Help! My Dog Is Drinking A Lot

dog-drinking-water

‘At A Glance (Details Below)’ What To Do

If A Dog Drinks More Than Usual

  1. When dogs drink more it’s usually hormonal or kidney issues
  2. These are all easily diagnosed on routine blood & urine testing
  3. The top cause in small breed dogs is Cushings Disease
  4. If testing is normal, there’s usually nothing to worry about

Now dive deeper…

I’ve talked before about cats drinking too much water. Now let’s look at the common reasons why dogs drink excessive amounts of water. Just like for cats, drinking too much in dogs is potentially serious and needs investigation.

First, though, how much is too much? The first thing to do is measure the amount.

How Much Water Should A Dog Drink A Day?

A dog under normal ambient temperatures and exercise levels should drink no more than 70mL per kilogram of body weight per day. For example, a 10kg dog should drink less than 700mL per day. Dogs drinking more than this amount should be investigated by a vet.

Most dogs with excessive thirst will drink well over 100mL/kg/day. To measure the actual amount, mark the level of water in the bowl and after 24 hours refill it to the same mark using a measuring jug. Make sure all sources of water have been accounted for and other animals have their own separate water supplies.

If the result is high, here’s what your vet will be thinking about.

Why Dogs Drink Excessive Water

There are five common reasons why you might notice your dog wanting more water without other signs of illness.

Then there are the common causes where there will also usually be other, more obvious signs of a problem. These include:

There are in fact many other rare causes such as Addison’s disease, portosystemic shunts, hypercalcaemia (usually from cancer) or diabetes insipidus but don’t worry too much about these. The trick is simply to know that routine blood and urine testing should get you a long way towards finding the answer. Whatever the cause, drinking excessively is a sign to take seriously.

Early detection is vital for some diseases. So if you have a dog who starts drinking more, even if they don’t seem unwell, let us take a look! It might be nothing, or it might just be the clue that saves your dog.

Related: Why dogs pee inside

Have something to add? Comments are welcome below and will appear within 24 hours of lodging.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These help topics are from a series regularly posted on email and Twitter. Subscribe via email here to never miss a story! The information provided here is not intended to be used as a substitute for going to the vet. If your pet is unwell, please seek veterinary attention.

Help! My Cat Is Drinking A Lot

cat drinking water

‘At A Glance (Details Below)’ What To Do

If A Cat Drinks More Than Usual

  1. It could be due to diabetes, kidney or thyroid disease
  2. These are all easily diagnosed on routine blood & urine testing
  3. The top three causes can all be managed or treated if detected in time
  4. If testing is normal, there’s usually nothing to worry about

Now dive deeper…

All jokes aside, cats really do have a drinking problem. I’ve talked before about cats not drinking enough water but that’s nothing compared with what happens when cats are too thirsty.

A cat who starts drinking or urinating more than they used to is almost certainly in big trouble. The good news is, it’s not an emergency and there’s plenty you can do if you find the cause before your cat gets sick.

Why Do Cats Drink Too Much?

There are five common reasons why you might notice your cat wanting more water.

The last one should be obvious but it really is surprising how much more water cats need to drink on dry foods. Diarrhoea should also be obvious but many cats don’t use litter boxes so you might need to go poking about (quite literally).

Whatever the cause, drinking excessively is a sign to take seriously. Any change in a cat’s behaviour almost never happens just by chance. If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this blog, that’s it.

More About Kidney Disease

I’d like to say a few more words about kidney disease; it’s the most common cause of drinking excessively and the most common illness of older cats. Most cat lovers will at some point have to face it so it’s good to be prepared.

Correct treatment of kidney problems depends on knowing both the stage of the disease and the unique features of each cat. It can be fiendishly complex and no two cats are treated the same. You can read all about this at our kidney disease page but here’s a quick summary of what your vet should be thinking and doing.

Tests For Kidney Problems

  • Blood and urine testing. No animal can be diagnosed as having kidney failure without both of these. That’s because dehydration from other causes looks exactly the same until you check the urine concentration. Blood tests like these also show us related problems like low potassium or high phosphate.
  • Blood pressure measurement. Kidney cats are often hypertensive; if you don’t fix this, they can go blind from retinal detachment and kidney problems worsen quickly.
  • Sterile urine culture. Not only are kidney infections more common than realised, they are great to discover. My own cat had one and by controlling it, her kidney problem got better, not worse.
  • Urine protein: creatinine ratio. Urine protein loss is a sign of glomerular damage and can be treated just by adding another tablet.

