Why Is My Dog Not Drinking Water and Lethargic

Why Is My Dog Not Drinking Water and Lethargic?

Last Updated: August 20, 2023
correct answerThe Short Answer is:

There are several infectious diseases that cause dogs to become lethargic, including Parvovirus, Kennel cough, Distemper, Heartworm disease, Leptospirosis, and metabolic disorders.

In this article you will know the answer to the query “Why Is My Dog Not Drinking Water and Lethargic?“.

There can be many reasons why a dog refuses to drink water and lies in his corner and some of them indicate a serious health problem. Check out these common illnesses that can cause your dogs sudden change in behavior.

Why Is My Dog Not Drinking Water and Lethargic

Common Infections that Cause Lethargy in Dogs


Parvovirus is a disease caused by a virus that spreads easily between dogs through their feces. There are several symptoms of this disease including lethargy vomiting fever and diarrhea which is often bloody. It is important to be careful if you notice these symptoms in your dog since parvo is often fatal in 90% of cases. If you contact a veterinarian right away aggressive treatment including antibiotics can save your pets life. You should also keep in mind that vomiting and diarrhea can cause dehydration which can be made even worse if the dog refuses to drink water.

Kennel cough

An easy way to recognize kennel cough is by its distinctive dry honking cough. Besides vomiting gagging and fever this disease can make the dog lethargic. Despite being a highly contagious disease it usually clears up on its own. However it can be dangerous to young puppies and animals who already have health issues.


A dogs outcome depends on the dogs age overall health and the virulence of the virus strain that infected it. Distemper sometimes called footpad disease is a viral illness with a high mortality rate. Dog distemper is characterized by high fever eye inflammation labored breathing loss of appetite and lethargy. Other than administering fluids and electrolytes to alleviate the symptoms and antibiotics to prevent secondary bacterial infections there is no specific treatment for distemper. 

Heartworm disease

A parasitic roundworm causes heartworm disease which is spread by mosquito bites. It is the lungs that are attacked by this virus during the early stages of the disease and the heart only later.

The worms mature after about six months from the time they are infected making it a disease that progresses slowly. There are only symptoms when the worms migrate to the heart and they include weight loss fainting extreme tiredness even after mild exercise making owners worry about why their dog is lethargic. During the treatment period dogs should not exercise at all in order to allow their bodies to eliminate dead worms safely.


Several types of animals and humans are susceptible to leptospirosis a bacterial disease. Symptoms of the disease in dogs include fever weakness loss of appetite and urinary symptoms. Antibiotics can be used to treat leptospirosis. 

Metabolic and Organic Diseases

As dogs age they also suffer from congestive heart failure an issue commonly affecting the elderly. As the condition worsens you can see the symptoms more clearly. Oxygen deficiency makes your pet appear weak and lethargic as he will tire easily. At this age the dog does not exercise much so his need for water decreases. Unfortunately the condition cannot be cured but drugs can alleviate the symptoms and maintain heart function.

It is more prevalent in overweight female dogs who are middle-aged and have diabetes. Despite the fact that diabetes first manifests itself through excessive water consumption owners often do not notice anything amiss with their dog until he becomes weak and lethargic or when he becomes blind from cataracts caused by the disease. 

The right medication and dietary changes however can allow your dog to live a relatively normal life and die of old age. 

Diabetes causes high blood sugar whereas hyperglycemia causes low blood sugar. Hyperglycemia also causes seizures and weakness. 

An additional health issue that can cause symptoms such as weakness loss of appetite and lethargy is liver disease. It might be necessary to treat the disease make dietary changes or even undergo surgery depending on the cause. 

Tumors anemia trauma and anemia are other conditions that cause lethargy in dogs.

If he has been poisoned or bitten by a snake he may also refuse to drink.

Can Kidney Problems Make a Dog Stop Drinking Water?

A dog that becomes lethargic and refuses to drink water is often diagnosed as having a kidney problem. In fact it does not have a kidney problem.

An animals kidneys fail to function properly due to age wear and tear or other factors. The kidneys are responsible for filtering toxins from the blood and go into overdrive when they start failing. In order to make the kidneys work harder the dog will drink excessive amounts of water. This will cause a large urine output. Symptoms of advanced kidney disease include vomiting loss of appetite diarrhea and bad breath. 

The disease can be managed with diuretics and other medications if it is caught early. 

