Should you leave water out for your puppy all day?

Many new dog owners are unsure whether they should leave water out for their puppies all day. This is a common question, especially if you have a puppy that makes a mess around the water bowl after every tiny sip, or if you are dealing with potty training issues due to your pup’s full bladder. As a result, it’s not surprising that many puppy owners opt to give their furry friends water only at specific times.

But as a veterinarian, I can tell you that puppies need access to fresh clean water all the time. There is only one possible exception, which we will discuss later. However, even this exception is a topic of heated debate among veterinarians and some dog trainers.

Here’s everything you need to know about your puppy’s water intake and how to check if your pup is drinking enough. This post is written for new puppy owners, but it applies to adult dogs as well ☺️

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information.

While I am a veterinarian, this article is not intended to replace professional veterinary advice. If you have any medical concerns about your pet, consult your vet immediately. Always seek professional assistance if you are unsure of your pet’s health.

small puppy drinking water from a big red bowl

Why is water necessary for animals (and humans)

The life on our planet is based on carbon and water. Without water, there would be no life. As water facilitates all metabolic functions, dehydration can have fatal consequences. 

Water has many functions. It regulates body temperature, lubricates joints, protects organs and tissues, carries oxygen and nutrients to cells, eliminates waste through urination, dissolves minerals and nutrients to make them accessible, and is necessary for cognitive functions. 

Young animals (and human babies 🙂 ) need more water than adults. The consequences of low water intake are also more severe than when adults don’t drink enough. 

Animal Welfare Act and other legislation

Water is so important, in many countries it’s mandatory for the animal owners to provide clean water at all times.

The Five Freedoms was the first widely accepted evidence-based model that helped capture the key aspects of animal welfare. It provides an ethical and holistic way of considering an animal’s welfare state.

The Five Freedoms are:

  1. Freedom from hunger and thirst: by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigor.
  2. Freedom from discomfort: by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
  3. Freedom from pain, injury, or disease: by prevention through rapid diagnosis and treatment.
  4. Freedom to express normal behavior: by providing sufficient space, proper facilities, and the company of the animal’s own kind.
  5. Freedom from fear and distress: by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.

Later, based on these Five Freedoms, a new model was proposed to identify and grade the severity of different forms of animal welfare. This updated model is called The Five Dimensions and it allows a distinction to be made between the physical and functional factors that affect an animal’s welfare and the overall mental state of the animal arising from these factors. 

The Five Dimensions are:

  1. Nutrition (this again includes free access to fresh water)
  2. Physical Environment
  3. Health
  4. Behavioral Interactions
  5. Mental State

To put it simply, this new model takes into account also the mental state of the animal. It provides a means of evaluating the welfare of an individual animal (or group of animals) in a particular situation, with a strong focus on mental well-being and positive experiences. 

These 2 scientific models are the basis for most animal protection laws, such as the Animal Welfare Act in the UK or US Animal Welfare Act. By signing an Animal Welfare Act, the country places a duty of care on animal owners to ensure they take reasonable steps to meet the welfare needs of their animals. And it makes it possible for law enforcement to act before the animal is suffering.

And as you can see, the importance of clean fresh water is emphasized in both models these laws are based on. 

At what age do puppies start to drink water?

Just like other mammals, puppies transition from milk to water during weaning. Up to that point, they fulfill their hydration needs through their mum’s milk. 

As young puppies start to develop teeth at 3-4 weeks of age, suckling begins to hurt the mother. She will move away and leave her pups for longer and longer periods. So they will start to eat solid food to fill their bellies. 

As soon as puppies start eating solid foods, they will need constant access to clean water to stay hydrated. 

How much water does an adult dog or a puppy need?

How much water does an adult dog need per day? 

It’s very hard to say how much water a dog needs. The exact amount of water depends on his size, age, activity level, diet,  and health, as well as his environment.  

We can say that on average, an adult healthy dog needs at least 50ml water per kg body weight each day.

To convert it for my US friends, that’s a minimum of 1 ounce of water (or 1/8 cup of water) per pound of body weight each day. 

