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Understanding How Long Can A Dog Go Without Food And Water

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A dog’s body comprises 20% body mass and 80% water. A small drop in the water composition in your dog’s body will leave him dehydrated, and at a greater risk of having serious health issues that would need to be addressed right away.

Realistically dogs need regular water to survive and be in good health. However there are times that they lose their appetite and start refusing to drink water. This is frustrating for many pet owners, who might not know the amount of time their best friend can live without eating and drinking water.

Healthy dogs can survive for around three to five days without eating and not experiencing any dangerous effects. However, fasting for extended periods might be a result of an underlying issue. A pooch with no access to water and food will often die from dehydration, rather than starvation.

Why is Water Important to Your Dog?

Water is the basis for every metabolic process or activity that takes place in the body of an adult, small dog. The importance of water cannot be overemphasized, especially if it has to do with a dog. 

The primary purpose of water is to aid in the transportation of essential nutrients from one part of the body to another or in and out of cells. Water also helps dogs to digest their food as well as to absorb the nutrients.

Water also helps to cool the body of a dog by helping them to regain normal body temperature, especially after a run. Water is also essential for dogs as it cushions the joints after lubricating them, thus making movement easier for them.

What Causes The Lack Of Food Consumption? How Long Can A Dog Go Without Eating?

The spinal cord – as well as other inner tissues – are also cushioned by moisture, and wastes are removed from the body via bowel movements and urination. 

As you can see, almost every bodily function requires water. This is the primary reason why dogs need at least twice as much water as food. For instance, if your dog eats two cups of kibble per day, he must drink a minimum of four to five cups of water.

Your dog will likely not drink this amount of water in one sitting; no dog can. But if your dog’s water bowl is kept full, he will drink the water in sips throughout the entire day when he feels thirsty. He may need a lesser amount of water if he eats wet food, though.

So, let’s find out how long can dogs stop eating or drinking below:

Is Your Pet Feeling Discomfort? How Long Can Dogs Go Without Food?

How Long Can Dog Go Without Food?

All pets are unique in more ways than one. Most dogs that are not ill will survive for around three to five days without eating.

That said, dogs that are sick, underweight, too young, or too old might not survive without eating and will need medical attention sooner than that. Similarly, pregnant or nursing dogs will have to eat sooner than pups in optimal health.

There are several reasons why your dog refuses to eat. These include:

Pet Care: Types Of Things To Do When He Stops Eating Dog Food & What It Means

When Your Dog Is Sick

One of the most common reasons why my dogs may refuse to eat is when they are suffering from certain medical or health issues. Different conditions may result in meal refusal, including but not limited to the following:

  • Upset stomach
  • Bacterial, fungal or viral infection
  • Dental problems
  • Pain
  • Allergies
  • Parasites
  • Internal obstructions
  • Organ failure
  • Cancer

When Your Dog Is Diagnosed With Parvo

Most pups with Parvo [1] are at risk of premature death if not treated immediately. Most professional veterinarians agree that such pups should not be forced to eat. However, the main cause of concern is dehydration. Forcing your pooch to eat might lead to further illnesses.

Another common risk among small dogs is hypoglycemia. Generally speaking, if he has not eaten for one or two days, take your dog for a check-up.

When Your Dog Has Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is a common, discomfort-causing, and potentially fatal ailment of the digestive tract that affects many cats and dogs. Fatty foods are believed to cause pancreatitis in dogs.

Treatment involves allowing time for the organ to heal. Nothing should be given to the dog for approximately 24 hours. The affected pup should also drink a limited amount of water. To help the pooch survive, IV fluids should be administered intravenously.

After Your Dog Had a Surgery

How long can a dog go without eating after surgery? Well, nausea is a common side-effect that occurs after surgery. The surgical procedure counts as a change in your dog’s life. 

Your dog may not eat anything until these diseases disappear. It’s possible for a dog to stop eating for 3 to 5 days, but he is weaker after the operation so work in consultation with your vet.

