Dog outside only drinks water when owner is home
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Dog outside only drinks water when owner is home

It’s not uncommon for a dog to only drink water when their owner is home. It’s not something to be overly concerned about unless a medical issue is suspected.

Dear Cathy,

Whenever I have to go out during the day, I leave my 12-year-old golden retriever in the backyard where she has ample shade, a covered patio and a large bowl of fresh water. She does not drink any water when I am out even if am gone for most of the day and in the heat of the summer. When I return, after excitedly greeting me, she goes to her bowl and laps up a large amount of water. My son, who was her human for the first 11 years of her life, states that she did the same thing at his house. (Sadly, he had to relinquish her care to me because their new baby daughter is extremely allergic to dogs.) When I am home, she usually drinks throughout the day. Why does she do this? Is it harmful to her? — Sandy, Tucson, AZ

Dear Sandy,

I am glad this senior lady could stay in your family, and that you have history you can pull from for comparison.

It’s common for a dog to not drink water when their owner is gone. Your dog is probably sleeping or just hanging out and is not expending a lot of energy while you are away. When you return, she gets up, engages you and is ready to get some water. I notice it with my dog when I come home. He always heads over to the water dish shortly after greeting me. So, if she is in good health, you don’t have anything to worry about. This sounds like a habit she has had her entire life.

Also, the Arizona heat probably makes her a little lethargic outside. But just in case, make sure the temperature of the water in her bowl is not getting too warm or too hot to drink, which might discourage her from drinking. If you suspect that is the issue, you can remedy this by placing a bowl of ice cubes outside on the patio when you leave. Your dog may want to crunch the ice, but the ice will melt and leave her with cooler water for a longer time. So, unless you suspect a health problem, always have fresh, cool water available for her to drink.

Dear Cathy,

Your column is interesting, and I enjoy reading it. But, you dropped the ball on your advice to the parent of the husky Krypto. Krypto’s mom Darlene said, “He drinks gallons of water every day. In fact, when the vet took a sample, it was almost all water. He pees a lot too. If the water bowl is empty in the middle of the night, he will howl next to my bed to let me know to refill it.”

The dog is in kidney failure.

It’s noble that his owner wants to get him a “doggie wheelchair,” but basing his quality of life on him “wagging his tail and perking up when she talks to him” is not the same as a skilled vet diagnosing him properly. If she doesn’t address the kidney issues and start him on a proper low protein diet, the declining mobility issues won’t matter.

Thanks for the open forum to ask for pet advice. — Bonnie, via email

Dear Bonnie,

You’re right. Drinking “gallons of water” can be a sign of kidney failure, and is relatively common for senior pets like Krypto, who is a 13-year-old husky. Darlene’s letter was focused on end-of-life decisions, and that seems to be what I focused on when I answered. Hopefully, she follows up with a veterinarian to determine if the increased water consumption is related to kidney failure, diabetes or Cushing’s Disease, a few diseases related to increased drinking so, at the very least, palliative care can be given if she is facing end-of-life issues. Thanks for your caring letter.

How to make a sick animal feel more comfortable

Ever wonder what you can do to make a sick dog or cat feel better? Animals, like people, just want a few creature comforts around and to know they are loved. Along with being under vet care, pets should have clean beds, blankets and sleeping spaces. Sit with your pets, stroke them and talk to them all day. Say their name and remind them how much you love them; even a sick dog or cat will flick their tail in recognition of your love, which will help speed up their recovery.

Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to Please include your name, city and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.


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