Dogs – Water Requirements

We all know we have to drink fluids to stay hydrated, and perform well. That’s common sense.

But what about the dogs? What do they need to drink, and how do we give it to them?

Water is a vital component of cells and body tissue, to the point that mammals are considered at least 70% water. And in fact, when considering fluid requirements, an equivalent of one kilo of body weight to one litre of water is used.

So …. I weigh 20 kg. My body contains around 20 litres of water. Every day, I lose some, I gain some. I get quite a lot from my food, but on average I need to drink about 50ml for each kilogram I weigh. This means 20 (kg) x 50 (ml) = 1000ml = 1 litre.
I need to drink one litre a day to maintain my hydration – on a quiet day. When I’m busy (training, searching, working out) I’ll need more. I’ll also need more if I have a fever, if the ambient temperature is high, and if my diet is mainly dry food.

So how do you know if I’m dehydrated?

Firstly, in an active situation in warm temperatures, assume I probably am. I’ve got better and more interesting things to do than drink!  Check my gums. Lift my upper lip and touch your fingertip to the gum over my teeth. Is it moist or tacky (sticky?) Tacky gums are one of the first signs of dehydration. (Take no notice of my nose – a wet/dry nose means very little!). If I look a bit sad and flat, or things have been full-on, grab a pinch of skin over my shoulders. Lift it up and then let go. It should drop back down in 1-3 seconds. If it takes longer, I’m getting seriously dehydrated and drinking a bit more isn’t enough. I need someone to give me fluids.


By mouth – offer me water. I may not drink enough to rehydrate, but hey – my mouth will taste better.
Under the skin. Subcutaneous fluids (sub-cut, S/Q) get a lot of fluid into me, but it may take me some time to absorb them to where they’re needed. Be very careful about hygiene, and only use isotonic (same concentration as body fluid) solutions to avoid
serious damage. In the vein. IV fluids are rapidly assimilated and redistributed. They need to be given under supervision – too fast and they can kill.

Best advice

Know your dog, know its fluid requirements, and know some tricks to get it to drink when the heat is on.
Water is the fluid of choice. Dogs don’t need Powerade. Sometimes flavouring the water may make them
drink more, but clean, fresh water is what most dogs need.