I don’t know about you, but I need a calculator even for 2+3, so here is a Dog water intake calculator you can use to know how much water your pup needs ☺️

Again, how much water a dog needs depends on many factors and it even changes over time. Older dogs, young dogs, and dogs with underlying health conditions have different needs. 

Dogs who are fed dry dog food, active dogs, lactating bitches, or puppies need to drink more.

The temperature and humidity of the environment also play an essential role. 

I don’t recommend measuring your dog’s water intake to tell if he’s drinking enough. You can’t tell how much water he really needs and you can’t tell how much he actually drank (and how much of his water ended as a puddle around his bowl) 🤷‍♀️ 

The best way to be sure your pup is drinking enough is to look for early signs of dehydration. There are a few simple ways how to check your pup’s hydration status, we’ll get to that later in more detail. 

How much water does a puppy need per day? 

Puppies need more water than adult dogs. They are more active and have a higher metabolic rate. But how much water they need depends on many factors, such as age, size, or activity level. 

You also need to take into account the temperature and humidity of the environment. 

In general, a puppy needs at least 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight each day

But again, don’t rely on measurements to tell if your puppy is drinking enough water. Check for signs of dehydration instead!

Factors that influence how much water a dog needs:

  • Age
  • Size
  • Activity level
  • Physiology
  • Health 
  • The temperature of the environment
  • Humidity
  • Type of food

It’s very hard to tell how much water your puppy or your dog needs. It’s very individual and it also changes over time.

Should you leave water out for your puppy all day?

Puppies need to drink often, so the answer is yes, you should leave water out for your puppy all day. Otherwise, you risk harming your new furry friend.

Your puppy should have constant access to clean water. 

Water intake during house training:

Now, this is the one exception to the rule that some people find acceptable. But not everyone agrees. 

During house training, you can choose to remove your puppy’s water bowl during the night and let your puppy drink only during the day. About 2 hours after you remove the water bowl, take your puppy out for a last potty break. Be consistent with the timing and bathroom breaks.

If you choose to try this method, remove the water only during the night, never during the day!

Talk to a vet before you restrict your puppy’s water and talk to a professional dog trainer about other training options. 

I think that an animal should have access to clean water all the time, no matter if it’s a mature adult or a puppy. Restricting water is just more convenient for the human 🤷‍♀️

How to check if your puppy is drinking enough water

You can try to measure how much your dog drinks, but as I said before, it’s not a reliable method.

There are several very easy ways how to check if your dog is hydrated:

→ Skin elasticity test: 

Skin elasticity is directly proportional to hydration status and how much water is in the skin tissue.  To test the skin elasticity, gently grab the skin on your puppy’s neck and back and raise it up a bit. Then let it go. It should instantly snap back. If it’s slow to fall back into place, he needs more water.

However, some breeds have just too much skin 😛 so it takes a bit of time until it snaps back. The best thing is to check your pup’s skin elasticity when you know he’s hydrated enough. You can time it, it shouldn’t take more than 1-3 seconds even with these breeds. This way you will have a healthy baseline for future reference.

→ Feel your puppy’s gums: 

Have you ever felt so thirsty that your saliva got all thick and sticky? If you feel your puppy’s gums and they are sticky or dry, he needs to drink more. 

→ Capillary filling time test: 

Capillaries are tiny blood vessels. If you press your finger gently against your puppy’s gums, the place will turn white as you interrupt the blood flow and push the blood from these small blood vessels away. The blood should return within 1-3 seconds and the place will return to its normal pink color. If it takes longer, your puppy has a serious health problem and you should talk to your vet. 

These tests are a standard part of every physical examination. Your vet will perform them each time he checks your pup, just to make sure the animal is well hydrated and his blood circulation and blood volume are normal. 

It’s good to check your puppy’s hydration status from time to time, just to make sure he’s drinking enough. 

If for whatever reason your puppy isn’t drinking enough, or the temperature is too high and he just can’t keep up, there are a few warning signs before he’ll collapse. 

