Excessive Drinking in Dogs (Polydipsia): Why Is My Dog Unusually Thirsty?

Why is my dog drinking so much?

Since you’re asking that question, the issue isn’t really how much your dog drinks but that they are drinking more than they usually would, correct? Because it is the change that it’s significant, not necessarily the amount of water they consume.

How much water your dog needs depends on their size, diet, activity, and even the environment. There might be a perfectly natural reason for your dog to drink more, and it might be a reason for concern. (A simple rule of thumb is that if your dog drinks more than 100ml/Kg body weight/day, they are drinking too much.)

Excessive Drinking in Dogs (Polydipsia): Why Is My Dog Unusually Thirsty?

I talked to a friend about her dog’s post-op issues after surgery for her knee injury. During our discussion, she mentioned that they noticed that her dog’s urine was clear, with no color to it at all in the snow. She asked whether it was something to worry about.

I asked if her dog was drinking a lot. It turned out that her dog had been unusually thirsty and drinking copious amounts of water since her surgery three months ago!

That was a red flag. So I sent the friend to a vet. There they learned the pup’s kidneys were in trouble.

Unfortunately, just because you’re working on one particular problem, it doesn’t mean there can’t be another.  Furthermore, what you’re doing to fix the problem can cause new ones–such as NSAIDs my friend’s dog was getting, were messing up the kidneys.

What constitutes excessive drinking?

On a hot day, after running around and playing, your dog is going to be very thirsty. Drinking more under such circumstances is normal and even encouraged. If your dog’s tongue starts getting covered by sticky streaks of saliva, they are getting dehydrated.

A dog on dry kibble needs to drink more than a dog on a diet with higher water content.

If your dog’s urination habits are normal and the urine is yellow, then it is likely that the amount of water they drink replenishes water lost through panting and exercise.

If your dog pees more than usual and the urine is very light in color or colorless, then the water intake is high. The next step is to find out why.

Why would my dog drink excessively?

Excessive thirst is the body’s attempt to balance fluids–either because they are being lost or because of increased concentrations of things such as blood sugar or cortisol.

Depending on other symptoms, excessive drinking can be a sign of severe, life-threatening conditions, including

  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Cushing’s Syndrome
  • Addison’s disease
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • Uterine infection
  • Hyperthermia
  • and other serious conditions

Certain drugs, such as steroids, can also make your dog more thirsty and hungry than normal.

Excessive drinking is a sign of an internal battle. The body is trying to sort out a serious problem, and more likely than not, it won’t be able to do it without help.

When in doubt, err on the side of caution.

When your dog’s drinking habits change without an obvious explanation, such as hot weather, take it seriously.  The least you can do is to have your dog checked out. Don’t forget to bring a urine sample, too; ideally, first-morning pee. (If you can’t get the sample immediately after collection, keep it in the fridge.)

Early diagnosis can mean the difference between treatment success or failure.

Never withhold or limit water.

Preventing your dog from drinking and peeing so much might make you feel better, but it won’t help your dog in any way. On the contrary–it puts their health at risk. Remember, they are drinking so much because that’s what their body is telling them to do.

Related articles:
Changes in Urination/Urinary Accidents

Further reading:
The ins and outs of polyuria and polydipsia

Categories: Excessive drinkingExcessive thirstSymptoms

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Jana Rade edited by Dr. Joanna Paul BSc BVSc

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience. Dr. Joanna Paul BSc BVSc is our wonderful sponsor and has been kind to edit and fact-check my important articles.

  1. FiveSibesMom

    Water is so important. When my one husky who had epilepsy was put on medications, his intake of water increased, but that became his new norm, and the color of his urine changed. So I kept an eye on that. And when my other Husky was drinking a lot, and hence peeing a lot, she was diagnosed with a UTI… as you said, changes in water intake are important and can be significant. I have one Husky who is a bit of a lazybones Husky and drinks a gallon when she finally decides to get up! But…that has always been normal for her! All vet health check-ups A-OK! Pinned your post to share.

    • Yes, sometimes there is an obvious reasons, such as certain types of medications. But when there is not, it is important to figure out what the reason is. Thank you for sharing.

  2. My vet also always asks about my dog’s appetite and water intake at every visit. Since she does that, it has trained me to be more observant about how much water they are drinking.

  3. Almost the same for cats. I’m more aware of the amount of water my cats drink because of Truffle’s surgery last year to remove bladder stones. I keep several pet fountains around the house so they can have filtered moving water to drink. I also monitor their litter box more closely.

  4. Marjorie Dawson

    There seem to be a lot of things that would bring about this in a dog. For cats I know it sends out alarm bells for kidneys first and foremost so our cats would be off to the vets so far they would have time to squeek.

    I like your ‘want is excessive’ comment. A vet once told a group of us that you need to know what is ‘normal’ for your pet. That way any deviations can be judged and acted upon.

  5. dachshundstation

    Thank you for this article. It is so important to pay attention to our dogs habits and be sure to take them to the vet when there is an irregularity when eating, drinking, or going potty.

  6. Great advice. Whenever one of my animals, dog or cat would drink too much water I would obviously first determine if weather was a possible cause. If not, and it never was, it was off to the vet for a checkup, and blood/urine tests. Too many illnesses have excessive drinking as a sign.

    • Yes too many do. And with an intact female, for example, increased drinking might be the only early warning sign one would see.

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