Ed King from Charleston, SC asked:
My dog (mixed breed), I think part Greyhound, recently started drinking water excessively. Her normal 2 Qts. a day now exceed 5 Qts. No changes were made diet or exercise. She’s 8.
Possible causes? cures?
Hi Ed, thank you for your question.
This is such a common problem that I hope I can help your furry friend as well as many others out there.
Increased drinking is a common symptom in middle age and older dogs and can have a number of different causes that are not always easy to identify.
With such a dramatic increase in water intake in your fur baby, this is most likely a medical problem that should be identified as soon as possible.
The three most common causes of increased drinking in middle aged and older dogs are diabetes mellitus, kidney disease and Cushing’s disease.
Diabetes is typically caused by a low production of insulin or the body not responding to insulin anymore. This can be easily tested for by looking for glucose (sugar) in the urine or a high blood sugar. When the blood sugar goes over 200, glucose appears in the urine. You can test for glucose in the urine at home using these test strips: click here. The great thing about these strips is that you can use them to test for diabetes but also get an idea if there is possible infection in the urine by checking for trace amounts of blood and protein. You can also get the less expensive strips that just check for glucose here.
Diabetes in dogs is treated by giving insulin injections twice daily with your veterinarian’s supervision because getting the right insulin dose can be difficult. If she has diabetes, it is important to begin treatment right away, while she is still eating well and not acting sick. Once they become sick with ketoacidosis, intensive treatment in a veterinary hospital for 3-5 days is required and some dogs don’t survive this phase of the disease. Diet change alone is not effective in controlling diabetes in dogs but a high fiber diet can help improve regulation.
Kidney disease is a broad term that includes infection or more serious kidney damage. Blood tests and urinalysis should be done to determine if there is just a simple infection in the kidneys, causing a change in the water regulation system in the body or more serious deterioration of kidney function. If either of these problems exist, treatment would include antibiotics and potentially some other medication. A prescription diet with restricted, high quality protein and restricted phosphorous should be fed. Most diets have too much phosphorous for a dog with compromised kidneys and the prescription diet food K/d has been shown to double the survival time of a dog with kidney disease when compared against a senior diet.
Cushing’s disease is a hormonal problem where the adrenal glands make too much cortisol. This hormone then affects the water regulation system in the body, causing them to produce more urine. This then causes dogs to drink a lot more water. It is usually caused by a small tumor in the pituitary gland (most common) or adrenal gland (less common). This condition can go on to increase the risk of other problems such as diabetes, hair loss, infection as well as other issues.
Cushing’s disease tends to be a more chronic, slowly developing problem with less urgency than diabetes or kidney disease. It is detected by advanced blood testing and ultrasound once the other causes of increased drinking are eliminated. Treatment involves several different possible medications and frequent monitoring of cortisol blood levels to decrease the risk of side effects and improve control of symptoms.
I know this is a lot of information to digest for such a seemingly simple problem. These are the three most common causes of increased drinking but there are at least 12 other causes as well.
My recommendation is to start with a urinalysis and a basic CBC and Chemistry profile with your veterinarian and go from there. If you want to start simple at home, try the test strips from Amazon. They are inexpensive and can help you see if there is glucose, blood or protein in the urine. At least then you will have an idea of what you may be facing before you take her to your vet.
If she has an infection, this may be easily treated with antibiotics. If it is one of the more complicated problems mentioned, you will need your veterinarian to sort it out with you and determine the best treatment for your girl.
Good luck and I wish you well!
Dr. Chris Smith
America’s Favorite Dog Vet