Dog drinking water from a bowl. text: Use the skin elasticity test to tell if your puppy is drinking enough water

Signs of dehydration in dogs and puppies

Dehydration can be caused by 2 different things: your puppy isn’t drinking enough to cover his actual needs or your puppy is losing too much water. 

Puppies are usually good at self-regulating, but sometimes when they are very active or the temperature is too high, they don’t keep up with their needs.  

Puppies that have a fever, diarrhea, vomiting, or some other medical issue can lose a lot of water. On top of that, sick puppies usually don’t want to drink or eat, which makes the risk of dehydration much higher. 

When there is an imbalance between water loss and water intake, the blood volume and blood flow are reduced. This leads to an insufficient oxygen supply to tissues and organs, as well as loss of important electrolytes, such as sodium, chloride, and potassium. 

Most common signs of dehydration:

  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Dry, sticky gums and thick saliva
  • Panting
  • Dry, sunken eyes
  • Dry nose
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sometimes vomiting with or without diarrhea

Constant untreated mild dehydration can lead to different health problems (for example a urinary tract infection).

Severe fluid loss can lead to kidney damage, organ damage, collapse, and death. 

And sometimes it’s the other way around – dehydration can be a symptom of underlying health issues like kidney disease or diabetes. 

Signs of dehydration in dogs and puppies: Loss of skin elasticity, Dry, sticky gums and thick saliva, Panting, Dry, sunken eyes, Dry nose, Lethargy, Loss of appetite, Vomiting with or without diarrhea

How to persuade your puppy to drink more

Some dogs just don’t find water appealing enough to drink as much as they need. If your puppy is one of these picky babies, there are still a few things you can do to encourage him to drink more. 

  • Make sure your puppy has clean water in his bowl. Some puppies prefer big bowls with plenty of fresh water.
  • Wash your dog’s water bowl regularly
  • Put his water bowl near his food bowl
  • Try putting another water bowl near his bed or his favorite place
  • Some puppies prefer a water fountain, it might be a good idea to give it a try
  • If you feed your puppy kibbles, try combining or alternating it with wet dog food
  • Pour a bit of water on his dry food
  • Put a few spoons of bone broth or chicken broth in his water bowl or pour the broth on his dry food (use homemade broth, not a bouillon cube!)
  • On hot days replace the water in his bowl regularly, so it’s always clean, fresh, and cold. You can also play a game where you drop his favorite treat in a bowl of water and he has to fish it out. If the outside temperature is very high, you can put a few ice cubes in your dog’s drinking bowl. 
  • Give him treats that are healthy and have high water content. Many dogs love watermelon, cucumbers, or bell peppers. 
  • Carry a water bottle when you go for a walk and offer him small sips during the walk. This will also prevent him from drinking from contaminated water sources and puddles.

Be gentle and praise your pup when he takes a sip, especially if he’s sick and doesn’t want to drink. 

What if your dog is drinking too much? 

Just like dehydration, there is such a thing as excessive drinking and over-hydration. Excessive thirst can be a sign of underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes insipidus, or it can be caused by psychogenic polydipsia. Some medications can also cause your puppy to drink more. If you think your puppy is drinking too much water, talk to your vet.

In conclusion, providing your puppy with access to clean, fresh water at all times is crucial for their health and well-being. While there are some potential drawbacks to leaving water out all day, such as an increased risk of accidents or difficulty with potty training, the benefits of constant access to water far outweigh the risks. 

Water is essential for regulating body temperature, aiding digestion, maintaining organ function, supporting the immune system, and promoting healthy skin and coat. If you’re unsure whether is your puppy drinking enough, the best thing to do is to talk to your vet. 

That’s it from me, I hope I answered all your questions about your pup’s drinking habits and needs. If you still want to know more, just let me know! ☺️

Happy puppy parenting! ❣️

PS: If you are as crazy about animals as I am and want to get more pet health tips, subscribe to my newsletter! Today you will get a free pet planner as a bonus 🤗

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