Jump to section

What is Refusing to Drink?

Dogs need to stay well-hydrated, so a dog’s refusal to drink water is cause for concern. You should expect your dog to drink water freely and enthusiastically several times a day. If your dog doesn’t drink for a day or more, and turns its head away when offered water, there is probably a problem. 

  • Aging
  • Tainted water
  • Dehydration
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Oral illness or injury

Water is a basic health requirement. Dogs that go more than a day without drinking may become dehydrated, which is a dangerous condition that may require veterinary care.

Why Refusing to Drink Occurs in Dogs

Drinking water is a cornerstone of any dog’s health, and a disturbance in normal drinking patterns can indicate a wide variety of problems. It is not normal for a dog to refuse to drink.

Aging

While older dogs still need to drink water, and may have problems with staying hydrated, they may not want to use their decreasing energy to get to the water. Older dogs also may not feel as thirsty, as they typically exercise less, and might have an overall lower level of thirst. It may help your dog to provide meals with higher water content, such as switching to canned food instead of kibble. 

Tainted Water

Dogs are very sensitive to their surroundings. They can detect odors and tastes that are imperceptible to most humans. If a dog suddenly refuses water, and does not appear to be distressed in any way, the water should be checked for abnormalities. It may be tainted in some way, such as with iron or dirt. Dogs need clean pure drinking water. 

Dehydration

If your dog is panting or drooling more than usual, has red, dry, or sticky gums, problems with normal coordination, or skin that does not retain its normal moisture and elasticity, your dog may be suffering from dehydration. Strangely, the more dehydrated the dog, the less interested the dog is in water. Dehydration may be a sign of pancreatitis, which is an inflammation of the pancreas. Pancreatitis may be caused by a high-fat or irregular diet, obesity, or diabetes. 

Illness or Injury

While any illness may disrupt a dog’s normal consumption of food and water, urinary tract infections and oral injuries are exceptionally likely to turn a dog away from water. 

Urinary tract infections usually begin in the urethra, then move up to the bladder, sometimes even infecting the kidneys. If your dog does not have a normal flow of urine, such as not being able to stand to urinate, or is holding his urine, has a compromised immune system, or has abnormal concentration of urine, it is more likely to develop a urinary tract infection, possibly leading to infection of the bladder and kidneys. Urinary tract infections are more likely to occur in female dogs, and especially in older female dogs. Symptoms include more frequent urination, urination in the house, painful urination, and blood in the urine. The pain of a urinary tract infection can cause a dog to refuse to drink water. 

Oral injuries can include periodontal disease, tooth root abscess, dislocation, loss or fracture, or mouth cancer. Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection of the mouth, and is very common. Both periodontal disease and tooth root abscess are typically related to poor oral hygiene, while tooth root abscess, dislocation, loss, or fracture occur when there is trauma to the teeth, such as the dog biting something hard enough to break a tooth. Mouth cancer is an abnormal growth in the mouth. Cancers can occur in dogs of any age, but are more likely in older dogs.

arrow-up-icon

Top

What to do if your Dog is Refusing to Drink

Every dog needs to drink water several times a day. This is one of the most basic necessities for a dog’s health. If your dog refuses to drink, your goal should always be for the dog to resume drinking, but your tactics will differ depending on the presumed cause. Issues of aging and clean water can usually be handled with common sense, but dehydration, urinary tract infections, and oral illness and injuries require immediate veterinary attention. 

If your dog is geriatric, or showing signs of being in the later stages of life, you will need to be more proactive about making sure your dog drinks water regularly. Age is not experienced in the same way by every dog; for example, larger dogs tend to age more quickly than smaller dogs. If your dog is over 5 to 10 years old and is having increasing difficulty with normal movements, less tolerance for normal activity, and more health problems of all kinds, then he may be geriatric. A geriatric dog should have water kept closer, with ample opportunities given to drink and closer supervision. To avoid tainted or contaminated water, always make sure that your dog’s water is clean and pure. Wash the dog’s water bowl daily, and refill it with clean water at least once a day.

While a dehydrated dog should drink water or another dog-friendly oral rehydration fluid, it also may need more advanced interventions. You can try saturating the dog with cool (not ice cold) water. If your dog still shows signs of distress, he should be assessed by a veterinarian. Under a vet’s supervision, the dog may receive fluid therapy, such as subcutaneous administration of lactated Ringer’s solution. Pancreatitis may require intravenous (IV) fluid therapy, medicine to prevent vomiting, low-fat meals, and longer-term monitoring of the dog’s condition.

Urinary tract infections require a vet’s immediate attention. If left untreated for any period of time, they can work their way into the bladder and perhaps even the kidneys. They are treated with antibiotics. A tumor will require surgical removal. Sometimes a dog can develop a recurring condition, where the infection becomes resistant to an antibiotic, or comes back repeatedly. In this case, your dog may be prescribed a long term low dosage of antibiotics.

