How long can dogs stay without food and water

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When your furry friend suddenly loses his appetite, the first question that you might need answers to is how long can dogs go without food and water?

Dogs are always naturally jovial and obedient to their owners. But it reaches a time when they just refuse to eat and drink water. This is not a sign of rebellion but it underlines that something is not right and needs to be addressed.

You also need to know exactly how long you can leave your dog at home alone without being attended to.

Sometimes you can leave your house with intentions of coming back within an hour or so but something serious catches up with you.

It is therefore necessary to ensure that your dog has enough supply of food and water every time you leave your house.

Several reasons may make your doggo refuse to eat. He might be sick, or just not in the mood for eating. At this point, you need to find out the exact reason why your furry friend is not turning up to his food dispenser.

How Long Can Dogs Go Without Food and Water When Healthy?

A Healthy dog can go anywhere between 5 to 10 days without food but with a sufficient supply of drinking water.

With little or no water, your dog will go for between 2 to 5 days before getting completely dehydrated. 

Dogs with food and water

This duration will however vary depending on various other factors. Larger dogs will generally go for longer without food than smaller dogs.

A small breed dog may develop a life-threatening condition known as hypoglycemia when they go for almost half a day without any food.

How Long Can Dogs Go Without Food When Sick?

If your dog is sick, he will most certainly be overwhelmed if he manages 2 to 3 days without food and a sufficient supply of water.

A sick dog should closely be monitored and given some form of food that will offer him energy to recover.

It is more worrying when a dog stops drinking water than taking food. In close to a day without substantive water intake, your dog can develop symptoms of dehydration.

You can know that your dog is dehydrated by looking out for the following signs:

·         Dry nose

·         Dry eyes

·         Lethargy

·         Loss of appetite

Take a look at the video below where Dr. Questen explains how you can know if your dog is dehydrated

Has your dog skipped a single meal? Don’t worry.

Your dog could simply not be in the mood for eating that particular meal because it is not his best diet. Or he might have eaten more of his previous meal or just snacked a lot between days.

You should start being worried once your dog skips his meal continuously throughout the entire day.

How You Can Stimulate Your Dog’s Appetite

If your dog is just not in the mood of eating, you can stimulate his appetite by giving him prescribed foods, or some these homemade foods. These diets have a mimicked hormone that increases your dog’s appetite or by reducing nausea.

Why Won’t My Dog Eat?

Several factors may make your dog fail to eat as he normally would. Some reasons might be simple like changes in mood or having a boring meal while others are more complex.

The first thing to do is to visit a vet to get your dog examined for any medical condition that might have changed his appetite.

Dog eating treats

The following are some of the reasons that make your dog not eat food normally:

1. Medical Conditions

If you notice that your dog has gone for a couple of days without eating properly, then he might be suffering from a medical condition that reduces his appetite.

You can ascertain this by observing other common signs of illnesses like vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy.

Any illness that causes your dog to have an upset stomach will definitely make him lose his appetite. Some of the most common illnesses that may alter your dog’s appetite include the following:

·         Pancreatitis

·         Kidney disease

·         Liver diseases

Genius Dog 300 x 600 - Animated

·         Fever

·         Intestinal infections

·         Inflammatory bowel disease

Many other diseases may make your dog turn his mouth away from food. It is always recommended to go to the vet and let your dog get examined for any medical condition.

2. Medication

If your dog was subjected to medication, then it might be possible that the drugs are having some side effects on him.

One of the most common side effects is loss of appetite and nausea. Treating a dog with an illness can affect his eating pattern.

The most common medications that may cause your dog to lose appetite are chemotherapy and anti-inflammatory drugs.

3. Dental diseases

These diseases are sometimes very painful to the extent that dogs will not be able to chew anything. You can suspect your dog is suffering from a dental disease when you notice a reduction in his food intake but he continues drinking water normally.

Some foods may also stimulate sensitivity in your dog’s teeth. Such foods are either too hot or too cold. Ensure that you always serve your dog food at the right temperature.

Getting your dog a suitable chewing bone will assist in strengthening his teeth and preventing tartar buildup. 

