"Unleashing the Truth: 5 Surprising Causes of Your Dog's Excessive Thirst"

Identifying increased thirst in your canine companions can be quite daunting for pet parents. It is natural to question if this is normal or an indication of an underlying health issue. Integrative veterinarian, Dr. Julie Buzby, shares her expertise on how to recognize if your dog is consuming too much water and explores the top five reasons behind excessive thirst in dogs.

Husky drinks from a stream, photo

Have you ever experienced one of those days where mundane tasks such as filling your pup’s water bowl seem like a massive chore? The whole process might involve bending down, walking to the kitchen sink, waiting patiently for the bowl to fill, and then finally returning the bowl to its original spot without spilling water all over the floor. If you have multiple dogs, then refilling their bowls might feel like a never-ending task.

This arduous task came to light for one of Dr. Buzby’s clients, who brought her beloved elderly Labrador Retriever, Felmon, for an examination. The pet parent was concerned about Felmon's recent behavior of drinking three times more water than usual and frequently urinating in the garden. Although Felmon’s parent had already considered a few possible reasons, such as temperature change or salty treats, she was still understandably anxious about Felmon’s health. Dr. Buzby explained that excessive thirst could be a sign of serious medical concerns and recommended lab work to detect the underlying issue.

Quantifying increased thirst in dogs

Felmon’s mom had observed a significant increase in his water intake, leading to a crucial question about normal water consumption in canines. The standard recommendation is that dogs should drink one ounce of water per pound of body weight per day. This translates to roughly one cup of water per ten pounds of body weight daily; hence, a 40-pound dog requires four to five cups of water each day, while a 10-pound dog requires only one to two cups daily.

Occasionally, dogs might require more or less water depending on their lifestyle, environmental factors, and routine activities. For example, if you take your pooch on a long run, they might require additional water when they return home, mirroring your need for more fluids after exercise. On the other hand, dogs that are spending the day relaxing on the couch might not need as much water throughout the day. It is crucial to understand that minor deviations in water consumption are typical and should not raise concerns. However, substantial and consistent alterations in water intake require in-depth investigation, especially if diet, exercise level, and temperature changes do not explain the variations.

Long haired Chihuahua drinks from a water dish in the grass, photo

Understanding polydipsia and polyuria

Dogs who are consuming elevated levels of water are typically exhibiting polydipsia, a clinical term for increased thirst. This increased consumption of fluids leads to a corresponding escalation in urination, known as polyuria.

How to recognize excessive thirst in dogs

It can be challenging to track your dog’s water consumption, especially if you have multiple canines or live in a hectic environment. Measuring your dog’s daily water intake can be an effective solution, as this will provide insight into their water intake habits. Monitoring your dog’s water intake is as simple as counting the number of times you refill their water bowl.

When it comes to providing water for dogs, there are various options available like gravity dish, water trough or multiple dog bowls. However, it is advisable to consider offering one single bowl to ensure controlled water intake while monitoring your dog's water consumption.

In case of multiple dogs sharing a water dish, it can be tricky to determine which dog is consuming more water. Separating them for a few hours or monitoring their urine output can be effective solutions.

It is important to note that restricting or limiting water intake can lead to dehydration, which can be harmful for your dog's health. Keeping water available at all times is crucial.

If your dog is experiencing increased thirst, it may be indicating an underlying condition. It is important to be vigilant of other symptoms such as excessive urination, blood in urine, abnormal appetite or a pot-bellied abdomen. A lethargic dog, painful belly, dry gums, and delayed skin tent are other signs to watch out for. Consulting a vet as soon as possible can help diagnose the problem and initiate early treatment.

German Shepherd drinking out of an outdoor fountain, photo

Some common reasons for increased thirst in dogs include dehydration, high activity levels, hot weather, vomiting, diarrhea, and urinary tract infections. A skin tent test can help assess dehydration levels. In case of a UTI, increased water intake can be accompanied by pain. It is important to seek veterinary help in such cases.

