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Is your dog suddenly very thirsty? Common causes and when to see the vet

Approx. 4 minutes read

Dehydration is a common cause of many human ailments, so we’re constantly being told to drink enough water. The same goes for keeping our pets healthy: always have fresh water available, especially after meals and exercise. But what if your dog suddenly starts drinking lots and lots of water? Let’s see what the problem could be and when you should take your dog to the vet.

What excessive thirst looks like

On a hot day, especially after your playful pup has been running around and living her best life, it’s normal for your dog to drink a lot of water to cool herself down and restore her hydration after plenty of exercise and panting. But if there’s no change in external conditions (weather, diet, exercise or sleeping pattern) and she suddenly starts drinking too much water, it could be a sign of something more serious.

But how much is too much water? Dogs should drink a daily average of 65 ml of water per kilogram of bodyweight. So a 10 kg dog should drink around 650 ml of water per day. A 20 kg dog should drink around 1,3 ℓ of water per day, and so forth. You don’t need to measure this down to the last millilitre – it’s just a guideline to use so you can identify when your dog’s water intake greatly exceeds or falls short of this average.

Too much in, too much out

When a dog drinks more water than they should, it’s called polydipsia. Often this leads to excessive urination, called polyuria. If you’re concerned about your dog’s water-drinking habits, also take note of how often she goes out to pee, and if this happens a lot more regularly, remember to give this information to your vet.

Drinking too much water and peeing excessively are not problematic on their own, but are often symptoms of something a lot more serious, which is why it’s important to take your dog to the vet and let them know of your dog’s new habits.

Conditions for concern

Polydipsia can be a symptom of one or more of the following:

Diabetes mellitus

Diabetes is one of the most common causes of excess thirst. Insulin resistance causes high concentrations of glucose in the blood, which triggers your dog’s thirst as her system attempts to dilute the blood glucose and restore it to normal levels.

Kidney problems

When your dog’s kidneys aren’t functioning like they’re supposed to, there could be a build-up of waste, so your dog is triggered to drink more water to process this waste. She will pee more, but since her kidneys are struggling to concentrate her urine, the waste remains, but the drinking and peeing cycle continues.

Kidney problems could be caused by kidney stones or a kidney infection, and sometimes it’s just old age that impairs your dog’s organ function. Your vet will be able to do tests to determine the problem.

Liver problems

Hepatic problems can also cause your dog’s excessive thirst as her liver fails to process toxins.

Cushing’s disease

If your dog has a tumour on her pituitary gland or adrenal gland, it could cause her adrenal glands to excrete too much cortisol (the stress hormone). One of the common symptoms is excessive water drinking and the consequent peeing. The symptoms of Cushing’s disease or Cushing’s syndrome have a gradual onset and may include a distended abdomen, skin problems, muscle weakness and an insatiable appetite. Take note of your dog’s condition and report any other symptoms to your vet.

Side-effect of corticosteroids

If your dog has been on medications like steroids and diuretics, the polydipsia and polyuria could be a side effect. Keep your vet informed of these symptoms and side effects – take your dog for a check-up just in case.

Other causes of excessive thirst

Your vet will need to perform tests to narrow down the possible causes of your dog’s excessive thirst and urination, but it could also be brought on by:

  • parasites
  • general dehydration
  • fever or infection
  • cancer
  • heatstroke
  • hypercalcaemia
  • vomiting or diarrhoea

Make an appointment with your vet as soon as possible

If you notice your dog’s excessive thirst doesn’t go away when she drinks a lot of water, or she’s draining her water bowl and seeking out water from toilets, drains, birdbaths or water fountains, it’s time to visit the vet. Keep track of your dog’s water intake as well as how often and how much she pees, and any other symptoms that seem out of the ordinary.

A comprehensive list of physical and behavioural symptoms will be helpful to your vet, who will perform blood and urine tests to narrow down the possible cause. Once a diagnosis has been made, the vet will be able to advise you on treatment to help get your furry friend back to her old self or manage her symptoms in the best way possible.

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