initial bloods will show changes in the liver. A specialised blood test is needed to make the final diagnosis and the illness is reasonably easily treated with daily tablets.
(Click here to learn more about Cushings Disease in dogs.)
Kidney failure is thankfully not very often diagnosed in dogs. It causes them to drink more but their appetites often decline and they may vomit as well. It is diagnosed by blood sampling and treatment can involve diet changes, supplements and medication. However, sadly it is often fatal within 6 months of diagnosis.
There are other issues which will cause drinking more; include an infected uterus (pyometra), some kinds of cancer, bladder infections and more unusual hormonal problems and your vet will be able to pick between them using urine and blood tests.
So, it is a very good idea to keep an eye on your dogs drinking habits and if they start to become a bit of a water-holic, give your vet a ring!