10 reasons why your older dog is drinking more water
4th April, 2023
From simple dehydration to diabetes, there can be lots of reasons why your older dog is drinking more than usual. Learn more now.…
When your dog is advanced in years, drinking habits can change. Sometimes this is a natural part of ageing, but it could also be a sign of a health problem.
What are the common causes of increased thirst in older dogs? We’ll reveal 10 in this article.
To help with expensive vet bills, dog insurance for older dogs is a must-have that ensures you can give your beloved pet the support they need in later years. Talk to the Petwise team today to get your friend protected.
Why do dogs drink?
Let’s go back to basics: why do dogs drink? Just like humans, canine bodies have a high water percentage - around 60% of their body weight, or up to 80% of a young puppy.
The level of water in a dog’s body depends on their body type. Muscle uses more water than fatty tissue, so a lean dog will have more fluid per kilo of weight than a pooch that’s piled on the pounds.
Water is required for just about every process that keeps your dog alive, from digestion to brain function, maintaining healthy joints and cleaning toxins from the blood. Water is lost through a dog’s wee, poo, breathing and sweat. But they get it back by drinking and through their intake of wet foods.
A dog should drink roughly 30ml (1 fl oz) of water per 450g (1lb) of body weight each day. However, this amount will change depending on how hot it is, how thick your dog’s coat is, how much exercise they’re doing and how much fluid they are getting from their food.
You don’t need to measure out a certain amount of water each day, just provide plenty of fresh, clean water and check they’re drinking regularly. It’s a good idea to refill the bowl at regular times, so you can keep an eye on how much they’re taking on.
What are the signs of dehydration in dogs?
Often the first sign of dehydration in a dog will be that the parts that normally look wet will appear dry or shrunken - eyes, tongue and gums might appear drier than usual.
As dehydration gets worse, the dog will begin to behave differently: lethargy, weakness, or being unable to get up are all signs of dehydration.
You may also notice that your pet’s saliva becomes thicker and hangs in strands.
As there’s less fluid in a dehydrated dog’s body, the skin may also seem looser and less elastic than usual. You can check for this by gently pinching the skin on the top of the dog’s head. The skin should return to its place immediately.
If the skin moves slowly or not at all, your pet may be dehydrated and you should seek veterinary help. If you have dog insurance for older dogs through Petwise, you’ll get 24/7 vet video calls included with your policy as standard.
Although this test is useful for many dogs, it should be noted that skin varies a lot between breeds and individual canines. The test will work less well on a wrinkly breed like a bloodhound, pug or shar pei than a breed with tight skin like a greyhound, dalmatian or fox terrier. Older animals or those that are overweight or underweight may also have loose skin.
If your dog is severely dehydrated, you need to get help from a vet fast to reduce the risk of serious harm. If your dog is only slightly dehydrated, you need to rehydrate them slowly and steadily - giving them lots of water could result in them drinking too much and being sick, which will only make the dehydration worse.
Give your dog small, regular doses of water - around a teaspoon every 10 minutes for the smallest breeds, one or two tablespoons every 10 minutes for the biggest pooch’s.
How does a vet check for dehydration?
The safest way to check whether your senior pet is dehydrated is to ask your vet to take a look. Dehydration can impact a dog’s health very quickly, potentially causing serious harm so it’s important to get checked without delay if you suspect your pet has a problem. Your dog insurance for older dogs can pick up the tab if emergency treatment is needed.
The vet will examine your dog for key signs such as dry gums, or eyes sinking into the sockets. They’ll ask about your pet’s symptoms and identify possible causes such as a digestive upset or heat stroke.
They might need to take blood samples or scans and x-rays, too. These can be expensive, which is why dog insurance for older dogs is such an important protection for your finances.
As well as taking whatever course of treatment may be necessary, your vet may decide to put a dehydrated dog onto a saline drip to rapidly boost their water levels. Alternatives to this include rehydration solutions or injecting the dog with fluid that is slowly absorbed into the body.
10 reasons why your senior dog might be drinking more
There are lots of different reasons why an older dog might start to drink more. Here are 10 important ones to keep in mind.
Simple dehydration is a common cause of older dogs wanting to drink more. With the excessively hot summers we’ve been having recently, older dogs can find it hard to stay cool and hydrated. You can help your dog by providing plenty of fresh water as well as offering cooling mats, paddling pools and comfortable places to rest in the shade.