Treatment Of Kidney Disease

It all depends on the individual. The most important therapy for the majority of cats is a change to a renal support diet. By reducing blood phosphate levels and adding extra nutrients, these diets can make a huge difference to your cat’s lifespan and quality of life.

There are also several drugs we use to treat cats with kidney problems, though most cats only need a few of these.

  • Phosphate binders are needed if the special diet doesn’t do enough on its own
  • Potassium supplements fight the increased loss of this electrolyte from the kidneys
  • Drugs like benzepril or telmisartan reduce glomerular hypertension
  • Antihypertensives like amlodipine control high blood pressure
  • Appetite stimulants help cats maintain body weight, especially in later stages

The most important thing, however, is close monitoring. There’s no such thing as ‘wait and see’ with a cat who might have kidney problems. If they get sick, the faster we get them rehydrated the better their chances are of returning to normal.

Early detection is even more important. So if you have a cat who starts drinking more, even if they haven’t yet lost weight, let us take a look! It might be nothing, or it might just be the clue that saves your cat.

Related: Why cats pee inside

Have something to add? Comments are welcome below and will appear within 24 hours of lodging.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These help topics are from a series regularly posted on email and Twitter. Subscribe via email here to never miss a story! The information provided here is not intended to be used as a substitute for going to the vet. If your pet is unwell, please seek veterinary attention.

Common Problems Of Dogs, Cats, Rabbits & Chickens

Follow the links for information on:

Help! My Dog is Vomiting

dog throwing up

Anyone who has had a dog knows that they vomit a lot more than people. Vomiting can be normal in some cases, and extremely serious in others. What are the causes of vomiting in dogs and how do you tell when it’s serious?

For the causes of vomiting in cats, click here.

When Should A Vomiting Dog Go To The Vet?

When in doubt, always go: it’s the safest approach. A vet will usually be able to quickly tell if the vomiting is serious or not, and whether other tests are needed.

Otherwise go if your dog:

  • is a puppy or elderly
  • is lethargic or sick looking
  • has pale or dark gums
  • is dehydrated (dry tacky gums, poor skin tone)
  • has lost weight
  • has a swollen stomach
  • is vomiting blood or has diarrhoea
  • is unvaccinated or has known toxin exposure
  • is retching or vomiting repeatedly*

*Repeatedly means it isn’t stopping. Depending on severity, this could mean many times in an hour, a few times over a day, or more than once per week. A dog that vomits once and is hungry and happy within 5 minutes is probably normal, but please see a vet if vomiting persists

Is Dog Vomit Normally Yellow?

dog vomit with bile

The appearance of vomit in dogs can vary from undigested or partly digested food, to white froth. However, more commonly vomit without food will be stained yellow with bile. This bright pigment is transported from the duodenum by reverse peristalsis in the first stage of vomiting.

There’s not much that you can learn from the appearance of vomit. Even small flecks of blood are quite common with prolonged vomiting. Your vet will be much more interested in assessing how well your dog is coping with the vomiting.

Vomit can also contain grass. Do dogs eat it to make themselves sick or do dogs eat it because they feel sick? Discover the answer in our article about Why dogs and cats eat grass.

Common Causes of Vomiting In Dogs

I’ll start with the least serious causes.

Car Sickness

Does your dog vomit on car trips? Nearly every puppy starts life being sick when they travel in the car, but most dogs grow out of it by the time they are one year old. Some dogs, sadly, do not.

Click here for: How to manage motion sickness in dogs

Bilious Vomiting Syndrome

vomiting maltese dog

Cause: Some small breeds are prone to vomiting when they have an empty stomach. Think morning sickness for dogs.

This is Miu Miu who started vomiting when I advised she should go down to one meal a day. Sorry, Miu Miu- it’s back to two smaller meals for you.

Appearance: Bright, happy dog who only vomits yellow bile when their stomach is empty and is hungry straight after vomiting.

Outcome: Should stop if food is given late at night or early morning.

Diet Change

Does changing a dog’s food actually cause vomiting? I don’t think so, unless the dog is intolerant of that food or there’s something wrong with it. I do believe that diet change can cause diarrhoea, however.

Don’t assume diet change is the cause unless all the other possibilities have been ruled out.

Food Intolerance

You don’t have to talk to many dog owners before you find one who’ll say “every time I feed my dog a certain food, they vomit.” Food intolerance isn’t well reported in the literature, mainly because it’s rarely very serious. Most dog owners quickly learn which foods to avoid.

Sometimes food intolerance can stretch to involve an ingredient found in most dog foods. These dogs usually require either specially formulated hypoallergenic diets or home-made recipes. Read more about special dog allergy diets here.