If you notice that your furry friend has been visiting their designated indoor bathroom frequently, it could be indicative of several underlying health problems. Some symptoms to look out for include urinating small volumes at a time, straining to urinate, bloody or foul-smelling urine, and urinary accidents inside the house. Below are some common conditions that may cause increased thirst and urination in dogs:

  • 3. Kidney disease

Kidneys are essential organs in a dog's body since they help regulate electrolyte balance, filter blood, and produce urine. As dogs become older, their kidney function is prone to deteriorate, making them vulnerable to kidney disease. Symptoms to look out for include arched back, vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite, and high blood pressure. Kidney failure can occur suddenly or over a more extended period, but both situations require immediate veterinary attention. 

4. Diabetes mellitus

Diabetes mellitus is caused by insufficient insulin production or insulin resistance, leading to high sugar levels in the blood. Middle-aged and senior dogs are more likely to develop this condition. Signs to monitor include increased thirst, appetite, and urination, sticky urine, lethargy, decreased energy, and cataracts. It's important to differentiate diabetes mellitus from diabetes insipidus, which also causes excessive thirst and urination, but only because the dog's body is not responding correctly to antidiuretic hormone (ADH) or the kidneys are not responding to ADH as they should. 

5. Cushing's disease

Cushing's disease occurs when adrenal glands produce excess cortisol-hormone that helps regulate metabolic functions in dogs. However, too much cortisol is harmful. Symptoms include increased thirst and urination, muscle wasting, hair loss, and a potbellied appearance. consulting a veterinarian is necessary to diagnose and manage the condition.

Shih Tzu sitting on the tiled floor, photo

In conclusion, increased thirst and frequent urination in dogs could signal underlying health conditions that need immediate veterinary attention. Regular monitoring and checkups can help detect these conditions early.

Cushing's syndrome may arise from either a pituitary gland tumor or an adrenal gland tumor that results in the overproduction of cortisol. Additionally, the prolonged administration of steroids, such as prednisone for dogs, may cause iatrogenic Cushing's disease. However, it is worth noting that increased thirst and urination in dogs taking prednisone does not necessarily indicate the presence of iatrogenic Cushing's disease. It is, therefore, crucial to monitor your dog's condition diligently while on steroids.

Cushing's disease can manifest in various symptoms, such as increased thirst, increased urination, increased appetite, a pot-bellied appearance, decreased energy, abnormal hair loss, and heat intolerance. Dogs with Cushing's disease or those on steroid medication will experience increased thirst.

The Veterinarian's Office: What to Expect?

Various medical conditions can cause increased thirst and urination in dogs, beyond those listed above. Before visiting the veterinarian, it is advisable to track your dog's water consumption and any other symptoms to aid the diagnostic process.

The veterinarian will carry out a comprehensive physical examination from nose to tail to identify any changes or anomalies. Based on the results of the exam and the history, the veterinarian may recommend some tests to determine the cause of excessive thirst.

Baseline Tests

The veterinarian may request a complete blood count (CBC) and biochemistry profile, which are basic blood tests that provide information about a sick dog's condition. The CBC test will scrutinize the red and white blood cells and platelets to determine if the dog is anemic. Changes in the white blood cells count may indicate an existing infection or other conditions. Moreover, the test may ascertain whether the dog has enough platelets to aid blood clotting.

The chemistry profile reveals a lot of information, assessing whether the dog's kidneys and liver perform correctly. Kidney and liver disease may cause increased thirst and urination. Also, the chemistry profile may detect markers indicating diabetes mellitus, Cushing's disease, or other conditions that raise water consumption.

Spaniel laying on a red couch, photo

Another test that the veterinarian may recommend is a urinalysis, measuring how well the dog concentrates urine. It may also reveal signs of blood or crystals, indicative of bladder stones or a UTI. Abnormal levels of protein in urine may indicate kidney disease. Additionally, glucose in urine may indicate diabetes mellitus.

