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What is Thirsty?

Dogs cool themselves by panting, and, often, any moisture present in their mouths will evaporate during panting, causing them to become thirsty. Dogs can replace this moisture by drinking appropriate amounts of water at will. Sometimes, dogs will take in an excessive amount of water, seeming to never quite quench their thirst. This is known as polydipsia. Excessive thirst can be caused by a number of things, including:

  • Kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Hypercalcemia
  • Pyometra
  • Cushing’s disease

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Why Thirsty Occurs in Dogs

In order to determine if your dog is drinking too much water, it must first be established what exactly is normal water intake for a healthy dog. General guidelines say that a normal dog will drink between 20 to 70 ml of water a day (roughly one cup of water). It is also important to note at this point that bored puppies or water-loving breeds (for example Labrador Retrievers, Poodles, Irish Water Spaniels) may have a tendency to drink more water. You know the amount your dog normally drinks; if you believe it is excessive, take note of your dog’s symptoms and see your vet. Other behaviors to watch for include increased urine output, changes in drinking behavior (attempting to drink from the toilet when this behavior has not been present before), and housebreaking accidents (especially if the dog had been good about bathroom habits before). 

Kidney Disease

In addition to excessive thirst, dogs experiencing kidney failure will exhibit pale colored urine, a swollen stomach (due to fluid retention), vomiting, diarrhea, and a lack of appetite. The symptoms of kidney disease often mimic those of a bladder or urinary infection. A vet should examine your dog and run tests to determine if a simple infection is causing your dog to drink excessively or if something more serious is the culprit. 

Diabetes

Diabetes is often characterized by both excessive thirst and an increase in appetite. Your dog may begin to urinate more and lose weight even though he is eating more than normal. This is because the body is no longer metabolizing carbohydrates properly. If you notice an increased appetite for both food and water along with lethargy in your dog, see your vet so that she can perform lab tests.

Hypercalcemia (high blood calcium)

High blood calcium in dogs occurs when the body does not properly metabolize calcium, and kidney damage or failure can result if left untreated. 

Pyometra

Pyometra is a uterine infection in unsprayed females. After several “heat” cycles where the female does not experience pregnancy, the lining of the uterus can thicken significantly and cause an infection. This infection can causes changes in appetite and water intake. Older females often have trouble with pyometra, but it can present in younger dogs as well. 

Cushing’s Disease

Is your dog older? Have you noticed him gaining weight or experiencing lethargy? Cushing’s disease exhibits these symptoms as well as delayed wound healing and a noticeable change in your dog’s coat will become apparent as well. His coat may become brittle and dull. Dogs ten years or older are at risk for Cushing’s. Several breeds including Beagles, Boston Terriers, Boxers, Jack Russell Terriers, Labrador Retrievers, Poodles, Dachshunds, Scottish Terriers, German Shepherds, Yorkshire Terriers, and Golden Retrievers are particularly at risk for Cushing’s. Cushing’s has no cure, but the sooner you get your dog in to see the vet and get treatment, you will see a more successful outcome.

What to do if your Dog is Thirsty

If you notice that your dog is experiencing excessive thirst, it is best to see a vet for lab work and diagnosis. The veterinarian will want to reach a diagnosis on a rule out basis; laboratory results will eliminate causes for thirst with the evaluation of specific markers. For example, Cushing’s disease may show high blood sugar and lower blood urea nitrogen in the results. Pyometra may be indicated in a high white blood cell count.

Prevention of Thirsty

Keep in mind that with kidney disease, symptoms often do not show until a majority of the kidney’s function is compromised. With this in mind, feed your dog a high-quality, nutritionally-balanced diet, keep toxins such as certain plants and household cleaners out of reach, and make sure that your dog has ample access to water. To prevent diabetes, make sure that your dog gets ample exercise. High-quality nutrition is a must as well. To prevent hypercalcemia, make sure your dog drinks a healthy amount of water, and if she is taking medications that include calcium (such as alkaline antacids), make sure the vet keeps a check on the amount of calcium in her bloodstream. To best prevent pyometra, have female dogs spayed before they go through their first estrus; however, if you plan to breed your dog, be sure to track her cycles and keep a record of any changes in her behavior. Unfortunately, Cushing’s disease is not preventable. Regular vet checks are in order to help catch symptoms at an early stage.

Cost of Thirsty

Diabetes is one of the most common causes of excessive thirst in dogs and can be expensive to treat. Treatment averages range from $300 to $4500.