Dogs with oral injuries of all kinds should also be under veterinary care. When you notice an oral abnormality of any kind, take your dog to the vet immediately. A broken tooth can develop an infection, and mouth cancer can be fatal if left untreated. A tooth root abscess can be initially treated by gently brushing the dog’s teeth, applying a compress, and cleaning out the dog’s mouth with salt water, but a vet must supervise the clearing of any kind of pus buildup. The dog’s teeth should be professionally cleaned, and tooth extraction will be required in more serious cases. If a dog has dislocated or lost a tooth, oral surgery will be required, either to replace the tooth if possible, or to clean and suture the missing tooth’s socket. A tooth fracture will require a root canal, vital pulpotomy, or extraction of the tooth. Finally, as with any cancer, mouth cancer can be complicated to treat. The tumor may be removable by surgery, but the dog may also require radiation therapy.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Prevention of Refusing to Drink

To make sure your dog drinks water regularly, always have fresh pure water easily accessible to the dog. Your dog must never be left in a hot confined space, such as a locked car with the windows rolled up. Monitor your dog carefully to familiarize yourself with his regular habits of drinking and urination. To decrease the risk of pancreatitis, avoid fatty foods and maintain a stable and balanced diet for your dog. 

To avoid injuries to your dog’s teeth and mouth, don’t allow the chewing of sticks or other kinds of wood, as these may splinter in your dog’s mouth. Provide safe chew toys and have your dog’s teeth regularly cleaned by a professional. For early detection of mouth cancer, frequently inspect your dog’s mouth for any abnormalities, such as swelling, lumps, growth, and discoloration.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Cost of Refusing to Drink

The cost of treating a dog’s refusal to drink depends on the cause. Making fluids more readily available to an aging dog or dousing a dehydrated dog in cool water cost nothing. Urinary tract infections cost around $350 to treat. Tooth fractures, dislocation, or loss cost an average of $850. Tooth root abscess costs $1200 on average. The cost of treating pancreatitis is $2200. The average cost of treating mouth cancer is $12,000. 

arrow-up-icon

Top

*Wag! may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. Items are sold by the retailer, not Wag!.

Refusing to Drink Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

question-icon-cta

Ask a Vet

dog-name-icon

dog-breed-icon

Bernedoodle

dog-age-icon

Fifteen Weeks

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

thumbs-up-icon

1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea

Threw up a small amount (tablespoon). Then had diarrhea. Then was at 3:30 am. Now at 7:00 he is acting completely fine. Outside running around. Playing. But won’t drink water when offered. But has urinated.

Aug. 7, 2020

Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

1 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. It is possible that your puppy got into something that upset her stomach. If this continues, and there is any vomiting or diarrhea that is becoming a problem, it would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian right away, as puppies are quite prone to infectious diseases and parasites. If this was a one-time occurrence, you should be fine to keep a close eye on her for any further events. I hope that all goes well for her.

Aug. 7, 2020

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

dog-breed-icon

Yorkie mix Chihuahua

dog-age-icon

2 months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

N/A

My puppy won’t drink water at all and pees almost every 10 minutes or less and I am concerned on what is going on

Aug. 4, 2020

Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Ellen M. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

0 Recommendations

Hello, thank you for your question. I am so sorry to hear that your puppy doesn't seem to be feeling well. Without examining your dog, it's very hard for me to know for sure what might be going on. Because your puppy is so little, he or she is at a high risk of low blood sugar. I recommend offering him or her some food, and if they won't eat, spread some Karo syrup or honey on their gums and call the vet right away. Because I'm not sure what might be going on with your puppy and because they are so small, it's best to be on the safe side and call a veterinary clinic or emergency clinic to see if your dog needs to be soon. I hope he or she starts feeling better soon!

Aug. 4, 2020

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

dog-breed-icon

Yorkshire Terrier

dog-age-icon

Five Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Not Drinking

My terrier was rescued from the shelter and he had to have 15 teeth removed. He is eating but he does not seem to be drinking as much. Before the extractions we feed him dry food. Since we have been giving him wet food for the last 12 days and it seems he is not drinking. He is as active as he usually is.

Aug. 3, 2020

Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. There is quite a bit more moisture in wet food than in dry, and he may be getting enough fluids from the food. If you are worried, you can add a little water to the canned food, as well, to get him to drink more water. I hope that he is continuing to recover well!

Aug. 3, 2020

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

dog-breed-icon

Doberman Pinscher

dog-age-icon

Seven Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Mouth Bleeding, Won’T Drink Water, Won’T Move, Yelps When Walking

is there anything to do to prevent the dog from hurting more before his appointment?

July 30, 2020

Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I'm not sure when your dog's appointment is, but I hope it is sooner rather than later. From your description, he sounds like he needs medical attention, and having him seeing right away would be best. If your appointment is not for a while, it may be a good idea to call your veterinarian, let them know the urgency of what is going on, and see if they can see him sooner. If they cannot, it might be best to have him seen at a 24 hour or Emergency Veterinary Clinic. I hope that all goes well for him.

