You might be surprised to learn that the cuddly bundle of fur you just welcomed into your home is actually made mostly of water. Among other things, water is an essential part of your puppy’s dietary needs. Even a 10% loss of body water can cause serious health complications. So just as it’s crucial to observe the frequency of feeding your puppy, it’s also important to make sure he or she is drinking enough. Here’s how.
The ideal water intake for a dog depends on his size and activity level. Most experts agree that, on average, a dog should consume 1 ounce of fluid per pound of body weight each day. That means a 45-pound dog should take in approximately 5.5 cups of fluid every day. Lactating mothers and puppies need more, as do dogs who are extremely active or live in hot, humid climates.
Why puppies need more water
Water constitutes as much as 85% of a newborn puppy, a percentage that changes to 60% when they are grown. As puppies, they receive the hydration they need from their mother’s milk. After they are weaned and begin eating kibble, water becomes essential in helping them digest their food.
Water is important for a dog’s growth and muscle development. It’s also an important part of the overall metabolic process, which includes digestion, brain activity, blood flow, and breathing, as well as kidney and liver function.
And, since a dog cools himself by panting, drinking water is essential for replacing the moisture that evaporates from their tongues, nasal passages, and lungs during the process. A well-hydrated dog has a moist nose, which aids in his ability to smell.
Young puppies who are transitioning from mother’s milk to solid food need 0.5 cup of water every two hours. Once they’ve been weaned, they should be drinking between 0.5 to 1 fluid ounce per pound of body weight each day.
One of the best ways to make sure your puppy is drinking enough water is to set up a schedule. Instead of leaving a water bowl out for him to drink at will, ration his intake. Every few hours, measure the appropriate amount of water into his drinking bowl and call your puppy. Encourage him to drink the water and, when he does, reward him with praise and a few minutes of playtime.
Most dogs learn to drink enough water all by themselves; however, it’s important to monitor them when they are first learning. Not enough water intake can cause dehydration, while drinking too much water can be just as dangerous.
Puppies who don’t receive an adequate amount of water may suffer from dehydration, a dangerous condition that can be life threatening. Overheating and illnesses, especially those that include vomiting, diarrhea, and fever, put puppies at risk of dehydration.
Symptoms of dehydration include:
- Dry, pale, or sticky gums. Check your puppy’s gums by feeling them with your finger. If they appear pale, press your finger against them gently. They should turn white where you touch them, then return to their original color within a few seconds.
- Loss of skin turgidity — or the amount of time it takes for your puppy’s skin to return to its original position after being pinched. Check his condition by gently pulling up on the scruff of his neck and releasing. His skin should snap back within a few seconds.
- Loss of appetite.
- Sunken eyes.
- Excessive panting.
If your puppy is reluctant to drink (or more inclined to play), try these tricks:
- Place ice cubes in his water bowl. Chewing on ice cubes adds an element of fun while it aids in hydration.
- Flavor drinking water with chicken or beef broth.
- Put a treat at the bottom of his bowl.
If it seems your puppy is drinking too much water, pay attention. Dogs, and puppies in particular, are super curious. Your puppy may just be playing in his water bowl, which is more of a behavioral issue than a medical problem.
But If you think your puppy is doing more drinking than playing, he may have an underlying medical issue that needs to be addressed immediately. Excessive drinking may be signs of fever and infection or more chronic conditions such as diabetes, Cushing’s disease, kidney, and liver disease.
Symptoms of over-hydration include:
- Lack of coordination
- Dilated pupils
- Excessive salivation
- Pale gums
As you can see, water is an important part of your puppy’s good health (and sleeping well through the night). Remember to supply him with an adequate supply of fresh water every day and take notice of his health frequently. Just as sleep training your puppy is beneficial for his overall well-being in the long run, so does teaching him good water etiquette while he’s young. Closely monitor his activity, and you’ll be rewarded with a healthy, active pup and a lifetime of companionship.
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