By Andrew Fischer

How to make your Labrador drink water?

Dehydration is a condition where the loss of water from a dog’s body is greater than the amount of water the dog takes in.

Sufficient water intake is essential for the general health and well-being of your Labrador. A general guideline is that a healthy Labrador should drink between 0.5 and 1 ounce (15-30 ml) of water per pound (0.45 Kg) of bodyweight each day. Dogs should never go more than a day without water. Dehydration in Labradors is quite common but may be very serious and you should make sure you do everything to avoid it.

If your Lab doesn’t want to drink enough water and your veterinarian said that he is healthy, there’s a few things you can do to persuade your Lab to drink more water:

Make the water more attractive

There are many ways to attract your Lab to drink more. For example you can improve the taste of water by adding treats in it or making the water more exciting by replacing the old bowl with a new, differently shaped one, installing a water fountain or waving a toy over the bowl.

Mixing food with water

Another way to make your Labrador drink more is to mix wet dog food with water. Dogs usually drink water happily when it’s mixed with some tasty food. You can also substitute dry kibbles with wet canned food. You can also soak dry food in water for few minutes before giving it to your Lab.

Water bowl

Make sure that the water bowl is always clean. Empty the bowl daily and rinse out any debris. During extremely hot weather you should check the bowl more often as the water can evaporate quite quickly. Some dogs can fear the noise of metal bowls so you can try to get a plastic one instead. 

If your house has more floors put a bowl on each floor so your dog has easy access to water. You can also put one bowl outdoors if your Lab spends a lot of time in the garden. Water bowls may get knocked over by your dog so check them often and keep them replenished. Also, you shouldn’t change the location of the bowls too often so your dog knows where to look for them.

Pet fountain

If your dog refuses to drink from a normal water bowl you can try to introduce a water fountain as its running water may be more attractive to your dog. Some puppies who are not used to drinking from a regular bowl may also find a water fountain easier to drink from.

Exercise your dog daily

Dogs that don’t get enough exercise every day won’t be as thirsty as active dogs. Labradors are active animals and need daily exercise such as walking or playing in a park. Bring along water to offer your dog every few minutes. If your Lab is ill or elderly, exercise may not be the right solution to make him drink more. In such a case ask your vet about better options.

Make food available only for a few minutes every day

Some zoological studies show that dogs may mistake thirst for hunger if food is constantly available to them. It’s therefore recommended to make food available to your dog only at regular mealtimes.

Your dog may associate water with a negative experience

If your Labrador experienced pain or fear during drinking he may associate those negative feelings with the action of drinking. For example, if your dog was stung by a bee or someone stepped on his tail when he was drinking he may start to fear the action of drinking. If this is the reason why your Lab refuses to drink you can use a different water bowl and put it in a different place.

Let your dog out to pee often and regularly

If your Labrador is forced to be indoors for a long time, he could avoid drinking to avoid the uncomfortable feeling of a full bladder. Make sure to let your dog out to pee regularly every few hours.

Adding flavour to the water

Another thing you can do to make your pup drink more is to pour some chicken broth into the water. Make sure it’s not too salty before you offer it to your dog. Chicken broth can also replenish electrolytes that your dog lost to dehydration.

Using a needleless syringe

If your Lab refuses to drink even water mixed with chicken broth you can fill a plastic needleless syringe and squirt some water into his mouth. You can also squirt some electrolyte drink into the cheek area of your dog.

Your Lab doesn't like unfamiliar smells and places

Dogs have a great smell and can easily recognize a familiar and unfamiliar place as well as a familiar and unfamiliar source of water. If the water is unfamiliar to him he may refuse to drink it. If your Labrador has this problem then you can bring some water and bowl from home.

Older dogs may not be as thirsty

Many older Labradors are less active and therefore don’t need as much water as they did before. However, if your ageing Lab is still active and is exposed to hot weather you should make sure that he has sufficient water intake. If drinking seems to be an issue you can try to switch to moist food. If your ageing Lab has signs of dehydration, consult your vet.

Labradors prefer cold water

On hot summer days many Labradors prefer drinking colder water. You can put a couple of ice cubes in your Lab’s water bowl.

When should I visit a vet if my dog refuses to drink water?

If your dog doesn’t have a sufficient water intake over an extended period of time and demonstrates any of the following symptoms of dehydration you should visit a veterinarian as soon as possible.

  • Excessive panting
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Weak pulse
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Collapse
  • Changes in mental awareness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Darker urine
  • Sunken eyes
  • Dry nose, gums, mouth

Excessive panting, diarrhea, diabetes, vomiting and other health issues can cause dehydration if your Lab doesn’t drink more water to compensate. If your dog is very young, very old, pregnant or nursing take him to a vet as soon as you suspect dehydration. Your vet will give your Lab a saline or subcutaneous fluid injection to restore electrolytes and fluids to your pooch. He will also test your dog for any medical problems that could cause dehydration.