July 30, 2020

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

dog-breed-icon

Terrier mix (maybe schnoodle)

dog-age-icon

Nine Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Not Drinking Water

Rox is believed to have TCC diagnosed in January from the tummy scans done by her doctor. The scans clearly show the tumor(s) on the lining of the bladder. And as of May the tumors were continuing to grow despite the use of Piroxicam. She normally loves cold water, but that’s not doing it either. A week or so ago she was not drinking much and I tried to put something tasty in her water and it didn’t work. She’s eating well. Any suggestions? I feel as though it may be time to let her cross over, but I don’t know. 😞

July 30, 2020

Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, without seeing her, I can't say whether it is time to let her go. That is really a question of her quality of life and how she is doing. If she is doing well, even if she isn't drinking as much water as you want, it may not be time. This would be a conversation that would probably be best had with your veterinarian, as they know her, they know you, and they know the situation. This is a difficult decision at any time, and getting the opinion of a trusted veterinarian is always best. I hope that all goes well for her.

July 30, 2020

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

Raphael

dog-breed-icon

Mixed

dog-age-icon

4 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea
Lethargy
Vomiting
Refuses To Drink Water
Seems To Struggle Standing U
Complete Loss Of Apet

So since it is 2020 the coronavirus has shutdown most countries around the world. The day before our shutdown someone who lives with us brought their dog back from my sisters home (they have a bigger yard but they wanted to bring the dog back because their 4 year old wants to play with him). Two days into the lockdown we realized that both dogs are ill and saw that it is cat flu (parvovirus) from today there are two days left before the vet is open and we can consult them. My dog is severely sick and seems dehydrated and getting worse while their dog has started getting better(they gave him water with charcoal powder). What can I do to rehydrate my dog and get him to start recovering for these two days before something might happen to him

dog-name-icon

Jodi

dog-breed-icon

Yorkie

dog-age-icon

6 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Scared, Staring At Bowl Water,

Jodi is my 6 year old teacup yorkie, for some reason, I dont know, she is scared of drinking water out of the bowl, she will drink spilled water on the floor or if I put my and in the bowl she will drink water, and I can see she was thirsty. But she is scared to drink water as she did before. I am at work most of the day, cant give her water during the day. I have tried different bowls, but she just stares at it.

dog-name-icon

Missy

dog-breed-icon

Shih Tzu

dog-age-icon

11 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Loss Of Thirst

Hello, my dog is having trouble drinking water. She experienced a reoccurrence in HGE last week, and what really made us take her to the vet is when she stopped drinking water after 3 days. I took her back to the doctor and they believe that she is experiencing HGE again, but we caught it in the early stages. They gave her an IV and prescription meds. When she got home, she took a few sips of water and after that day she stopped. I've been mixing water with her food and also giving her Pedialyte. I took her back to the vet and they stated that she is just being picky and it may just be her "preference" now. I switched her diet to a science diet and the only way she eats it is if I add bacon or boil chicken. I noticed that a few times i've put it in her face she would take a few sips and turn her head. She is a pretty happy dog and acts normal. She does have anxiety which I feel behavior can be a factor. Please help

dog-name-icon

Lux

dog-breed-icon

Labrador Retriever

dog-age-icon

10 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Loss Of Appetite
Loss Of Consciousness
Loss Of Mass
Refuses Food
Refuses Water

Refusing to drink or eat and uncontrollable bowels. Our 10 year old lab is refusing to eat or drink. She hasn’t had more than a cup of food in 2 weeks. And drinks a little water rarely (once every 2 days) but always throws it up. She cannot control her bowels. Will try to go outside but nothing comes out and then will go accidentally in the house. We’ve taken her to the vet and they cannot find anything medically wrong with her. Is she just stressed out and making herself worse or is she geriatric? These symptoms just started a couple weeks ago but are not getting Better. We have tried everything, new dry dog food, new canned food, pumpkin, egg, milk, broth, peanut butter, cheese, pedalyte, etc. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

dog-name-icon

Reba

dog-breed-icon

Boxer

dog-age-icon

3 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

thumbs-up-icon

1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Refusal To Drink After Spay Surgery

Our 3year old dog was spayed on Thursday. She spent the night at the vet (per their protocol) and since she came home she has been refusing to drink from her water bowl. The vet sent us home with Meloxicam compound syringes and we gave them to her the first two days after she got home but have since stopped those yesterday in hopes that she will want to drink but so far it hasn’t made a difference. They also gave us Trazadone for pain but we have never given them to her. Her temperament is great and she doesn’t act like she is in any pain at all. She will drink water from a medicine syringe and lick ice cubes without any hesitation (and we are adding water to her wet food per the vet’s suggestion) but absolutely refuses to drink water from her bowl. She almost seems afraid of it. This is a complete opposite from the way she was prior to surgery. We used to have to distract her so she would stop drinking or she would drink so much she would become erpy and vomit it back up. She will eat but not the same amount as prior to surgery. Our vet says this is normal and may take a little longer for her to work back up to her pre-surgery portions. What’s so confusing to us is that her food and water bowls are identical- both are pink plastic bowls. We have tried everything we know to get her to drink from her water bowl- changing the bowl, raising both the new bowl and the old bowl off of the ground, we’ve tried bottled water, tap water, etc and nothing seems to make a difference. The vet also checked her incision today and said that it looks great, her temperature is good, and she is not dehydrated because we have been giving her enough water with the syringes and the wet food. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated!

How can we help your pet?