Additional Tests

Depending on the results of systemic tests and the suspected condition, the veterinarian may request more specific blood tests such as an ACTH stimulation or low dose dexamethasone suppression test if the chemistry is suspicious of Cushing's disease.

Finally, the veterinarian may perform an ultrasound or X-ray exam to determine specific organ issues, including the kidneys, liver, spleen, and adrenal glands. In some cases, a specialist may perform specialized testing.

If your dog experiences excessive thirst, the veterinary team will recommend baseline or specific tests to determine the root cause of the condition.

What is the solution for excessive thirst in dogs?

When your furry companion is consuming excessive water, your veterinarian diagnoses the underlying reason and recommends a unique treatment for your dog. The course of treatment for the five common conditions discussed in this article include:

  • Dehydration

The degree of dehydration determines the type of treatment. Your veterinarian may admit your pet to the hospital for intravenous (IV) fluids, or she may administer subcutaneous (SQ) fluids, then discharge the dog. Additionally, it is necessary to treat the root cause of dehydration, which may involve prescribing medicine to alleviate vomiting and diarrhea symptoms or treating other underlying health issues responsible for dehydration.

Urinary tract infection

A urinary tract infection (UTI) usually results from bacterial infection, and the cure often involves a course of antibiotics. Your vet may recommend anti-inflammatory and pain relievers. Increasing your dog's water intake by adding liquid to dry food, giving canned food, or ensuring accessibility to fresh water may also be helpful.

Kidney failure

The severity of kidney failure and the dog's condition determines the exact treatment, which usually involves IV fluids for severe cases and SQ fluids for mild cases. Some dogs may require a specialized diet, medication to control phosphorus levels, decrease protein loss in the urine, or reduce nausea. If your dog has a poor appetite, your veterinarian may suggest an appetite stimulant.

Diabetes mellitus

Twice daily insulin injections are ideal for most dogs with diabetes mellitus, to replace the insulin naturally released in the pancreas when consuming meals. Your vet may also recommend a specialized diet and weight reduction plans for overweight dogs.

Many medical conditions causing excessive thirst can often be curable.

Cushing's disease

Your veterinarian may prescribe one of several medications to lower cortisol levels in dogs diagnosed with Cushing's disease, such as Lysodren (mitotane), Vetoryl (trilostane), or selegiline. Occasionally, removing an adrenal tumor may be an option, but it is a risky surgical procedure.

Most of the health issues causing excessive thirst (especially kidney failure, diabetes mellitus, and Cushing's disease) may require constant monitoring and a visit to the veterinarian regularly. It is beneficial to keep in touch with your vet about any change in behavior, symptoms, or water intake during the therapy period. Your veterinarian can be a valuable ally when it comes to helping your dog feel their best.

Senior Golden Retriever being pat on the head, photo

The Tale of Felmon

If you're curious about Felmon, after several blood tests and ultrasounds, he was diagnosed with Cushing's disease and treated promptly with medicine. Though he still has some difficult days, Felmon is enjoying his senior years happily. His owner pays particular attention to any changes and informs his vet frequently about his progress.

Suppose you notice your dog drinking more fluids or other symptoms. In that case, it's crucial to consult your veterinarian right away. Some causes of increased water intake can have fatal consequences, and early treatment can significantly impact your dog's recovery.

To be of help to your veterinarian, try measuring your dog's water intake before the appointment if possible. And at the same time, ensure you keep your dog's bowl full and provide ample opportunities for them to go outside for a pee.

Even though it is concerning to notice your dog drinking massive amounts, it's worth knowing that your veterinarian is always available to help find the root cause and work out a treatment regimen. Although water intake can remain high in severe cases like severe kidney failure, you and your vet can collaborate to make your dog happy and cozy. Often, appropriate therapy can restore reasonable water intake, so there's hope for improvement.

Has your dog ever experienced increased thirst and urination? What caused it?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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