Consider Bringing Them For Vet Visit Next Time Their Diet Or Meal Routine Changes Significantly

How Long Can A Dog Go Without Water?

Many dog owners ask, “how long can a dog safely go without water?” Well, the length of time healthy dogs can go without water is at least 2-3 days. But this length of time depends on the following factors:

  • The breed of the dog
  • Health condition: A healthy dog can go for much longer without drinking water. But an ill dog cannot go without water for one day
  • Weather condition: Dogs need more water during summer and can survive for days without taking in water during winter
  • Age: Surprisingly, puppies can go without water for extended periods compared to adult dogs.

But a dog that stays 2-3 days without drinking water can trigger the onset of some undesirable reactions in your dog’s body.

A dog’s body is made up of approximately 60 percent water, which means that a drop – of at least 10 percent – in the amount of water in your dog’s body can bring on severe consequences. If you don’t recognize this as soon as possible and remedy the situation fast, it can become fatal.

So, if your dog has refused to drink water for more than a day, it’s essential to go seek help immediately. Very likely, your vet will keep them hydrated with IV fluids, apart from diagnosing and treating the underlying cause.

If your dog has been sick and needs some encouragement to have a drink or requires hydration fast, the best way to do it is to feed him with wet food.

So, you can pour fresh clean water on kibble and allow the pellets to absorb water for several seconds before allowing your dog to eat the food.

Wet food contains water, so this might prolong the period a bit. However, hot weather can reduce hydration levels and shorten the time frame. Make sure you also observe your dog for signs of dehydration.

What Are The Warning Signs of Dehydration in Dogs?

You must be aware of how much water your small dog drinks every day. If you notice that your dog’s water bowl appears untouched since you filled it up in the morning before going off to work, you should pay attention to your dog’s behavior.

The following warning signs of dehydration in dogs. If you notice that your dog’s water bowl has barely been touched, keep an eye out for these early signs of dehydration that might require a trip to the vet clinic:

Lethargy

Dehydration occurs when fluids are lost without being adequately replenished, i.e. when your dog is drinking less than usual or isn’t well hydrated. Because of this, there will be less blood flowing in the muscles, and the level of energy to fuel the muscles will drop. This makes your dog look and feel unnaturally tired or with less energy, and won’t participate in its usual activities. 

Sunken Eyes

Dehydration can also affect your dog’s eyes, and the easiest way to notice this occurrence is when your dog has sunken eyes all of the sudden.

This is the effect of the lack of water in the eye as well as in the muscles that support their eyes. So, you need to visit your local vet as soon as you notice the sunken eyes of your pet so that proper care will be administered to lessen the severity of dehydration. 

Reduced Appetite

One of the first signs of dehydration that a small dog exhibit is the loss of appetite. This is because when a dog is dehydrated, it becomes extremely difficult for them to swallow or even digest any food. 

So, as soon as you notice that your dog is suddenly showing a lack of interest in food, then your beloved pet may be suffering from dehydration.

Dry Nose and Gums

A healthy dog has wet pink gums and a dog’s nose is naturally moist too. A severely dehydrated dog will have a dry nose, dry mouth and pale gums.

A dry nose doesn’t necessarily mean dehydration, but it can be an indicator when combined with other signs. Dry noses get cracked easily after a short while and are certainly not a good sign as regards the overall health of the canine.

Dry mouth is not uncommon during rest cycles, especially if your dog sleeps with his mouth open.

Excessive Panting

When your dog pants excessively, it is a sign that they are feeling hot and possibly thirsty. It shows that they are dehydrated and must not be left to pant for too long, or the problem may get worse.

Low Skin Elasticity

The skin of a well-hydrated dog tends to regain its shape quickly when pinched or pulled.

However, a dehydrated dog tends to have a low skin elasticity, and the skin will take a little while to retract to its original position. This occurs due to the lack of sufficient fluid in the dog’s skin.

