Have you observed a surge in your dog or cat's water consumption lately? You might find instances when their water bowl empties faster than normal.
Your cat might be surprisingly turning to the tap for a drink, or your dog could be satisfying its thirst from the toilet bowl. If these scenarios sound familiar, they might indicate a serious underlying health issue.
What is the standard amount of water consumption for a dog or cat?
According to standard textbook guidelines, a dog or cat should ideally drink 1-2ml of water per kilogram of body weight each hour. This equates to about 25-50ml/kg over a day.
As an example, a westie, a breed of dog that typically weighs about 10kg, would usually drink around 480ml, just below a pint, within a day. However, this can vary from pet to pet, based on factors like the water content in their food (wet versus dry), weather conditions and the amount of water lost through physical activity and panting.
What is polydipsia?
Polydipsia is a term used to describe a condition where a pet is drinking excessively, technically quantified as more than 100ml per kg per day.
While some pets might display an increased thirst, they may still fall below this mark. Consumption above 50ml/kg in a 24-hour period could signal the onset of polydipsia. Consumption beyond the 100ml/kg/24hrs is unequivocally polydipsia. Polyuria, on the other hand, indicates an abnormally large production of urine.
If you're concerned that your dog or cat is drinking too much water, please don't hesitate to call us on 01483 536036.
Why might my pet be drinking so much water?
The body strives to maintain an equilibrium of water through regulating water consumption and the amount excreted in the urine. When there's a lack of water intake or an excess of water loss, the brain's pituitary gland is signalled to release the anti-diuretic hormone (ADH). This hormone directs the kidneys to conserve water and concentrate the urine.
Simultaneously, the brain's thirst centre gets triggered, instigating a desire to drink. This increased thirst could be due to various factors including a failure in the kidneys' concentration mechanisms, kidneys not responding to ADH, non-production or release of ADH, or there being an excessive trigger for drinking, known as primary polydipsia.
What could be the cause of my pet drinking so much water?
There are numerous potential reasons that could prompt your pet to drink more water. Common causes include:
- Kidney (renal) dysfunction
- Liver (hepatic) disease
- Diabetes mellitus (often called sugar diabetes)
- Diabetes insipidus (known as water diabetes)
- Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) in cats
- Pyometra, a uterus infection in animals that have not been spayed
- Cushing’s disease, characterised by an overproduction of the natural steroid, cortisol, by the adrenal glands
- Addison’s disease, which involves a reduced steroid production by the adrenal glands
- Urinary tract infections
- High calcium levels, sometimes associated with cancer
- Behavioural issues resulting in a psychological obsession with drinking excessive amounts of water (psychogenic polydipsia)
- Compensatory polydipsia, possibly after substantial fluid loss from vomiting or diarrhoea
If your pet's fluid intake is a concern, it would be a good idea to monitor their water consumption over a 24-hour period and share this information with your vet. A fresh urine sample is ideally collected before your consultation.
How is polydipsia diagnosed and investigated?
Though many cases may be relatively easy to diagnose and require minimal testing (like water intake measurement, urine sample analysis and blood tests), others might necessitate more extensive investigations.
Your vet may recommend a series of tests which could include:
- Urinalysis to check the urine concentration and signs of glucose and infection.
- A 24-hour water intake measurement, if possible, to confirm polydipsia and understand its severity.
- A complete blood count and serum biochemistry to evaluate liver, kidneys, blood glucose and thyroid health. Additional blood tests to assess hormone function might be needed based on initial findings.
- Further investigations could involve X-rays and abdominal ultrasound to closely examine the liver, kidneys and adrenal glands for a diagnosis.
- Treatment for polydipsia in cats and dogs is primarily based on the underlying cause. For example:
- In case of diabetes, daily insulin injections may be required.
- For Cushing’s disease, daily medication may be needed to manage the symptoms.
- For chronic kidney disease, the treatment strategy focuses on preserving kidney health and maximizing the quality of life, through dietary modifications, medication and providing unlimited access to water.
The prognosis largely depends on the diagnosis and could range from very good to very poor. Nevertheless, early diagnosis in many conditions could lead to a better outcome, highlighting the importance of noticing increased drinking as a significant symptom requiring investigation.
Remember, prevention is better than cure. Please call your local Alder Vets in Guildford if you have any concerns about your pet’s drinking habits and remember never restrict your pet’s water intake.