Dr Hannah Godfrey BVetMed MRCVS.
Every dog is different, and their drinking and eating habits can vary. However, we get to know our fur-baby’s routine pretty well as pet parents.
So, if they suddenly start drinking more than usual, what does it mean? Let’s find out the medical and non-medical causes of increased thirst in dogs and how you can recognise when your dog needs to see a vet.
When is it normal for your dog to drink more?
Dogs are not unlike humans with their drinking habits. Just like we might drink more water when the weather is warm, so do dogs. Similarly, just as we would reach for water regularly while running a marathon or during exercise, dogs will need more water if they’ve been exerting themselves. Sometimes, though, the cause isn’t apparent, and dogs can drink more because they’re anxious or just out of habit. While these aren’t truly medical reasons, the vet might need to do some tests to rule out non-behavioural causes first.
What medical reasons could cause your dog to drink more?
There are quite a few health conditions that could cause your canine companion to drink more. Diseases affecting the kidneys or the liver will make your dog extra thirsty, but you might also notice them peeing more, eating less, and losing weight. Depending on the type of liver disease, you might even see that they are jaundiced with yellow-tinged skin, eyes, and gums.
Hormonal conditions like Diabetes Mellitus or Cushing’s disease can also cause an increase in thirst, but the symptoms can be quite different. If your dog has Diabetes, they might lose weight, develop cloudy eyes (cataracts), vomit, and eat more or less than normal. On the other hand, if your dog has Cushing’s disease, they’re likely to eat a lot more than usual, become pot-bellied, and pant more than they used to.
Certain medications, especially steroids, can cause your dog to be more thirsty. If your dog is on medication and their thirst changes, it’s worth checking with your veterinarian. Other less common causes of dogs drinking more than usual include conditions causing high calcium levels and Diabetes Insipidus.
How do you know when to worry about your dog drinking more?
If you notice your dog is drinking more than normal, it might not seem obvious whether it’s a problem or not. Perhaps the weather is a little warm, or maybe they went on a few longer walks recently. So, how can you tell for sure whether your dog needs to see a veterinarian for their change in drinking habits? Well, it’s a good idea to measure how much water they drink in a few twenty-four-hour periods. You can then give this information to your veterinarian. They will be able to work out whether your dog is drinking an excessive amount for their bodyweight. If they drink more than 100ml per kilogram that they weigh, their increased thirst is likely due to a medical problem.
What might the vet recommend?
If your dog’s thirst seems excessive, the veterinarian will ask you questions about any other symptoms they might be showing. They’ll also do a complete examination from your dog’s head to their tail and toes! Your vet might recommend a blood test and assess a sample of your dog’s urine. These tests can check for signs of Diabetes Mellitus, kidney infections, kidney failure, or high calcium. However, more specialist tests may be needed to confirm a diagnosis.
If you’re aware of the causes of increased thirst in dogs, you might assume the worst. However, many of the causes are treatable. For instance, Diabetes Mellitus can be controlled with insulin injections and dietary management, and Cushing’s disease can be treated with a drug called Trilostane. Both conditions require lifelong treatment, though.
Increased thirst in dogs isn’t something to be ignored. While many environmental and behavioural reasons could cause your dog to drink more than usual, there are also some medical causes. Many health conditions that cause increased thirst can be treated or managed, but the prognosis is better if treatment is started early. Therefore, if you’re unsure whether your dog is drinking more than they should be, speak to your veterinarian for advice today.