Age Could Be A Factor For Conditions Like Slower Digestive Processes

Causes of Dehydration in Dogs

Illness

Certain illnesses such as  kidney disease and diabetes may cause your best friend to stop drinking water, or take less water than their regular level of water intake.

Fluid loss from diarrhea, vomiting, and even excessive urination can make a dog dehydrated. The fact that sick dogs feel nauseous makes the condition even worse because they do not have an urge for water.

The amount of time a sick dog can survive without water will depend on a number of things, including the cause of the illness. If you notice any changes in his behaviors, be sure to contact your local vet immediately.

Cold Weather

Another reason why a dog will stay without drinking water for a long time has to do with the weather. Most dogs drink water to replace the one they have lost as a result of heat during hot days. Drinking water from time to time also helps them to regulate body temperature.

However, during cold weather, your dog may not drink as much water as he used to since he is not losing too much fluid.

Aging

Dehydration tends to go hand-in-hand with the dog’s age, and older dogs have a low appetite for clean water and food.

Older dogs tend to laze around and do not exercise as much as they did during their ‘teenage’ years. If you have an old dog, you’ll notice that they tend to spend most of the time sleeping and this means that they have a lower urge to drink water.

Traumatic Experience

When dogs go through a traumatic experience such as a dental surgery, accident, or neutering, stress can cause them to lose the urge to drink water or even eat food.

Being In An Unfamiliar Place

The acute sense of smell a dog possesses can enable them to detect when they are in a new territory quickly. This can cause the dog to be cautious or extremely nervous and may refuse to drink water from their water dish as a result.

What You Should Do If Your Dog Suddenly Stops Eating

Considering that reduced appetite affects individual dogs differently, it is using your due diligence when determining the steps to take for your fasting pup.

Here’s what you need to do if your dog suddenly stops eating:

  1. Avoid panicking: Keep in mind that dogs usually stop for a short period without experiencing any severe side effects. If your dog seems to be fine, fasting for one or two days isn’t a big deal.
  2. Determine the reason why your dog won’t eat. If you find out the reason your beloved pooch is refusing to eat, then you should take the necessary measures to restore their appetite.
  3. Get your dog to eat their favorite treats: you should determine if your dog is simply being a picky eater by giving them their favorite treats. If he quickly eats them up, then pickiness is a cause of the problem.
  4. Routine also plays a part in how and when dogs eat. If you feed your dogs at the same time every day, they will eat better than animals who are unsure about when their next meal is.
  5. Don’t let your dog go without eating for an extended period. Make sure to seek help if your pup doesn’t eat within 48 hours.

Circumstances Like Sickness, Stress & Depression Phase Could Also Lead To Lack Of Food Temptation

How to Prevent Dehydration in Dogs?

While dogs can go without water for two to three days, leaving your dog without water for extended periods is ill-advised and could result in the poor health of your dog.

Dehydration is a risky condition that can expose your dog to unintended and serious consequences.

When a dog is dehydrated, it affects all the processes in their body. The organs will finally get damaged as a result of prolonged water deficiency. 

So leaving your dog severely dehydrated can cause life-threatening illnesses and potentially lead to death.

  • As a responsible dog owner, you should ensure your pet has access to clean fresh water at all times, even when traveling for an extended period of time.

Here are some ways to prevent dehydration in dogs:

Avoid Salty Foods

Giving your dog meals high in salt can lead to excessive thirst. If the increased thirst does not entice your dog to drink more water, then they at risk of being dehydrated.

  • Salty foods can result in health complications such as vomiting, high blood pressure, and even tremors. 

Snacks such as biscuits and popcorn are high in salt, and they can result in dehydration if the dog does not drink enough water.

Use Fresh or Canned Dog Food

Your dog deserves proper nutrition. A hydrated food come in handy when feeding dogs that need encouragement to drink water. This type of food is usually a high-protein food that is dried to eliminate moisture.

The alternative to dehydrated dog food is canned dog food. Canned food has a high moisture content to help provide more fluid to your pet.

