Dear Doctor - Fears that the Dog isn’t Drinking Enough Water
We have a two-year-old German shepherd who refuses to drink water when we are out on walks. She is obviously thirsty but won't drink from spigots, a cupped hand, or a water bottle. Often, she will refuse the water until we return home. We have started carrying a bowl made of fabric, and this is the only thing that gets her to take a little water. She is very focused, and when she knows she is potentially going for a walk, she will even refuse water at home. Is there something we can do to help hydrate her?
Chino Hills, California
Dear Ms. Barkley,
A You say that your dog is “obviously thirsty” when she is out on walks, but what do you mean? Is she panting extremely quickly and heavily? Does she become lethargic or somewhat disoriented? Has your veterinarian told you during exams that she is prone to dehydration?
Many dogs do become very excited both when they are about to be taken out and while they are on a walk, so theoretically, it’s possible that it takes a while for her sense of thirst to catch up with her excitement. But that’s true for people, too. If we are very engrossed in something, we might not feel hungry even though it’s time to eat, or thirsty even though it’s time to drink some fluid. Then we catch up when our minds calm down, and all is well.
It’s the same for dogs. It would be very rare for a dog to become so thirsty while out for a walk that it would be dangerous or uncomfortable for her not to drink water even if she could use some. Our hunch is that your pet is just fine and drinks enough when the thirst sensation hits her that she is not in any danger health-wise, let alone discomfort.
Definitely, keep bringing along the fabric bowl and water (perhaps with ice) on walks if you fear that she will become very thirsty, especially if those walks last for many miles or take place under a hot sun. But if she doesn’t drink any and her energy doesn’t flag, chances are you have nothing to worry about.