What are Some Reasons Why my Dog is Not Drinking Water?

J. Beam
J. Beam
A dog may avoid drinking water because it is unhappy or sick.
A dog may avoid drinking water because it is unhappy or sick.

There are a number of possible reasons why a dog might refuse water, including illness, aging, an upsetting experience, or a change in surroundings or water source. There are also a number of tactics and tricks that can be employed to persuade a dog to drink again. If, however, the cause cannot be established, or the dog cannot be persuaded to drink, the animal should be taken to a veterinarian without delay, as dehydration is a serious condition.

Tap water might not be palatable to your dog.
Tap water might not be palatable to your dog.

Dogs, like humans, need to drink water every day and are at risk from dehydration if they do not do so. They are actually at greater risk than humans because they release heat from their bodies much more slowly. Some of a dog’s body heat is released through the pads of its feet and its nose, but it's body temperature is mostly controlled through panting.

Things to Check

If a dog is not drinking water, the pet's owner could try bottled water instead of tap.
If a dog is not drinking water, the pet's owner could try bottled water instead of tap.

Perhaps the first thing to check if a dog is not drinking water is that the animal is not suffering from an obstruction in the mouth that makes it painful or difficult to drink — sometimes it can be something as simple as a small stick or burr. If the dog is recovering from surgery or an injury, it is not uncommon for it to be reluctant to drink for a while. Switching from dry to wet food may result in a pet drinking less water, as it is getting more moisture from its food. Illness could also be a cause, and if the animal shows any other signs of ailment, such as unusual lethargy, or seems to be in pain, it should be taken to a veterinarian. If none of these seem to apply, the reason could be psychological, rather than physical.

Unfamiliar Places and Smells

Switching from dry to wet dog food might help a dog get more water.
Switching from dry to wet dog food might help a dog get more water.

Many dogs will avoid drinking water in strange places because the water smells different from what they are used to at home. These animals have an extremely acute sense of smell, and just a small difference in the composition of the local water may be very noticeable to them. Although dogs may seem unfussy about water quality — they will often drink out of ponds and puddles, for example — they may be very suspicious of anything that smells unfamiliar. It might be a good idea to try giving the dog bottled water instead of tap water.

Upsetting Experiences

Like humans, dogs need to drink water everyday.
Like humans, dogs need to drink water everyday.

Sometimes, a change in surroundings in itself can have an upsetting effect on an animal. Some dogs are quite adaptable and will settle in to new accommodation very quickly. Others, however, may be nervous or very set in their ways, and will initially be unhappy in their new surroundings. Usually, if this is the case, the pet will settle down and start drinking again after a day or two.

If a dog is acting like it's in pain, it should be taken to a veterinarian.
If a dog is acting like it's in pain, it should be taken to a veterinarian.

A change in circumstances at home can also cause this problem. Such changes might include the pet having to spend more time on its own due to a change in working patterns, or someone leaving the home permanently. Often, an animal that is lonely or upset will refuse to eat or drink. Again, it may settle down after a day or two, when it has become used to the new routine.


Lonely dogs may refuse to eat or drink.
Lonely dogs may refuse to eat or drink.

An older dog may also avoid drinking water. It could simply be that getting to the water requires too much effort, or the dog's sense of thirst may be diminishing along with its appetite. Older dogs especially need to maintain adequate hydration levels, so if drinking seems to be an issue, switching to a moist food might help. This not only provides extra water, it may be easier for an aging animal to eat. It is, however, best to consult a veterinarian before changing dog foods.

Persuading a Dog to Drink

There are a number of ways of persuading a reluctant dog to drink, some of which are surprisingly straightforward. Simply changing the position of its water bowl may sometimes work. Another solution that is often effective is mixing wet dog food with water. Even if the pet will not drink from its bowl, it may happily drink water from its owner’s cupped hands. It is also worth making sure that the water bowl is clean; if in doubt, giving it a good scrub with baking soda and water may help.

If the dog is has recently had surgery or an illness, proper hydration is important to the recovery process. In any circumstances, a dog should drink regularly. If gentle coaxing and encouragement do not produce results, moistening the animal’s regular food with water may work. If the dog cannot be made to drink, it should be checked by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

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Discussion Comments


I have a Springer Spaniel who had an emergency hysterectomy 3 days ago; her uterus was very enlarged and was removed. Since then she has barely eaten and isn't drinking.

She was in a lot of pain and has been back to the vets who have upped her medication but she is still not drinking. She is also terrified of going to the vets so it is very traumatic for her. We have tried giving her water in a syringe and using our hands but have only managed to get a few drops in her. Not sure what to do now.


My pitpull is a very active dog and for the last two weeks he has been very finicky about his water. He's only taking in minimal amounts. I got nervous and tried everything from hand feeding, to bottled water, to purified water, to different bowls.

In the end, I know my dog loves certain things. So I boiled water with some slices of chicken. This creates a broth with fragrance that he loves. I boiled up a huge pot. He drank all of it. So give that a try and I wish you and your family well.


