Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Water?

As pet parents, you of course want to make sure your four-legged companions stay healthy. Part of total health care involves regular visits to your veterinarian. You set up your appointment, arrive on time and then are escorted into the examination room with Fido or Scruffy. During this examination process you are asked several questions about your pet’s habits including, is he/she drinking normally or has his/her drinking habits changed recently?

This, of course, is referring to water consumption, not bellying up to the bar for a beer or mixed drink. Often, a  typical response is, “Yeah, Charlie here drinks a lot, but then he has always been a pretty good water drinker.” The real question, is Charlie’s water consumption in excess? How do you know?And, if so, what could this be a symptom of?

Increased water consumption is referred to as Polydipsia (PD) and an increased volume of urination is termed Polyuria (PU … not the smell), or PU/PD  in our veterinary bag of acronyms. What might you include on your list of conditions that might cause an excess of water consumption and increased urination? Most owners immediately come up with diabetes or kidney disease. A urinary tract infection might also be included on your list. However, the actual list is much more extensive including Cushing’s syndrome, Addison’s disease, pyometra (uterine infection with intact female dogs), hyperthyroidism, hypercalcemia, liver disease, diabetes insipidis (different than “sugar diabetes”),  psychogenic water consumption, and the list continues.  Wow! A lot to consider.

But how much water is too much? On average, a dog will consume about one ounce per pound of body weight in a  24-hour period. Therefore, a 65-pound dog should drink approximately 65 ounces of water per day, or about two quarts. Just a little over a six-pack for the beer consumers out there. A cat will consume about 3/4 of an ounce per pound per day. This math is a little more complicated.

You have now measured your furry family members’ water consumption and can truthfully say, “Wow, he is drinking a lot!” What’s next? It is not just to restrict access to water. You should in fact be making a call to your vet. Earlier diagnosis is always better than a let’s-wait-and-see or hoping-it-resolves-itself approach. Want to make your vet and veterinary technicians happy? Make every attempt not to allow your pet to urinate several hours prior to your appointment. All too often when we inquire when Fido last urinated the response is, “Doc, he just went outside before he came in the door. I didn’t want him to have an accident.” While we appreciate this consideration, collecting a urine sample is very important, plus we have products in the office to clean up messes! Try to make your pets “hold it,” cross their legs, or whatever it takes. In addition to a urine sample, a blood sample will likely be collected and tested. Radiographs and or an ultrasound may also be recommended. Other diagnostics may be warranted as well, pending initial results of preliminary tests.

The good news is that many times the cause for PU/PD is fairly straightforward and can be either cured or controlled, such as in the case of diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes). However, sometimes finding the cause of Polyuria/Polydipsia can be more elusive and frustrating. But with patience and discussion, a diagnostic plan can be established.

So if your otherwise Purr-fect feline is not quite Purr-fect with regard to consumption of water or urinary habits, or your Bow-wowzer dog is wowing you with his drinking and urination, have them checked out by your vet. You can now impress your vet and technicians by telling them you have witnessed PU/PD and you haven’t let them urinate for several hours. Now we can relax with this new knowledge and maybe enjoy our own drink. Your choice, of course.

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