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Dog Hydration: Expert Tips for Optimal Canine Health

Anna Bain, canine nutrition expert and writer at ProDog Raw, explains the importance of adequate dog hydration for your best friend’s optimal health. She provides tips on keeping dogs well hydrated for their gut health, behavioural health, and overall well being.

Anna Bain

Author: Anna Bain

Dog Hydration: Expert Tips for Optimal Canine Health

Just like us, dogs need plenty of water to keep their bodies and brains running smoothly. But let’s face it, not all dogs are fans of drinking water, which can make keeping them hydrated a bit of a challenge. Many dog owners often find themselves asking, “How can I get my dog to drink more water?“—especially when digestive issues are involved.

In this article, we’ll dive into why hydration is crucial for dogs, how to spot when your fur friend needs more water, creative ways to keep them hydrated, and tips for managing dog hydration alongside digestive health. Let’s make sure your canine companion stays happy, healthy, and well-hydrated!

In this article, we feature a selection of nutritional supplements from our range:

DIGEST for gut health & prebiotics

COLOSTRUM for immune support

Impact of hydration on canine health

Energy levels

Adequate hydration for dogs is crucial for their energy levels for a few reasons. First, water promotes metabolic function, or the chemical processes that produce energy within the body. Second, it aids in the transportation of nutrients throughout the body, which are required for energy. 

If enough water is not present, the body will draw on the muscle tissues to maintain its fluid balance, which also depletes the energy reserves and causes dogs to feel tired or sluggish. Also, water is required to maintain body temperature. Without adequate hydration, dogs’ internal temperature rises, creating a lack of energy.

Gut health

The digestive process is also affected by dogs’ hydration (or lack thereof), which directly impacts the health of the gut [1]. Without adequate water, the process of digestion is hampered, as waste products cannot move efficiently through the digestive system and nutrients cannot be properly absorbed. 

This is because water is responsible for the process of hydrolysis, which breaks down larger molecules into smaller ones that can be digested more effectively. Water also helps to dissolve soluble fibres, softens stool, and essentially makes the entire digestive process much more efficient.

Discover more about the importance of gut health for dogs in our article, The Secrets of Dog Gut Health.

Brain function and behaviour

As with all other parts of the body, the brain also requires hydration in order to function optimally. In fact, the canine brain is up to 85% water, which makes hydration crucial for its functioning! Water provides a crucial cushion for the brain and spinal cord, as well as the energy the brain requires to perform its many duties throughout the body.

Water also affects the behaviour and mental alertness of dogs, due to its influence on the brain. Decision making, mood, and mental clarity are all affected by a dog’s hydration levels, and can be compromised if adequate water isn’t present in the brain [2]. 

The gut/brain axis, or the line of communication between the brain and the gut, is also affected by hydration levels: the presence or absence of adequate hydration makes a big difference in the accuracy of messages being sent in both directions.

Recognising signs of dehydration

Common symptoms of canine dehydration

There are various physical manifestations of dehydration in dogs, which can sometimes be subtle and hard to detect. Dogs are masters at masking their discomfort, so it’s important that we pay attention to any changes in their physical condition and/or behaviour. Here are a few common signs of dehydration in dogs:

  • Dry nose/mouth
  • Sunken eyes
  • Excessive panting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy/weakness
  • Disorientation/confusion
  • Thick and/or sticky saliva 
  • Darkened urine

If any of these symptoms are present, your dog’s hydration levels may be compromised. If you’re unsure, a quick way to determine or rule out dehydration in dogs is the pinch test:

The Pinch test  –  Gently pinch and pull up the scruff of your dog’s neck and hold it for a few seconds. If the skin remains in a raised position, they may very well be dehydrated. If it returns to normal straight away, your dog’s hydration levels are likely normal.

The importance of prompt intervention

Dehydration in dogs can go from bad to worse in a very short period of time. For this reason, it’s critical that we intervene as quickly as possible upon noticing any potential signs of dehydration. The most obvious action to take is offering dogs water, though this should be done carefully: dogs drinking water too quickly can cause regurgitation, which makes them lose even more fluid.

Small, frequent drinks of water are best for dehydrated dogs. Offer them a little at a time every few minutes, until their symptoms appear to be improving. In cases of overheating it’s also important to get their internal temperatures down, so get them into the shade or bring them inside if they’re out in the sun. If your dog is drinking water and out of the sun but their symptoms aren’t improving, consult your vet for next steps.

Seasonal adjustments for optimal hydration

Maintaining hydration levels during warmer weather

Whilst canine hydration is important year round, it’s especially crucial during the warmer months. This is because dogs are more prone to overheating and the dehydration that’s likely to follow, putting them at a higher risk than they would be in cooler temperatures. Awareness and proactive management are key here; with a little extra effort your dog can remain hydrated and avoid unnecessary discomfort, even in warm weather.

As dogs produce minimal sweat and thus have to rely on panting to cool themselves, they’re more vulnerable to heat stroke than humans are. Ensuring access to water at all times is essential, as is monitoring dogs’ exposure to the sun and heat. A dehydrated dog can become so lethargic that they won’t actively search for water, so offering them a drink every so often or having multiple bowls in different locations can help.

