As a general rule, adult dogs need about one ounce of water per pound of body weight per day. But growing puppies, despite their smaller size, drink more than their adult counterparts. A lot depends, however, on your puppy’s age, size, and activity level.
Very young pups fulfill their hydration needs from their mother’s milk. As they are being weaned and starting to eat solid food, they will need a fresh supply of water. As a rule, young puppies need about 1/2 cup of water every two hours. You’ll want to monitor your puppy to make sure he’s drinking enough . . . and not too much.
Older puppies that have already been weaned generally need between 1/2 ounce and one ounce of water per pound of body weight per day. For example, if your pup weighs 20 pounds, he’ll need somewhere between 10 and 20 ounces of water each day. On especially active days, he may need even more water.
The water rules will change a bit during house-training. Although you’ll want to give your puppy his regular amount of water during the day, it’s best to remove his water bowl at night. Be consistent with the times you feed and water him, as well was when you remove food and water. As a rule of thumb, remove his food and water bowls about two-to-three hours before bedtime. So, if your lights-out time is at 11 p.m., he should have no food or water after about 8–8:30 p.m. This gives you a chance to take him out for a last piddle before settling in for the night.
Why Is Water So Important for Puppies?
- Just like with humans, water facilitates the metabolic processes in dogs, everything from digestion to brain activity, blood flow, and breathing. Blood is mostly composed of water, and as it flows through your dog’s body, it clears harmful toxins and transports oxygen. Without water, this exchange can’t happen, which can harm vital organs.
- Water also regulates your puppy's body temperature. In hot weather, you may see your pup panting. Panting helps keep him cool by releasing water through respiration. But, on the other hand, he's losing water through the tongue, so he may need to drink more water than usual.
Dehydration and Overhydration
Most dogs, even puppies, naturally self-regulate when it comes to drinking water. But there are cases where your puppy may not drink enough and risk dehydration. There are several things that can cause dehydration, including vomiting, fever, excessive urination, or diarrhea. If your puppy eats mostly dry food, he also may not be getting enough water. And some dogs just don’t seem very tempted by their bowl of fresh water. Aside from noticing any of the causes we listed, you can get a good idea of whether your puppy is drinking enough water by monitoring his water intake, using the water-to-body-weight calculation.
There are also a few tests you can do quickly to check for dehydration:
- Gently grab the scruff of your puppy’s neck, stretch it out, and then let go. The skin should snap right back into place. If it’s slow to snap back, your dog is dehydrated.
- Another way to check his hydration level is to feel his gums. If they’re dry or sticky, he needs more water.
- A third quick test is to gently press your finger against his gums, which temporarily blocks the flow of blood. While you’re pressing his gums, the area turns white. When you release the pressure, the area should return to a healthy pink within two seconds. If it takes longer, your puppy is dehydrated. The gums of a normal dog refill immediately, and the gums of a dehydrated dog could take up to three seconds (or more) to refill.
If you notice that your puppy doesn’t seem to be drinking enough water, you can make some changes around the house to encourage him to drink:
- Make sure his water bowl is clean, and fill it with fresh water.
- Place his water bowl near his food, bed, or any place he likes to hang out in the house.
- Reward him with a treat and praise him when he takes a drink.
- You can even flavor his water with bone broth or chicken broth to make it more enticing.
- Some dogs love chewing on ice cubes, and this is another way to increase his water intake.
Believe it or not, dogs can over hydrate, as well. Also called “water intoxication,” overhydration can be as dangerous as dehydration. It can be caused by drinking too much, and also by fluid the dog inadvertently takes in while swimming or playing in the water.
Symptoms of water intoxication include lethargy, nausea, loss of coordination, or staggering, bloating, dilated pupils, excessive salivation, vomiting, and light gum color. You should contact your veterinarian if you suspect that your puppy is over-hydrated or exhibiting any of the previously mentioned signs.
Also, dogs that drink more water than they usually do may have polydipsia, which could be a sign of underlying metabolic changes, such as kidney issues, infection of the uterus, diabetes, or Cushing's disease. This is especially true if it's paired with an increase in urination. Always refer to a veterinarian if you have these concerns about your dog.
Having a new puppy brings with it so many considerations and decisions, not to mention training and monitoring. You have to consider what to feed him, which toys are safe and fun, how to house-train him, how to teach him the house rules, and so much more. But monitoring his water intake is just as important and should become a part of his daily care. Proper hydration contributes to your puppy’s overall health and happiness.