My 11 year old miniature poodle started vomiting two days ago. Since then she doesn't want to eat anything (even her most favorite treats) and doesn't want to drink any water either (two days now). She licks the carpet and when we put her outside to do her thing, she pees very little and only wants to eat grass. These two things are causing her to vomit more. She also seems very confused and out of touch. What could be wrong with her? Please help soon.


@anon309717: You want a tip on keeping your American Bulldog happy? Bring her inside, train her, play with her and give her attention. Dogs are social creatures and are not meant to be chained up outside. That is also why she has probably been through a lot of depression. They need to be with their people.


I rescued a staffie and she will only drink outside and even though we put fresh water out she will usually only drink rain water that gathers around the house. Strange but beautiful creature.


My dog Elsa is two years old and is a lab/hound mix. She is very athletic. But to tell you the truth: sometimes I wonder how my best friend is even living, as mean as it sounds. We never see her drink water and if she ever eats a bowl of food, the next two days she won't touch or even go near food. We have tried everything from buying so many different expensive "high quality" organic dog foods from trying to make our own dog food with recipes of various meats, fishes, veggies and brown rice. Ever since she was a puppy, she's hated water. I thought it was an instinct for any living thing to drink water if they pant or are feeling hot.

She can play for hours at a time, running at full speed in the hot sun and come home and not take even one sip of her water. She has always been like this, so this is not something new. She weighs 40 pounds. We worry about her all the time but at the same time she is so hyper, energetic and people always say she looks so healthy with a shiny coat and perfect body weight. It really is a confusing situation.

I don't think she will ever change and even the veterinarian said she looked so healthy. So it may be normal for some dogs to rarely drink water and eat such small amounts of food? I don't know if I can ever accept that conclusion.


I have a seven-year old westie. Today, I noticed that he kept licking water from his bowl, but actually not (or can not) drinking. He was trying really hard to drink for more than five minutes! It seems like he can't drink. Any idea why he can't drink? Can it be due to hot weather?


My dog drinks one gulp of water for two days, and does not even take one bite of her food. She is an outdoor dog, and it is winter time, so she needs to get that water in her system because she needs the calories.

She is an American Bulldog, and her favorite time of the year is the summer when all of the kids are outside and my dad puts her on a chain so she can't run away. Then she will eat and drink water. She has never been sick before, and she has been through a lot of depression. She is 5, so she is still very young. Help! I need tips on how to make her happy.


I have a male mini Dachshund, "Shakespeare" that is almost three years old. He was very sick, not eating/drinking, had diarrhea, then began passing blood and vomiting.

I took him to the ER immediately and he was very dehydrated, has giardia, and HGE (Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis). He had several tests run (x-rays, blood work, barium series) and during the barium series, it showed his stomach wasn't emptying out into his intestines, so therefore they had to do an abdominal exploratory on him to find out why and drain the barium. He was in the hospital three days.

He had surgery on Friday and I brought him home on Saturday. He has been eating a special I/D wet food until today (Monday), and is now starting plain boiled chicken and rice, but he will not drink a drop of water. He refuses it. Is this normal?

I've been giving him a 50/50 mixed syringe of water and pedialyte a few ml at a time. He won't take but a couple of syringes a day, at best. I figured it was because of the wet food, but am still uncertain, because he hasn't been eating a whole lot of the wet food, but his appetite is healthy. I'm just worried about my little boy.

Also, where he had his abdominal surgery, he is glued and has staples. On Saturday, the day after surgery, he just had very very minimal bruising so, so tiny, but it keeps spreading, and today it's significantly larger and there is one spot that is a lot darker red than the rest. Is this normal as well? Thank you so much. I wish everyone and their pets well! --Angel


My 11 year old dog will eat his food but will not drink any water. When he urinates it smells like burning rubber. Any ideas?


mix wet food with water. It works every time. something in the wet food just makes dogs and cat go nuts. my lab cost me $900 and came home and ate but was not drinking. i mixed water with wet food and she went nuts, had two bowls of water. I mix about 8 cups of water to one can of wet dog food. She still won't drink water alone yet, but it's only been three days. She will drink water alone after a nice run around the block. but wet food with water works great.


My dog is a two year old miniature poodle. She hasn't drank water in two weeks. she has been panting a lot. she has recently recovered from a upset stomach, but she still doesn't poop regularly.

I'm worried. i tried broth, bouillon cubes and ice. With her stomach she will eat chicken and rice but not her puppy food. please leave suggestions.


My dog hadn't drunk for two days and as it is a hot day, i rubbed some cold water into her gum and used a medicine spoon and gave her 2ml of cold water. After this she then started drinking normally. I have used this methods many times and it has almost always worked. This is just a tip. I wanted to share; however, it doesn't work on all dogs.


I simply added can his usual canned chicken and rice ground into his bowl and submerged it in water. He drank the water first then ate the food!