4. Vaccination

Dog vaccines might cause them to have some changes in their bodies including loss of appetite. If your dog is coming from his scheduled shot, you may expect him to deviate a little from his regular eating pattern.

5. Sudden change in environment

An abrupt change in the environment recognized by your doggo might cause him to skip his meals. This will mostly affect dogs who are prone to separation anxiety and stress disorders.

Pitbull relaxing at a clean home

Events that may significantly affect your dog’s appetite include the following:

·         Moving houses

·         Presence of visitors in the house

·         Travelling and camping

·         Newborns

·         Absence of a family member

·         Changes in feeding schedule

6. Finicky eaters

Dogs may not be as finicky as cats but some of them are. Some dogs also get bored by eating the same food over and over again.

You need to find the best dog foods that constitute a balanced diet for your dog. Let him enjoy a variety of flavors, textures, and brands of his food.

A brown dog eating

Be careful when introducing a new type of food to your dog. You first need to introduce small portions of the new food and other sizeable portions of what he is used to.

It is very easy to recognize what your dog feels about the new food. If he doesn’t like it then he will probably not swallow even a single bite.

If your dog likes the new food, then you can be sure to gradually increase his portion as you maintain a balanced diet.

7. Feeding time

As dogs grow, they are accustomed to routine patterns which become part of their lives. If you sometimes give your dog his food at midday but he’s used to getting it in the afternoon, then he might not eat as he would normally.

8. Food bowl

The food bowl that you give your dog may as well hinder him from feeding properly due to a difficult posture involved.

Raised Dog Bowl

An arthritic dog will find it very difficult to feed from a bowl on the floor level. In this case, you will however notice that your dog is struggling to eat and not avoiding his food completely.

You can get your large/arthritic dog an elevated dog bowl that will make his feeding sessions more comfortable, enjoyable, and with a relaxing body posture.

Why Won’t My Dog Drink Water?

The reasons why a dog may fail to drink water may overlap with those that make him fail to eat his food.

There are however some specific conditions that may make your dog avoid sipping that chilling water down his throat.

1. The weather

Your dog will substantially reduce his water intake during the winter/cold weather. During this season of the year, the environment is very cold and dogs will slow their water intake and this will possibly raise an alarm to their pet parents.

Dog playing on snow

When the temperatures are cooler, you should always provide your dog with warm water, not hot water though!

Your dog will be encouraged to drink warm water not only to quench his thirst but also to warm up his cool body.

2. Level of activity

More active dogs who participate in intensive exercise activities will always drink more water than the less active ones.

Dogs running during daytime

Without too much physical activity, dogs will not be interested in drinking lots of water. This is completely normal as long as your dog slops in some amounts of water to keep himself hydrated.

It is always recommended to subject your dog to some physical activity including daily walks, exercises, and training. This will not only make them disciplined but also improve their overall health.

3. Medical Issues

Several health problems may make your dog reduce his daily water intake or stop completely. Urinary tract infections, kidney diseases, diabetes, and bladder infections are the major illnesses that make your furry friend reduce his water intake significantly.

Other medical conditions that make your dog stop eating may also make them reduce water intake considerably.

Sick dog
Sick dog

If you notice that your dog is showing signs of sickness, then you need to get him diagnosed immediately. 

Remember that it is dangerous for your dog to vomit and have diarrhea while not drinking water. Those two health problems reduce the amount of water in his body and may cause your dog to become dehydrated.

4. Senior Dogs

Aging dogs tend to drink less water because their thirst receptors are diminishing. Other reasons that account for this include the reduced activity level, and unwillingness to have too many bathroom breaks.

If you have an elderly dog, then you can ensure his body is well hydrated by increasing his wet food intake.

5. Mouth/Tongue Injury

Dogs rely heavily on their tongues to drink water. If the tongue is injured, then he will most certainly avoid taking in more water.

You can check the health status of your dog’s tongue by physically inspecting it to check for any wounds.

A dog showing his tongue

A dog with an injured tongue will also most certainly keep his mouth open most of the time and you can easily notice this. Such a dog will show interest in drinking water but will avoid it due to pain.

As your dog recovers from his mouth injury, you can use a bottle to give him water in the meantime. Take a visit to the vet and let your dog receive the best and most recommended treatment for his wound.

