How Long Can A Small Dog Go Without Water?

Have you ever wondered how long a small dog can go without water? It is said that water is essential for life and so it is as vital to dogs as it is to humans. Dogs also need to drink a lot of water – just as humans – every day to minimize the risk of dehydration. 

How long can a small dog go without water? A dog – small ones inclusive – can go without water for at least 2 days or 3 days at the most. However, that is only possible if the dog is not in a sweltering climate. 

This is why it is super crucial for you as a dog owner to provide your canine friend with lots of water at all times. But what happens when your dog goes without water for some time? What if your small dog runs away from home and does not have access to a water supply for several days? Read on to find out!

How Long Can a Small Dog Go Without Water?

The length of time a small dog 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.

Why Would a Dog Stay Without Drinking Water?

It is quite strange for a dog to stay without water for days. But there could be more than a few reasons why your dog chooses to avoid drinking water.

Injury or Illness

Illness can disrupt a small dog’s typical consumption of water. If the dog is also suffering from oral injuries as well as urinary tract infections, then do not expect them to drink water.

Urinary tract infections generally start from the urethra and then move slowly to the bladder. At times, the inflammatory disease may even affect the kidneys.

So, if you notice the following in your dog, it is likely that he has a urinary tract infection:

  • Inability to have a free or regular flow of urine is characterized by a lack of power to stand and urinate.
  • Displaying symptoms of a compromised or endangered immune system.
  • An abnormally high concentration of urine.

If left untreated, this could lead to the infection of the bladder as well as kidneys. 

Urinary Tract Infections in Dogs

Urinary tract infections are also more common in female, and older dogs and may display symptoms such as:

  • Painful urination
  • More frequent urination
  • Blood in the urine
  • Urination in the house, etc.

The pain from this inflammatory disease can be so severe that it can cause a dog to stay without drinking water for a long time.

Some of the injuries that may also make a dog go without water for an extended period include:

  • Tooth root abscess
  • Mouth cancer
  • Periodontal disease
  • Dislocation
  • Fractures, etc.

Both tooth root abscess as well as periodontal disease – which is a bacterial infection of the mouth – is associated with poor oral hygiene.

Fracture, loss, dislocation, etc. occur when the teeth suffer from trauma.

This happens when the dog bites an object so hard that he breaks off a tooth. Mouth cancer is an abnormal tumor or growth in the mouth and can occur in dogs, irrespective of age. However, it is more common among older dogs.

Lack of Access to Water

Some dogs may not have easy access to water, especially if they are homeless as hot weather can affect them, which may lead to dehydration. 

Tainted Water

Dogs are highly sensitive creatures and are capable of detecting tastes and odors that most humans may not even perceive. A dog can refuse to drink water without appearing distressed or disturbed in any way. 

When this happens, you need to check the water for abnormalities as it could be tainted with dirt or iron. Dogs need pure, clean drinking water to stay healthy at all times.


Older dogs may have problems when it comes to staying hydrated even though they still need to drink water. Aging dogs are usually reluctant to use their diminishing energy to get to where they can drink water. 

And since they do not perform as many exercises as younger and more agile dogs, they may not feel as thirsty. This means that they will have a lower level of thirst.

Traumatic Experience

When a dog undergoes a traumatic experience – such as dental surgery, castration, neutering, etc. – he may refuse to drink any water. This is as a result of the shock of the experience and so may be too stressed to drink water.

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. Drinking water from time to time also helps them to regulate body temperature.

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

Being in an Unfamiliar or Unknown 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 as a result.

Why Water Is Important To Your Dog

Water is the basis for every metabolic process or activity that takes place in the body of an adult, or 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 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.

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, nearly 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 his 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.

What Happens When a Small Dog Becomes Dehydrated?

Inadequate supply of water can make a dog ill within a short time, thereby leading to dehydration. The organs will finally get damaged as a result of prolonged water deficiency. 

And if the water deficiency lasts too long, organs such as the liver, kidneys, etc. start to shut down, leading to death shortly afterward.

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 will alert you so that you can know whether or not your dog is dehydrating fast and whether you need to rush them to your local vet.


Dehydration – which is the depletion of bodily fluids – can make your dog lethargic as less blood will flow through his muscles. When there is a significant reduction in the flow of blood to the muscles, there won’t be enough energy to fuel them.

This makes your dog look and feel unnaturally tired.

Sunken Eyes

Dehydration can also affect the eyes, and the easiest way to notice this occurrence is when your dog suddenly has sunken eyes.

This is a result of the lack of water in the eye as well as in the muscles that support his 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 exhibits is reduced 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 nose almost all the time. A severely dehydrated dog will have a dry nose and pale gums. Dry noses get cracked easily after a short while and are certainly not a good sign as regards the overall health of the canine.

Abnormal Panting

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

Depleted Skin Elasticity

Dogs usually have highly elastic skins. That is, if you tug at your canine companion’s skin, it will go back into place immediately.

But a dehydrated dog’s skin, when pulled out of place, will take a little while to return to its designated position. This is a result of the lack of water in his body. 

How to do the skin elasticity test to check if your dog is dehydrated

Tips to Prevent Dehydration in Dogs

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

If you take the following steps, your dog will be in no danger of running out of water or getting severely dehydrated.

Step 1 – Use Hydrated Food

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 water on kibble and allow the pellets to absorb water for a few minutes before allowing your dog to eat the food.

Step 2- Take Water Along with You When You Walk Your Dog

Walking your dog is essential. If you do so on a hot day, you should make sure you carry some fresh, clean water along with you. Here’s my recommended collapsible water travel bowl that can attach to your dog leash for extra convenience.

An excellent cue when taking your dog on a long walk is when you feel thirsty. At this time, it is most likely that your canine friend is equally thirsty.

Step 3 – Avoid Salty Foods

Salty foods are not suitable for dogs of any size. This is because salt can bring about excessive thirst and can also result in high blood pressure. When your dog consumes too much salt, it could lead to fits, vomiting, and tremors.

So, do not be tempted to share your snacks with your dog. Don’t give your dog biscuits, crisps, popcorn, etc.

Step 4 – Make Water Available at All Times

Always make sure that your small dog has easy access to clean water at all times. Place his water bowl at a convenient spot where he can readily access it. My favorite (and very affordable) dog water bowl for both inside and outside your home is this stainless steel bowl from Amazon.


As you can see, dogs need to drink lots of water every day, just like humans. If you notice that your small dog is reluctant to drink water, you should take him to see the vet as soon as possible.

More Information About Small Dogs

Small dogs can enjoy the great outdoors just as much as big dogs, that’s why we’ve published several articles on small dogs here at Outdoor Dog Fun:


Michelle loves enjoying the outdoors with her dogs. She grew in a big house near the beach with German Shepherds. Nowadays, Michelle has down-sized her dogs to poodles, proving small dogs can enjoy the outdoors too! Her dogs enjoy playing fetch, swimming, and long walks. Michelle and her dogs enjoy escaping the city limits to hike, camp, and swim.

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