On our daily walk, the path the dogs and I take goes over and alongside a winding brook. Kochi, our Shiba Inu mix who hates getting his feet wet, doesn't go anywhere near the water. On the other hand, Larry, our Chinook, loves splashing in and out of the water and often takes a refreshing drink.
When we get home from our walk, Kochi takes a drink of fresh water from their water bowl. When he's done, Larry steps up to drink.
"Normal" water consumption for a dog is between a half ounce and 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight. With 8 fluid ounces in a cup, this means a 25-pound dog (Kochi) needs between a cup and a half and a little over three cups of water a day. Larry, who weighs nearly three times as much, clearly needs three times that amount of water.
It's not quite as simple as putting six cups of water in a dog's dish and letting him drink. Hydration needs vary depending on weather, environment, exercise and diet, among other things.
For example, dry dog food contains little moisture, while an unprocessed, homemade diet contains quite a bit. Consider, for example, the amount of moisture in beef, turkey or yogurt versus kibbled dry dog food.
When we get back from our walks on which Larry is running faster and further than his older "sibling," I monitor and, if necessary, slow his water consumption. After he has drunk for 30 seconds or so, I'll take away the water bowl and hold it back for about five minutes before giving him an opportunity to drink again. I might do this two or three times before his thirst is quenched.
Drinking a lot of water too fast can cause a dog to vomit, or in the extreme, might cause bloat - gas forming in the stomach, which can lead to the stomach flipping (torsion). That is an urgent condition requiring surgery, or the dog will die.
In addition to not letting your dog drink too fast, I recently learned about a condition called hyponatremia, or water intoxication from drinking too much water. Dogs that bite and snap at water coming out of a hose, dogs that retrieve toys from the water and gulp water at the same time, dogs that gulp water as they swim, and even a dog playing in a lawn sprinkler can ingest too much water and suffer water intoxication.
When water is consumed faster than it can be processed and absorbed by the cells, it causes an electrolyte imbalance, thinning blood plasma and leading to swelling of body organs, including the brain. Unfortunately, by the time most people notice the symptoms, it can be too late. Symptoms include lethargy, nausea and vomiting, lack of coordination, glazed eyes and dilated pupils, excessive salivation and pale gums. If veterinary care isn't given quickly, the dog will collapse, lose consciousness and suffer seizures.
We occasionally have a dog in our day care or overnight boarding care that empties the water bowl every time we refill it. If your dog drinks more than the amount indicated above for his body weight, divide your dog's daily water amount into three or four portions, and offer it to your dog three or four times a day. You should also discuss your dog's water consumption with your veterinarian, as this could indicate a medical issue.
Most dog owners don't need to be concerned about water intoxication, but if your dog loves to play in the water and ingests a lot, be sure to rest your dog and regulate his water intake.
Gail Fisher, author of "The Thinking Dog," runs All Dogs Gym & Inn in Manchester. To suggest a topic, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write c/o All Dogs Gym, 505 Sheffield Road, Manchester, NH 03103. Past columns on her website.