Acute Gastritis

Cause: Dogs aren’t too fussy about what goes in their mouths. Sometimes it seems like they’ll try anything. Spoiled foods, dead birds, old faeces, you name it.

Appearance: Bright, happy dog still keen on walks and play who can’t stop vomiting.

Outcome: Some things cause irritation to the stomach, others cause infection but if it’s acute gastritis, it should pass quickly. Old and young animals often need a vet to suppress the vomiting to prevent dehydration.

Parasites

puppy dog worms

Cause: Intestinal worms and giardia commonly cause vomiting. 

Appearance: Usually puppies or dogs who haven’t been wormed for some time.

Outcome: Good with an effective treatment. Read more about intestinal worms here and giardia here.

Pancreatitis

Cause: Accidental activation of pancreatic digestive enzymes inside the pancreas.

Appearance: Quiet, unhappy dog off their food. Read a webpage devoted to pancreatitis here.

Outcome: Can be fatal if not treated quickly.

Obstructions and Perforations

Cause: Broken toys, cooked bones, bones swallowed in chunks, satay sticks, corn cobs, fruit stones, twisted or telescoped bowel, narrow stomach outflow, constipation.

Appearance: Repeated vomiting. Dogs can sometimes be very unwell, and other times be bright, happy and hungry.

Outcome: Only a vet can save these dogs. See our advice on safer bone feeding for dogs.

Poisons

Many toxic substances can cause dogs to vomit. Some, like grapes or nurofen, are quite serious and need early treatment. Therefore, if you suspect vomiting is caused by a toxin, see the vet straight away.

Click here for more on the common poisons of dogs.

Bloat (Gastric Dilation-Volvulus, Gastric Torsion)

dog gastric dilation volvulus
Bloat or GDV. Small arrows show size of distended stomach. Large arrow shows ‘shelf’ caused by twist in stomach.

Cause: Twisting of the stomach, especially after eating in deep-chested breeds such as Pointers, Setters, Shepherds, Dachshunds, Rottweilers & Great Danes.

Appearance: Sudden onset of severe, unproductive retching, abdominal enlargement and distress.

Outcome: Fatal without emergency veterinary decompression and surgery. See dogs at risk of GDV in our breed list and read about preventing bloat in dogs here.

Stomach Ulcers

Cause: These can happen due to infections, but the most common cause we see is in dogs on anti-inflammatory treatment.

Appearance: Persistent and usually worsening vomiting with loss of appetite.

Outcome: Should resolve with gastroprotectant medications and stopping the anti-inflammatory.

Viral Infection

Cause: Parvovirus, distemper or coronavirus can all cause severe vomiting. 

Appearance: A very lethargic and sick dog. Click for more about parvovirus and distemper in dogs.

Outcome: Many dogs will die, all will need intensive care at the vet.

Systemic Illness

Cause:

Appearance: Usually (but always) the dog will have signs of another illness.

Outcome: Good or bad, depending on the underlying cause.

What To Do For Vomiting Dogs

I’m not going to suggest home remedies for vomiting in dogs. If your dog hasn’t already stopped, you need to take him or her to a vet.

The greatest threats are dehydration, shock and sepsis, but sometimes we also treat dogs just to relieve their extreme distress.

There are many specific treatments depending on the cause. Many times this is obvious to a vet after a thorough physical examination. Sometimes the vet may need to take X-rays, blood tests or perform an ultrasound examination to diagnose the problem.

To help the vet, here are three things the vet will need to know:

Is It Vomiting At All?

miniature dachshund puppy
Pippi

Two other things look a lot like vomiting in dogs:

  • Regurgitation is the passive flow of material from the mouth, such as in most oesophageal diseases or blockages. Dogs usually won’t heave their abdomen before this.
  • Coughing! Yes, many coughing dogs look like they are vomiting, and only a good video can tell them apart. When dogs cough, they usually end it with a retch, gag and even sometimes bring up their stomach contents. Only her owner sending us a video made us certain that Pippi here needed chest xrays. 

Does My Dog Also Have Diarrhoea?

The vet will ask this. If you’re not sure, go outside and check the lawn closely.

Can I Collect A Sample?

Samples of vomit and diarrhoea aren’t always useful but are worth bringing just in case.

By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These help topics are from a series regularly posted on email and Twitter. Subscribe via email here to never miss a story! The information provided here is not intended to be used as a substitute for going to the vet. If your pet has a problem, please seek veterinary attention.
Have something to add? Comments are welcome below and will appear within 24 hours of lodging.