Pets drink different amounts of water based on the weather, exercise and specific habits. A change in diet (going from canned to dry food or visa versa) can also influence the amount a pet may drink. Sometimes your pet may drink more water as a sign of illness. A significant change in water consumption warrants closer monitoring of your pet or a visit to the veterinarian. Medical issues such as endocrine disease, intestinal disease and blood loss can all cause an increase in water consumption.
Cats can have a significant increase in water consumption from endocrine disease such as diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, and high calcium. Dogs also get diabetes mellitus but can have an increased water consumption from other endocrine changes including elevated calcium, hyperadrenocorticism (a syndrome also known as Cushing’s disease) or Addison’s disease which is an inadequate supply of certain types of adrenal hormones. These diseases more often affect middle age to older pets, but can occur in younger pets as well. A thorough history, physical examination and testing can help identify these disease processes. Most can be identified with blood tests and evaluation of urine and usually treament can be successful.
Intestinal disease can be another reason for excess water consumption. Animals that have diarrhea have more water loss, so have to compensate for that loss. Also if absorption of nutrients or change in protein levels exist these pets may drink more to compensate for those physiological changes. Animals that are losing weight and drinking more or that have chronic diarrhea, should be evaluated for intestinal disease that might respond to therapy.
Animals that are losing blood will drink more because the body has a sense of not having enough blood available and the body tries to replace that lost volume. Physiologically the body feels dehydrated and is trying to have enough blood to provide oxygen and nutrients to the tissues. Blood loss can be from an acute injury, trauma or a low grade chronic loss through the intestines or bleeding disorders. In these cases pale gums, dark stool or other signs might exist to help determine the source of disease and correct it.
If you notice a change in your pet’s water consumption- be sure to mention it during the annual examination with your veterinarian. Routine blood and urine tests will often catch these disorders. Pets over 10 years of age might benefit from blood test screening every 6 months rather than annually. Any abrupt increase in water consumption that is not explained by hot weather or change in diet or exercise should be investigated since it may be a sign of treatable disease that might respond to earlier intervention.
Blog Post Author:
Merrianne Burtch, DVM, DACVIM