Bacteria that cause kidney infections in dogs can affect only the bladder or they may affect the kidneys causing pyelonephritis. As a result of this latter condition the dog drinks more water not less. The dog will also urinate frequently. Other possible symptoms include pain in the sides fever vomiting and a loss of appetite. If left untreated some kidney infections can cause kidney failure.  

Other Reasons a Dog Won’t Drink Water

Although the owner worries his beloved pet might be sick there are many non-medical reasons why the dog refuses to drink water.

In the cold weather when the dog does not go out much and does not exercise enough the dog lacks exercise. The dog does not need as much water during periods of inactivity so you do not have to worry unless its been going on for days and the dog is drinking even less.

As a dog ages it also exercises less causing its water requirements to decrease. Watch out for dehydration in both cases.

Change of place change of water

The reason your pet would not drink water when you’re out of town might be that the water tastes or smells different from what hes used to. You may not even notice when you go away.

Dogs do not care about differences. Next time bring a bottle or two of water from home with you so that you can give the dog bottled water.

Negative experiences

There are times when the cause is purely psychological. There could be something that happened to your dog while he was drinking water like someone stepping on his paw or a bee sting that frightened him. Place his water bowl in a different spot or even change it to erase old memories.

How Much Water Does a Dog Need?

Dogs need a certain amount of water per day depending on the weather and how much exercise they do that day. Additionally some dogs might pee more than others and require water. result.

In general a dog needs one ounce of water for every pound of body weight. A dog weighing 50 pounds should drink 50 ounces of water per day.

Dehydration in dogs

Dehydration in dogs is caused by a variety of diseases but also by vigorous exercise on a hot summer day. You will see these signs if your dog is dehydrated:

The nose and mouth are dry

With sunken eyes

Elasticity has been lost in the skin

A rapid heartbeat

Weak pulse



You can conduct a quick skin test to determine whether your dog is dehydrated if you are not sure what is wrong.

Try gently pinching the skin between your dogs shoulders between your fingers and lifting it an inch or two. The skin should normally return to its original position when you release it. The lack of water however causes the skin to lose elasticity so the skin will take longer to retract or may not retract at all in severely dehydrated dogs. Consult your veterinarian immediately if your dog is severely dehydrated.

You should give your pet rehydration fluids in the meantime.

What to Do when the Dog Won’t Drink Water

Its alarming when a dog persistently refuses to drink water. Try these simple remedies if you do not see any other worrying signs that indicate a serious problem.

Make changes to the water bowl by moving it cleaning it thoroughly or replacing it altogether. 

By mixing in a little meat broth you can make the water more appealing. As an alternative you can add some fruit juice to his water especially strawberries and apples.

Have your dog lick some ice cubes or give him cold water.

You should switch to wet food for your dog and add some water as well.

Put some water in one of his toys so that he will get some water when he chews on it. If the soaked toy is not interesting to your dog you can put it in the freezer to make it more interesting.

You can see if your dog is attracted to a garden faucet if your dog prefers running water. If your dog likes running water buy a dog fountain.

You should give your dog a few sips of water every five minutes when you are trying to re-hydrate him.

To combat electrolyte imbalances add unflavored Pedialyte to his drinking water.  

Donot wait until your vet appointment to force water down the dogs throat if he has an emergency. Squirt him with some cool freshwater using a plastic syringe or turkey baster. Avoid choking by aiming for the cheeks instead of the throat directly.

Never Ignore a Dog who Won’t Drink Water

If your dog will not drink water and appears lethargic you should watch him and try to tempt him to take a few sips. Follow the above recommendations. It might be temporary pain or it could be that the water tastes funny. Nevertheless if the situation persists go to a veterinarian and prevent dehydration. This could indicate that your dog is seriously ill.

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Amanda Dogs Trainer

Amanda (Author)

With over a decade of experience, Amanda is a distinguished dog trainer. Her expertise in canine behavior has transformed countless lives, fostering harmonious human-canine connections. Through compassionate and personalized approaches, she empowers owners to understand and connect with their furry companions, creating a legacy of joyful tails and transformed lives.

Osvaldo Maciel Dogs Trainer

Osvaldo Maciel (Content Reviewer)

Osvaldo Maciel, a stalwart in the field with 14 years of experience, is a revered dog trainer. His journey is defined by a profound understanding of canine behavior, shaping unbreakable human-canine bonds. Osvaldo guides owners to connect with their beloved pets, leaving an indelible mark of happiness and transformation. His legacy shines through the countless lives he has touched.

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