This type of food has a better taste than dehydrated dog food and it is delicious even to picky eaters.

Carry Water During Car Travel And Walks

When traveling long distances or going on long walks, it is likely that your dog will be affected by the changing temperature and may become dehydrated.

When packing essentials for the journey, dog owners should carry a lot of water to last both of you through the journey. If he is indoors and in good health, he will be fine, just make sure to provide water as soon as you get home. Do not intentionally leave your dog without water. 

Make Clean Water Available In Strategic Locations

One way of enticing your dog to drink enough water is to place refilled clean water bowls in visible areas of the house where the dog has easy access. Dogs are generally pretty good at regulating their water intake.

If your dog spends most of the time indoors, place a water bowl in a couple of rooms to make the water highly accessible.

If your dog likes playing fetch in the backyard you should place another water bowl in a visible place in the garden.

  • As a general rule, dog owners should always monitor the level of their dog’s water bowl every day to determine if your dog is drinking enough water.

Empty the water bowl every day and clean it with soap and water before refilling it will clean drinking water.

Large Enough Water Bowl

The size of the dog water bowl that you purchase for your dog should be appropriate for your dogs size.

If you have small dogs, buy a low and shallow water bowl that allows your dog to drink water comfortably. For a large dog breed, buy a wide water bowl that holds enough fluids for your dog.

  • Also, ensure that the water bowl you buy has a weighted bottom to prevent tipping. 

A heavier bottom makes the water bowl stable, and it is less likely to tip over when your dog knocks it when drinking water.

Use Water Fountains

Water fountains are good alternatives to water bowls, and they can entice your dog to drink more water even when you are away.

Water fountains work by filtering and recirculating water, making the water taste fresh every time your dog comes to drink.

Your dog may not like water, but they will surely love something to crunch on. Ice cubes will come in handy as dogs are chewers. Not only will the cubes hydrate your thirsty pet but will keep them feeling refreshed on a warm day.

Fix Hunger. Feed Them With Cheap Alternatives for Temporary Poor Home Conditions Phase

How Much Water Should Dogs Drink?

The amount of water that is enough to quench your pet’s thirst depends on the dog’s breed, age, breed, activity level, and the weather .

Most veterinarians recommend providing one ounce of water for every pound of body weight per day. For example, fully grown Golden Retrievers have a body weight of 65 pounds, therefore they should be given  access to 65 ounces or about 2 liters of water per day. On the other hand, an adult French Bulldog has a body weight of about 25 pounds, so it should drink 25 ounces or approximately 750 milliliters or water daily.

Puppies have different hydration needs. When they’re transitioning from their mother’s milk to solid food, they’ll need access to about half a cup of water every other hour. It is only after they’ve successfully weaned that they can transition to adult hydration requirements.

Keep in mind that these are merely guidelines. What your dog eats can also affect how much water they need. Immediate intervention is needed to prevent organ damage and even death. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a dog die from not eating?

Yes, a dog can die from not eating, just like humans. While they can go for a number of days without food, a dog may show signs of illness, you should contact your vet if your pup doesn’t eat for 24 hours or more.

What happens if a dog doesn’t eat for a day?

If a dog doesn’t eat for a day, there is nothing really to worry about. Provided your dog doesn’t have diarrhea or isn’t vomiting and simply doesn’t want to eat; it is not a huge problem. But if he doesn’t eat for longer than that, you should take the dog to the vet.

Conclusion

At some point, a dog owner may notice that their pet is not interested in the food being offered. A dog not eating or drinking could be a sign of an underlying problem.

Never leave your dog without filling up their water bowl. Do yourself and your pet a favor by talking to your veterinary officer about your dog’s diet and eating habits.

It is hoped that your small dog will not have to go for three days without water. This is because dehydration can be severe, especially if your dog goes without water on a particularly hot day.

You’ll be glad to help your dog early enough. Even if your pet does not show any signs or symptoms of dehydration, it is important to notify your veterinarian.