2. Bladder problems
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common problem for older dogs. As they get older, dogs have less control of their bladder and their bodies are less resilient. Bacteria can enter the bladder, causing extra wee as well as smelly urine, difficulty urinating or only urinating small amounts, and incontinence.
If left untreated, bladder infections can affect kidneys, urethra and bladder so it’s important to take action fast using your dog insurance for older dogs. Your pet might require antibiotics.
3. Change in diet
One possible reason why your dog might be drinking more is a change in diet. If you have altered the balance of fresh food versus kibble, or switched to a different type of food, your pet might be getting less hydration from their food and is making up the shortfall by drinking more.
In particular, if you feed your dog scraps then it’s possible you’ve been giving saltier food lately, which can make them thirsty.
4. Kidney failure
Water consumption and the kidneys are closely linked, as the kidneys help to clean the blood and create urine which flushes waste from the body. If kidneys are struggling to work properly, they will not be able to produce concentrated urine and they’ll need more water to help process poo - making the dog thirsty.
If the dog does not drink enough, the kidneys will not be able to flush out the body, resulting in toxicity.
Unfortunately, senior dogs are at increased risk of developing diabetes mellitus, which is caused by the body not having enough insulin to control blood sugar correctly. Insulin helps remove glucose from the blood, so when levels of insulin are low, glucose levels rise and interrupt the normal function of the kidneys.
Extra glucose finds its way into urine, drawing additional water with it - resulting in a thirsty pooch. Key signs include changes in weight and appetite, as well as drinking and urinating more.
You can learn more about diabetes and the signs of diabetes in our recent blog.
6. Cushing’s Syndrome
Cushing’s syndrome or hyperadrenocorticism is caused by a hormonal imbalance triggered by too much of the hormone cortisol in the blood over a long period. The condition usually builds up slowly, with one key sign being excessive drinking and more frequent urination. Because these symptoms progress slowly, it’s easy for owners to mistake them for normal signs of ageing.
A vet can help you to be sure, but other symptoms to watch out for include increased appetite, muscle weakness, a rounded belly and skin problems.
7. Medication side effects
Certain medications can lead to a dog being thirsty. Your vet should flag these up to you when the treatment is recommended, but it’s important to check the labels and listen carefully so you understand possible side effects. Steroids, anti-inflammatory drugs, heart failure medication and seizure drugs are all treatments that can cause increased thirst in a pet.
If your dog accidentally takes too much medication, remember that emergency care could be covered on your dog insurance for older dogs.
8. Uterine infection
In female dogs who are not spayed, drinking too much can indicate pyometra (a uterine infection). The condition occurs when hormonal changes after a season combine with bacterial infection, which then results in the womb filling with pus, potentially leading to kidney failure, blood poisoning, dehydration and, in the worst cases, death.
Removal of the uterus is usually the recommended course of action for dogs with pyometra. It goes without saying that this is an expensive procedure. This will also have an impact if you were planning on breeding from your hound. Dog insurance can be a lifeline in moments like this, and as your pet ages you’ll be glad to have dog insurance for older dogs.
Drinking more can be a sign of illness in a dog, from more temporary conditions such as a stomach upset with vomiting and diarrhoea, to more serious issues such as cancer, fever, liver disease or infection. As always, knowing your dog and what’s normal behaviour for them is essential to providing them with good care.
If you know your dog has been sick because they ate something they shouldn’t have, you can probably take care of them yourself; if you know something is happening that is unexplained or very unusual, it’s time to get help from a vet.
10. High blood calcium
Hypercalcaemia or high blood calcium is a warning sign that a dog has a health problem - and excessive thirst can be a symptom. Some calcium in the blood is natural, but if too much is released, for example from the bones, it can lead to bone weakness and fractures.
High levels of blood calcium can be harmful to the kidneys, stomach and heart as well. Hypercalcaemia can also be a secondary symptom of serious conditions such as Addison’s disease, kidney failure, gland tumours and cancer.
Normal signs of ageing for dogs
If your pup is getting long in the tooth, it’s sometimes hard to know what is a normal sign of ageing and what is an indicator that your pet might have a problem. The best way to support your dog with ageing is to ensure they are well cared for through life, with the right amount of exercise, a good diet and good care and grooming.
Just like people, dogs might be a bit less energetic when they get older. They might sleep a little more, be a bit slower getting up and a little bit less playful. You should know the typical lifespan of your pet’s breed - for example, a Great Dane can be entering later life at around six, whereas a chihuahua can stay sprightly until around 10 years old.