I have a six year old Rottweiler. In a week her health has diminished. She went to the vet with a bad leg and it turned up blood. I took her in and she had a problem with a ligament in her leg. She was put under a general anesthetic to have the x rays. After this she came home and was really unwell. She was sick and had diarrhea for two days and then was bringing up blood.

We took her to the vet immediately and she had a gastrointestinal hemorrhage and had to stay there for three days with lots of antibiotics painkillers and drugs. She was put on a drip as she was severely dehydrated.

She came home and seems to have has perked up and the vet said she's getting better. However, she has not drunk anything for four days and I'm really worried about her. When she was sick she drank a lot and i think she associates water with being sick but I'm not sure. I've tried everything and nothing has worked. I'm in desperate need of help as i love her so much and don't think she'll survive if she gets ill again.

Even though she hasn't drunk anything she's still been urinating. Please help. --Cassie (a very worried owner)


I have a labrador pup of one month old. he eats his food happily but does not want to drink water. what should i do? Please help.


My dog stopped drinking when she took Meloxicam. Kidney failure is what happened due to this drug. Vets need to be more careful and weigh out the positive and the negative. She had warned about diarrhea but not kidney failure. Otherwise I would not have agreed to try this medication.


Lilly: Have they done lab work? That is the way one of our dogs acted a while ago and he turned out to have Addison's disease. If his chloride levels are low and the potassium is high then it is a great guess. It is not curable but it is treatable.


My dog (five lbs) is 18 years and eight months old. She has stopped drinking. She eats baby food six times a day, still has normal bowel movements and urine. She is alert, but likes to sleep. I am giving her IVs once a day (this has been going on for 20 days). She drinks if I feed it to her in a syringe. What can I do to get her to drink?


anon96291 -- i have a ten year old rottie shepard mix that would not eat, was depressed, and actually recently had to put him down. take your dog to the vet ASAP. mine had kidney failure and they put him on antibiotics but i heard it's very common for shepards to get it and they usually don't live past ten. i'm so sorry to say, but really you need to take him or her to the vet and try to save him or her before it is too late. good luck, i hope all goes well!!


I have a three year old golden doodle. She was fighting allergies when our lawn was sprayed, and stopped eating/drinking. Two days at the vets on IV and some tests revealed nothing. I think she was poisoned by what was sprayed on our lawn. She's eating again, but not drinking and I think she's getting dehydrated again. She will drink from my hand - little sips, but not enough to sustain her. Suggestions? Help!


i have a 10 year old german shepherd who won't eat or drink. seems to be unhappy as well. what can i do?


My seven year old dog had a dental cleaning and extractions five days ago and she is doing very well. I had to switch her to wet food because of the extractions and have noticed in the last day or two that she doesn't want any water. Is that because she is on the wet food as opposed to her normal dry food? Thank you, janet


I had the same issue with my two years Shih Tzu that I adopted five days ago. She drank water the first day we got her home but denied it the next day.

I took her to the vet and he said it's because I switched her from dry food to wet (canned) food. He told me to give her milk diluted with water and it worked. She didn't drink a whole lot but at least it's a progress.


I got a new puppy yesterday. He is a five month old beagle. He won't eat or drink. He jumps at every noise. How do i make him feel more more at home.



I have a fox terrier and it's only seven weeks old. he eats, though he hardly has any water. Lately i mixed milk and water together and she seems to drink a bit more. Please any suggestions to make her drink a good amount of water? I've had her for only two days. please help. Thank you, Shenay


My dog is not able to close his mouth for the last week. That's why he can't eat or drink anything? I am giving him saline everyday, but he is very weak. His age is 9-10. Doctors are saying that it is because his neck bone is fractured? Can anyone please give me advice me on this? How can I help him recover soon?


To Whom It May Concern:

I am very concerned for my sister's puppy - he does not want any water. He has been like this since the weekend and my sister has taken him to two clinics/hospitals; unfortunately, they have not helped. They have taken 5 x-rays which seem fine. However, I can not believe that they do not know what is wrong with him.

He has been eating very little - baby food. I am worried and was wondering if you can help with advice and/or where to take him. I would like to know of a good, honest and reputable Vet in and or around Danvers, MA.

Thank you,


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    • A dog may avoid drinking water because it is unhappy or sick.
      A dog may avoid drinking water because it is unhappy or sick.
    • Tap water might not be palatable to your dog.
      Tap water might not be palatable to your dog.
    • If a dog is not drinking water, the pet's owner could try bottled water instead of tap.
      If a dog is not drinking water, the pet's owner could try bottled water instead of tap.
    • Switching from dry to wet dog food might help a dog get more water.
      Switching from dry to wet dog food might help a dog get more water.
    • Like humans, dogs need to drink water everyday.
      Like humans, dogs need to drink water everyday.
    • If a dog is acting like it's in pain, it should be taken to a veterinarian.
      If a dog is acting like it's in pain, it should be taken to a veterinarian.
    • Lonely dogs may refuse to eat or drink.
      Lonely dogs may refuse to eat or drink.