Increased Thirst in Senior Pets

Posted on April 25, 2019 under Pet Health & Safety

Any noticeable change in your pet’s behavior can be worrisome, particularly as your pet gets older. While senior pets may need special attention, you also have the benefit of knowing your pets’ habits and can more readily see if something seems wrong. One easily noticeable change in your pet is a sudden increase in thirst, or polydipsia. This may be a cause for concern, particularly for senior pets because drinking water is not bad in itself, but excessive thirst can be a symptom for disease or a medical condition. If there is no obvious reason for your pet’s increased thirst, such as exercise or weather, then you may need to consult a veterinarian for a check-up.

Make sure to rule out any medical conditions if your pet is displaying increased thirst.

All animals, like humans, need water. How much water a healthy dog or cat needs will depend on the pet’s size, breed, level of activity, general health, diet, time of year and age. As a general rule, dogs need to drink one ounce for every pound (weight) every day1, and cats need a little less than an ounce per pound per day2. Just like humans, dogs and cats will drink more water in warm weather and while exercising.

Water Intake for Older Pets

Senior pets, however, may not be as active, so daily water intake should be more consistent. Most importantly, you should ensure your senior pet drinks consistently throughout the day to avoid dehydration. For cats, it may be more difficult to monitor water intake because cats seem to drink less frequently and simply do not require as much water to stay healthy. Interestingly, like humans, cats have been known to be social drinkers.  Also, if you feed your pet moist food, your pet will receive water while eating. Cats in particular, will need to drink less simply because they are staying hydrated from the food.

3 Reasons Why Your Pet Might Be Drinking More Water than Usual

The simplest reason a pet drinks more water is because they are thirsty. Unlike humans, dogs and cats reduce body temperature primarily by panting, which causes their body to lose water due to evaporation. Excessive panting will cause your pet to be thirsty and drinking water is the natural way to replenish the body. However, excessive drinking with no apparent cause can be the sign of disease. Older pets are especially prone to serious conditions that include excessive thirst as a symptom. For senior pets, this includes:

  1. Urinary tract infections or bladder disease
  2. Diabetes
  3. Kidney disease

All of these conditions are complicated and require proper diagnosis and treatment by a veterinarian.

Urinary Tract Infections in Senior Pets

For senior pets, urinary tract infections (UTI) are common because as pets age, they have less control of their bladder. UTIs are caused by bacteria and some pets are more prone to them than others. In general, UTIs are a variety of infections that may affect the kidneys, the urethra, and the bladder. Bladder disease, however, is a type of UTI and include stones. The most common symptom of a UTI is excessive urination, which is the result of increased water intake. Other symptoms include difficulty urinating or urinating in very small amounts despite drinking more water. You should also check the urine for any blood or cloudiness, or foul odor, which are also signs of infection. While many older pets experience some degree of incontinence, this is also a symptom of urinary tract disease. For senior cats, one symptom is urinating in locations outside the litter box.

UTI Symptoms

  • Excessive urination
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Blood in urine
  • Cloudy or foul smelling urine

If you suspect your senior pet has a UTI, your veterinarian will test a urine sample to determine whether your pet has an infection or any other medical conditions. Sometimes, a UTI is a symptom of a more serious medical condition, so it is important that your veterinarian conducts thorough testing which includes a urinalysis as well as a culture. With a proper diagnosis, UTIs are treated with antibiotics.

Senior Pet Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus in pets has risen and pets with diabetes require daily monitoring and care.3 Diabetes in animals is similar to the condition in humans and occurs when the body cannot produce or utilize the body’s natural insulin. Symptoms for pets include excessive thirst and urination, weight loss or gain, and change in appetite. Senior dogs and cats are at higher risk of diabetes which can lead to many serious medical conditions so it is important to seek medical attention. If your senior pet is diagnosed with diabetes, your veterinarian will provide a treatment plan that may include insulin injections, changes in diet and an exercise routine. While treating diabetes in pets is challenging, with proper medical care, your senior pet can remain happy and manage their diabetes successfully.

Diabetes Symptoms

  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive urination
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Change in appetite

Kidney Disease in Pets

Excessive drinking is also a symptom of kidney disease in senior pets. Pets can experience acute kidney failure, which is the sudden failure of kidney failure due to ingesting a toxin or trauma. Other kidney disease is chronic and can develop over time and may be harder to spot. In older pets, chronic kidney disease develops slowly and is caused by hereditary as well as underlying medical illness including infection, kidney stones, cancer, and even dental disease. If you suspect your pet has kidney disease, your veterinarian will conduct an examination and series of tests. If diagnosed, your doctor will provide a treatment plan which includes ensuring your pet has fresh water available at all times and for dogs, frequent trips outside to urinate.

Increased thirst and excessive drinking can be a symptom of several serious conditions. All animals need water, but when your senior pet is drinking more water than usual, it could be a sign of a disease or medical condition that warrants a trip to the veterinarian. All pet owners want to keep their pets healthy and with proper medical attention and treatment, your senior pet can still act and feel like a puppy or kitten.

1 Reisen, J. (2019, March 21). Is Your Puppy Drinking Enough Water? [Web blog post]. Retrieved April, 15, 2019, from https://www.akc.org
2 Nicholas, J. (2017, November 27). My Cat Won’t Drink: How Much Water Cats Need & Dehydration Prevention [Web blog post]. Retrieved April, 15, 2019, from https://www.preventivevet.com
3 Netherton, S. (2013, December 2). Diabetes Risks & Treatment in Pets [Web blog post]. Retrieved April, 15, 2019, from https://www.vetmed.illinois.edu