Read our article, Keeping Dogs Cool, for a complete guide on preventing dehydration and heatstroke. 

Managing hydration alongside digestive issues

How digestive issues can influence hydration

Digestive issues can cause fluid loss, which impacts dogs’ hydration levels negatively, potentially leading to dehydration [3]. For example, diarrhoea and vomiting cause the body to eliminate excess fluids, which need to be replaced in order to maintain dogs’ hydration levels.

Unfortunately, when dogs are feeling poorly they can be less interested in eating and drinking, which makes the task of rehydration more challenging. There are ways and means, though; I’ll discuss some tips for helping dogs remain hydrated in a moment. Also, our article on dog vomit is a helpful guide.

Conversely, this mechanism also works in the opposite direction. As I’ve mentioned earlier, digestion requires adequate hydration levels in order for the process to occur properly. In cases of less than ideal fluid intake, dogs’ bodies take the available fluid for other essential functions, leaving waste products dryer and harder to evacuate. Constipation is the result of this, which can be frustrating for you and uncomfortable for your dog. Our article on how to help dog constipation offers solutions if this is a problem for your dog.

Management tips

Dogs require adequate hydration in general, but even more so when digestive health issues are present. If possible, a proactive approach is best; though this isn’t always practical. Depending on the individual situation, there are a number of ways to hydrate a dog when they’re experiencing digestive discomfort. These include:

  • Increasing access to water (providing more bowls, offering drinks, etc.)
  • Feeding bone broth, either in water/food or on its own
  • Adding nutritional supplements to the diet for gut health support to resolve digestive issues (more on these later)
  • Increasing moisture in the diet (find out how in the following section)

Practical tips to increase moisture in the diet

Increasing moisture levels in the diet

While they do of course drink water, this is by no means the only way to maintain dogs’ hydration. In fact, many dogs don’t actually drink enough water to adequately hydrate themselves; especially those eating a dry, processed diet. If you consider how rare it is for a wild dog to become dehydrated, you’ll understand what I mean: their natural diet of animal protein, fats, organ meats, bone and plant fibre provides sufficient moisture, even during times when finding water is challenging. 

Providing moisture through the diet is a great way to increase dogs’ hydration levels and get them closer to the ideal range, particularly if they’re not big water drinkers to begin with. This can be achieved through various methods, including feeding a raw, species-appropriate diet. Read our article on the benefits of raw food to find out how the natural canine diet can benefit your dog. If your dog won’t eat but drinks water, there are more nutritious and clever ways to add moisture to your dog’s diet and potentially entice them into eating, which I’ll discuss next. 

Bone broth, frozen treats, and moisture-rich food

The great thing about dogs is that for the most part, they’re generally excited about new things; especially when it comes to food. Therefore, introducing new treats, foods, and drinks can be quite a simple way to boost your dog’s hydration whilst they enjoy the novelty of these new items.

Bone broths, moisture-rich foods like ProDog’s raw dog food, and frozen treats can all contribute to optimal fluid levels, improving dogs’ hydration and health simultaneously. Read our Raw food fro Beginners guide for more information on making the switch.

Frozen treats in particular can be fun for both you and your canine friend, as they allow you to get creative. They not only help to cool dogs down on warm days while offering a hydrating snack, but they provide mental stimulation by encouraging dogs to problem solve. Not to mention, they’ll keep dogs quiet and calm for a while! 

Bone broth, raw food with added water, blended fruit and/or vegetables, and even plain water on its own are great ideas for frozen treats. Discover step-by-step guide to frozen treats in our blog, How to Make Paw Treats

Need help with your dog’s diet?

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Introducing ProDog Digest and Colostrum supplements

Aside from adding moisture to your dog’s diet and providing additional access to fresh water, it’s also a good idea to consider gut health within the context of canine hydration. A healthy gut is better able to process and absorb nutrients, while being less likely to cause fluid loss (and therefore, dehydration) due to various forms of digestive upset. For this reason, I highly recommend a gut-supporting nutritional supplement for dogs with digestive health and/or hydration issues. Here are my recommendations:  


Digest is ProDog’s gut health supplement, and is particularly helpful for dogs with chronic or advanced digestive health issues. Its blend of gut-friendly ingredients encourages a healthy digestive system, promotes the good gut bacteria population, encourages natural detoxification, and calms the overactive inflammatory response that tends to go hand in hand with gut health issues. It contains whole food ingredients such as, slippery elm, aloe vera, chamomile, liquorice root, and marshmallow root for soothing, calming, and supporting the digestive system. 


Colostrum may be a single ingredient, but it’s jam-packed with nutrients that are phenomenal for gut health support. Some of these include growth factors, proline-rich peptides, immunoglobulins, and prebiotics. Colostrum is the “first milk” of all mammals, designed by nature to start babies off on the right path nutritionally. ProDog offers bovine colostrum, which has been shown to be of the most benefit to dogs. We source our colostrum from responsible farmers who ensure that calves come first, with only the remaining product being utilised for other purposes. 