As your dog becomes a bit less active, you might need to adjust their diet to prevent them getting overweight. You can also explore different forms of exercise that might be easier on ageing joints, such as shorter walks or swimming.
Incontinence and digestion can be an issue for older dogs. If a previously housetrained dog starts wetting indoors, or straining to go, it could be a sign of a urinary or kidney issue. More frequent urination is often par for the course for older dogs but any sudden changes should be investigated.
Older dogs sometimes develop cloudy eyes. This could be cataracts or other treatable eye diseases. This condition can progress slowly, making it harder to notice but if your pet seems to be having trouble seeing, ask a vet to take a look.
Smelly breath might be a sign of a problem for your dog, varying from tooth decay to gum disease or infection. An older dog has a weakened immune system so infection is more likely - the sooner you catch it, the less harm it will do.
You should also watch out for lumps and bumps in your dog’s coat. These could be harmless or may be a cancerous tumour; your vet can investigate and dog insurance for older dogs can help with the bills.
Older dogs often become a bit dopier and sleepy, but sudden changes in character should be a cause for concern. The canine brain can deteriorate with age, leading to canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CCDS) which is similar to Alzheimer’s Disease in humans.
Signs of CCDS include fearfulness of familiar people and places, restlessness, increased barking, repetitive actions, regression in response to commands, toileting indoors, anxiety and disorientation.
How much does it cost to keep an elderly dog?
Whether you’ve had your dog from puppyhood or you took them on as a rescue in later life, you’ll want to make sure your pet is comfortable and content until the very end. Older dogs have a special charm and the golden years can be wonderful in their own way.
However, if your pet develops one or more health serious conditions, it’s not always easy to know whether treatment is the best course of action. Sometimes, putting a beloved pet to sleep is the kindest thing to do.
Making this decision can be incredibly hard emotionally, but it shouldn’t be hard financially. Dog insurance for older dogs covers vet costs so you can support your pet’s health without having to worry about whether you can afford it.
Even healthy dogs need a little more attention from vets when they pass middle age. Whereas younger dogs might only need to be seen once a year, older pets can need to go more often due to issues such as dental problems, joint pain, or urinary infections.
These challenges might be easy to resolve but they require more frequent attention and skipping these checks could lead to more serious (and expensive) health conditions in the long run.
The sooner you get dog insurance for older dogs, the better. Once a pet has been diagnosed with a condition, it’s unlikely that an insurer will offer cover that pays to treat that condition. Taking out insurance before your pet’s health starts to falter is the best option.
Finding dog insurance for older dogs - what to look out for
If you’re shopping around to find cover for your ageing hound, there are a few things to consider:
Is there an age limit?
Some providers won’t offer cover for dogs above a certain age because of the increased likelihood of having to pay out. The maximum age set by providers might vary by breed, because some breeds have much longer life spans than others and stay healthy for longer, on average.
Choosing the cheapest insurance on offer could backfire if that provider will refuse cover due to age in a few years, leaving you paying more with another provider.
Are there any exclusions?
Providers will usually exclude treatment for pre-existing conditions. It’s worth checking what is included or excluded in the cover - for example, do you need to pay for things like dental care? Here at Petwise, that’s included as standard.
What type of cover do you need?
Pet insurance comes in different forms. You can get accident-only insurance, time-limited cover, lifetime cover or maximum benefit pet insurance that insures your pet for a certain amount for each predefined condition.
It’s important to be clear what protection you have to avoid unpleasant surprises when it comes to settling up with the vet.
What happens if your dog dies?
Nobody likes to think about it, but your dog will not live forever. If your pet dies, some providers offer bereavement counselling to help you come to terms with the loss. You may also receive a pay out to reflect the financial loss of your pet’s death - this might be reduced as your dog ages.
Are you covered for third-party liability?
Older dogs can develop behavioural problems and become aggressive with declining health. If your pet causes injury to someone or their property, they could bring a claim against you - insurance protects you against this type of loss.
However, it’s important to understand what the insurer requires of you; for example, you might not be covered if your dog is not correctly restrained or your garden is insecure.
Do you need to pay an excess?
An excess is the amount you need to cover in the event of a claim. Some insurers increase the minimum excess as a dog ages, in view of the increased likelihood of a claim being made. They might also add more exclusions to cover for older dogs, especially if they’re not a specialist insurer.
Make sure you understand this when it comes to renewing or taking out dog insurance for older dogs.
Do you need insurance to protect your faithful friend? Get in touch with the specialists at Petwise today.