How much water should my dog or cat drink?

How Much Water Does My Pet Need? by Veterinarian Dr. Ernie Ward

A common question I hear from pet owners is, “How much water does my pet need each day?” While the exact amount may vary based on individual needs, there are some important hydration guidelines every pet owner needs to know.

Daily Water Recommendations for Dogs and Cats

In general, dogs need about 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight. A 20-pound dog would need about 2 ½ cups of fresh water each day. Outdoor activities, hot and humid environments, and medical conditions can affect these suggested amounts.

Cats, because they evolved in the desert plains of Mesopotamia, require a little less than an ounce of water per pound of body weight each day. An average 10-pound domestic short hair (DSH) indoor cat will typically require 7 to 10 ounces of water per day.


Drinking Too Much Water Often Signals a Problem

The biggest problem of water consumption in pets involves excessive drinking. If your dog or cat is suddenly lapping at the water dish frequently, drinking from unusual sources, or is urinating more than normal, have it examined by your veterinarian immediately.  Diseases that cause increased thirst include kidney and liver disease, diabetes, hormonal imbalances, and cancer.

Dehydration and Heat

Pets that play or spend time outdoors in the heat need to drink plenty of water.  A dog or cat that becomes five percent dehydrated will develop early signs of heat stress while a pet that experiences ten percent dehydration will be severely ill. Under normal circumstances, most pet swill drink about an ounce of water per pound of body weight per day. In hot and humid conditions, your pet may need three to four times this amount. 

When the mercury soars above 80°F or humidity levels are a soaking 70% or more, you must meticulously monitor for signs of dehydration. Your pet probably needs more water if they suddenly start seeking shade or craving fluids, their walking or running pace declines or their desire to work or play diminishes, or they fail to respond to basic commands. Some dogs will refuse to move and simply sprawl on the ground. If your dog displays any signs of dehydration, call it quits. Things can spiral out of control quickly, landing your dog in the ER.

As a general rule when working or running outdoors with your pooch when it’s hot, take water breaks approximately every 30 minutes. There are many styles of portable dog bowls that are convenient to carry whether running, biking, or boating. Offer your dog 4 to 8 ounces of cool water and then relax for a few minutes. After you’re done exercising, have your hound sip small amounts of water every 5 to 10 minutes until their thirst is quenched. Don’t allow them to gulp large amounts of cold water to reduce the risk of tummy upset or bloat.

Tips to Increase Water Consumption

Pets that require additional water are most often placed on a wet diet. Dry pet food is about 8% to 12% water while canned food is closer to 80% moisture. Feeding a moist pet food is an easy way to increase your pet’s daily water consumption. Some pets will prefer electrolyte solutions such as sports or infant drinks. Because these formulations may have ingredients that may cause problems for your pet, be sure to ask your veterinarian before trying a human thirst-quencher.  

Proper hydration is essential for good health and disease prevention in pets. If you have any questions about your pet’s thirst or urination, ask your veterinarian.

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