Learn more about the benefits of Colostrum supplements in our article, Canine Superfuel: 10 Benefits of Colostrum.

The benefits of bone broths

Nutrition benefits of bone broth for hydration and overall health

The simplicity of bone broth can be a bit misleading, as it’s far more nutritious than it may seem at first glance. Whilst it’s true that it’s a simple tonic of boiled bones, joints, marrow and connective tissue, the nutrient content it provides is far more complex than it appears.

Bone broth contains amino acids, minerals, collagen, and electrolytes that support the body in various ways, from digestive health to joint health, and even injury recovery. It’s also incredibly easy to digest, which makes it a helpful addition to the diets of dogs with gut health challenges. It offers hydration and nutritional benefits all in one simple solution, which is why it’s such a great option for canine hydration maintenance, along with gut health support.

Incorporating bone broths into your dog’s diet

Bone broth is one of my go-to recommendations for dehydrated dogs and dogs with digestive upsets, and is a great way to get dogs to drink water. While it’s packed with nutrients, electrolytes, and hydration properties, it’s also almost impossible for dogs to resist! 

Adding bone broth to food or water, offering it on its own, or turning it into frozen treats are all great ways to incorporate additional nutrients into your dog’s diet whilst also promoting optimal hydration levels. ProDog’s Bone Broths are a convenient, healthy option to offer your dog, and we offer multiple options to suit each dog’s taste.

Dog hydration: Keeping your best friend hydrated for their optimal health

Like all species, dogs require the appropriate amount of fluids for their bodies and brains to remain healthy and functional. Certain situations, such as warm weather and digestive issues, can sometimes make dog hydration seem more difficult; but with a little effort it’s definitely possible. 

Increasing access to fresh water, adding moisture to their diet, and offering bone broth or frozen treats can all contribute to a well-hydrated dog. Our canine nutrition team is available for any queries and happy to advise you on best practices for your dog’s hydration. Contact us any time! 

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Dog hydration FAQs

How can I encourage my dog to drink more water?

Encouraging dogs to drink water can be done in a few ways, such as increasing water bowls throughout the house or adding something tasty like bone broth to their water bowl.

Why is my dog not drinking water but still drinking other fluids?

This can happen when dogs don’t like the taste of their water, or they simply prefer the taste of something else. Ensuring their bowls and water are clean, filtering tap water to remove any trace of chlorine, or perhaps changing their bowls might help, as can adding something tasty like bone broth to their water.

What are the signs that my dog is dehydrated?

Lethargy, panting, and a dry nose can be signs of dehydration in dogs. For a complete list of symptoms, consult the “Recognising signs of dehydration” section above.

How much water should my dog drink daily?

That depends on several factors. Their size, age, activity level and the moisture content in their diet can all contribute to dogs’ hydration needs. Consulting with your vet is the best way to find your dog’s unique requirements.

What should I do if my dog refuses to drink water?

Increasing the moisture in their diet and adding bone broth to their food/water can help entice dogs to drink more. However, if your dog is showing signs of dehydration, a call to your vet is recommended.

Why is my dog suddenly drinking more water than usual?

Increased thirst can be due to a simple cause such as warmer weather or intense exercise, or something more serious. If this is an ongoing issue and your dog isn’t drinking due to increased temperature/after exercise, consult your vet.

Are there ways to hydrate my dog other than water?

Yes, you can offer bone broth and increase the moisture content in your dog’s diet to contribute towards their hydration. The “Management tips” and “Increasing moisture levels in the diet” sections above are especially helpful for this question.

Can dehydration lead to other health problems in dogs?

Unfortunately, yes. The canine body and brain require adequate hydration levels to function properly, which means that chronic or ongoing dehydration can lead to other health issues. 

What should I do if my dog has diarrhoea and won’t drink water?

Dogs with diarrhoea need additional fluid to replace what they’re losing. Consult the “Managing hydration alongside digestive issues” section above for tips to prevent your dog becoming dehydrated.

How can I tell if my dog’s skin is dehydrated, and how do I hydrate it?

Dry skin in dogs can manifest as excessive itching, flakiness, or other symptoms. Hydrating dogs from within will help dehydrated skin. Also, avoiding excessive baths will allow your dog’s natural skin oils to remain intact.


  1. Reynolds, A, DVM, PhD, DACVN., Sneddon, K, BS., Reinhan, G, PhD., Hinchcliff, K, BVS, MS, PhD, DACVIM. Hydration Strategies for Exercising Dogs. Accessed June 2024.
  2. Kempton, M., Ettinger, U., Foster, R., Williams, S., Calvert, G., Hampshire, A., Zelaya, F., O’Gorman, R., McMorris, T., Smith, M. Dec 2010. Dehydration affects brain structure and function in healthy adolescents. Human Brain Mapping;, 32(1):71-79. Doi: 10.1002/hbm.20999
  3. Marks, S. Jul 2012. Diarrhea. Canine and Feline Gastroenterology;, 2013:99-108. Doi: 10.1016/B978-1-4160-3661-6.00011-0

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