6. Teeth pain

A dog with sensitive teeth will find it very difficult to drink water comfortably. Teeth sensitivity is very painful and the pain can further be triggered by contact with cold or hot water.

Tooth pain can also be brought by swollen gums, tartar, and a broken tooth. You should identify your dog’s oral pain early to prevent him from getting more serious dental infections or even tooth loss.

Healthy dogs will rarely have bad breath, and if you start perceiving this from your dog’s mouth, then he might have an infection or tooth decay.

Dental treats

Remember always to take your dog to regular teeth cleaning to remove any tartar buildup or plaque that may later cause serious dental diseases.

Healthy teeth are important to a dog’s health, this will reduce bacteria and other microorganisms. You can buy him dog treats that are specially designed to remove tartar from his teeth.

7. Too cold or too hot water

Your dog will not drink water whose temperatures are beyond what he can handle. Too cold and too hot may also impact your dog’s dental health by making his teeth sensitive.

Get water to the right temperature before giving your dog a bowl to drink. You can also use weather as a guideline of how hot or how cold your dog’s water should be.

The right water temperature for your dog should simply be that which you can also comfortably drink.

8. Negative experience

If you have recently adopted your dog from the shelter, then you need some time to fully understand his behavior.

You might notice that he avoids doing some things comfortable including drinking water and playing with other pets in your house.

Bored Dog

This is because your dog has associated a negative experience with the things he is currently seeing in your house.

If he cannot drink water from a specific bowl, try and change it and notice how he reacts. If you find out that he has a preference for the bowl type, then you need to get him a new one that does not remind him of anything.

I wrote an article with tips for the first 30 days of adopting a dog, you might find it helpful.

What To Do If My Dog Is Not Eating or Drinking

If your dog is neither eating nor drinking, the first thing you need to do is try to find out the causes. You can rule out some possible causes of the loss of his appetite by observing and examining how he behaves.

Why wont' my dog drink water

It is difficult for a sick dog to hide his feelings. If he is not feeling well then you can suspect that his appetite has been altered by his health condition.

A dog who shows signs of sickness should immediately be taken to the vet for diagnosis and treatment.

The first thing you would want to do is try changing his food. Give him another flavor and brand and observe whether he has any preference for his food.

1.      Some dogs may not like sharing food and water bowls with other dogs and pets. Always ensure that you have enough bowls and feeding points for all your dogs in the house. Let every dog enjoy his feeding session in his own spot undisturbed. Let him eat and drink at his own pace.

2.      Make your dog more physically engaged and active to increase his thirst for water. This will also help in keeping his body fit and checking on his weight.

3.      Ensure your dog’s meal schedule is nearly equivalent to that of your human family. Some dogs enjoy it more when they eat together with the entire family.

4.      Some dogs are social eaters and they just want attention when eating. Try hand feeding for example and see how your dog reacts.

5.      You can encourage your dog to eat his less favorite food by spicing it up with chicken broth, tuna water, or beef broth, to make it more attractive.

6.      If your dog is on a dry food diet, you can pour some warm water on the kibble to make it softer and more appealing.

7.      Some medications can be used to increase your dog’s appetite. Such medication should be recommended by your vet for the best results specific to your dog.

To Conclude

How long can a dog go without eating or drinking? How long will it take for them to get overwhelmed? They can manage up to 10 days without proper intake but this will negatively affect their health.

It exposes them to dehydration, hormonal imbalance, and other health problems that can be avoided.

You should never leave your furry friend at home alone without any food and water. If you must go out for long hours, get an automatic dog feeder that will generously feed your dog in your absence as scheduled.

And as always, if you feel that your dog is sick, they should be taken immediately to a vet.

Thank you for reading through this article. Remember to share with me any questions or concerns you might have on this subject by leaving a comment below.

Written By

Laura is the founder of Furs'n'Paws. She is a pet expert with more than 20 years of experience working with dogs and cats. She developed a very strong love for animals at a young age. Her passion led her to establish a thriving pet sitting and dog walking business in Dubai. As an expert in pet training, behavior, and nutrition, Laura is committed to helping pet owners and pet lovers by offering high-quality information on a wide range of topics.

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