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Help! My Senior Dog has Excessive Thirst

Jack Russell Terrier drinking from a metal water bowl

A sudden increase in thirst (also known as polydipsia) can be a symptom of an underlying issue, especially in older dogs. It is normal for canines to drink more water after a long walk or a hectic play session. However, if a senior dog is showing signs of excessive thirst without any obvious reason, veterinary consultation becomes necessary. 

Why is My Senior Dog Always Thirsty?

Experts believe that most dogs need an ounce of water per pound of body weight. This means that a 30-pound dog should drink 30 ounces (or 3 cups) of water daily. If your older pup is continuously drinking some extra water, it’s quite likely that something’s wrong with him/her. The following are some reasons that can explain the excessive thirst of your senior dog.

Urinary Tract Infections

Chihuahua peeing on a tree in a fall/ winter setting with dead grass and bare trees

This is an extremely common problem with older canines. These infections are caused by bacteria that can also affect the bladder and kidneys if this disease is left untreated. Excessive urination is considered the most obvious symptom of this condition and that’s why an affected pup drinks more water. Difficult urination and cloudy urine with blood are other main symptoms of UTIs.   

In most cases, a simple urine test is enough to identify the presence of these infections. However, a urinalysis is also done to rule out serious complications. If your dog is only diagnosed with a UTI, antibiotics will be good enough to cure the problem.

Kidney Disease

Man with glasses hugging a brown dog

Kidneys are one of the vital organs of the body because they serve several purposes. For instance, keeping your pup hydrated is one of their major roles. If the kidneys of a dog are not working properly, he/she can become dehydrated and develop severe complications. That’s why dogs with any kidney issue, including acute kidney failure, tend to drink more water.

Kidney disease is a chronic problem that develops slowly and is often hard to detect. Several underlying problems, like infections, dental disease, and cancer, can lead to this condition. If your pooch is diagnosed with kidney disease, he/she will require plenty of drinking water and frequent visits to the toilet. 

Diabetes

Dog recieveing a shot in the loose folds of skin in its back

A dog suffering from diabetes mellitus will drink more water to prevent dehydration. This is because the deficiency of insulin in your pup’s body increases the glucose levels in the bloodstream. Excess sugar in the blood leads to increased urination because the kidneys have to expel the glucose from the system. Other symptoms of diabetes include changes in appetite and weight variations.

If your senior dog is experiencing excessive thirst due to diabetes, your veterinarian may change his/her diet and exercise plan. In extreme cases, insulin injections are also advised to control the glucose levels in the blood of the dog. Therefore, an older dog with diabetes will require a lot of monitoring and care to stay healthy and happy. 

Cushing’s Syndrome

Small white dog laying on its side with a person's hand on it's head

It is caused by the imbalance of cortisol in the bloodstream. This condition develops slowly and many owners don’t realize about this syndrome until it’s very late. This is because they consider frequent urination and excessive thirst a part of the aging process.

Fortunately, there are some other symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome that can make it easier to diagnose. For example, canines suffering from this disease will develop muscle weakness and skin diseases. You may also notice an abnormal increase in the diet of your older pooch.

Medication

multicolored pills and capsules on a white background

Senior dogs can develop many problems (like arthritis) that may require medications. Some of these drugs can lead to excessive thirst (and urination) as a side effect. Furosemide, a medicine for heart diseases, is one such example. Other than that, some anti-inflammatory drugs, such as prednisone, can also make your dog drink more water.  

Signs of Excessive Thirst

Human filling dog bowl in a bright orange sink as a Jack Russell Terrier looks on.

It’s imperative to observe your dog closely if you feel that he/she is showing excessive thirst. This is because polydipsia is often caused by an underlying medical problem that will require proper treatment. Some of the common symptoms that you may notice are as follows.

What to Do if My Senior Dog has Excessive Thirst?

Vet holding up one ear of a beagle to look inside.

Determining the exact cause of this behavior should always be your first priority. Schedule an immediate appointment with your vet so that he/she could perform a detailed examination of your canine companion. Several laboratory tests are also recommended to rule out different possibilities. Complete blood count, urinalysis, and blood serum chemistry are some of the most common tests.

The results of these tests tell your vet about the condition of your dog’s body. For example, an increased number of white blood cells can be used to eliminate diabetes and Cushing’s disease from the list of potential causes. On the other hand, urinalysis can confirm the occurrence of diabetes by finding sugar in the urine. Similarly, concentrated urine points out that something’s wrong with the kidneys or bladder of your pooch. 

In addition to these findings, the veterinarian may ask you about any changes in your dog’s routine. Likewise, he/she may inquire about any dietary changes and vaccination records of your pooch. All these questions will help the vet to speed up the diagnosis.

NOTE: Never withdraw water from your senior dog, even if he/she is showing signs of excessive thirst. Instead, allow them to drink as much water as they want and contact your vet.

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