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When Can Puppies Drink Water? A Guide for Owners & Breeders - PawSafe

When Can Puppies Drink Water? A Guide for Owners & Breeders

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

can puppies drink water

One of the essential aspects of the puppies’ diet is water, which is necessary for their overall health and survival. However, many new puppy owners or breeders with a new litter often need clarification about when puppies can drink water. 

Puppies, like all newborn babies, are born dependent on their mother’s milk for the first few weeks of their life. During this time, they get all the hydration and nutrients from their mothers’ milk. However, as they grow and teeth erupt, they are gradually introduced to water and solid food to start their independent journey.

Giving your puppy access to clean, fresh water at the right time is essential for their well-being as dehydration can be deadly. However, it is crucial to monitor them to avoid overhydration too or the risks that come with potential drowning with very small puppies. In this article, we will explore when puppies can have water with the help of post-care newborn puppies expert D.F. Lawler, DVM and provide some helpful tips to ensure your pup stays away from both extremes.

Once the puppy’s teeth start erupting, biologically, it shows that they are ready for something other than their mother’s milk.

Once they start being weaned off their mother’s milk and begin eating solid food, they will need fresh water to drink. It’s important to always provide them with clean water, especially once they start eating solids, so they stay well-hydrated.

 Avoid using a deep bowl, as the puppies can accidentally drown.

It is crucial to ensure that the water is clean and fresh. Puppies are susceptible to worms,  infections, and illnesses like colitis, so their water bowl should be cleaned regularly to prevent bacteria from thriving. Also, avoid giving water in plastic bowls as bacteria and other pathogens are more prone growing in the micro-cracks in the plastic.

Understanding Puppy Hydration

Puppies, like all beings, require water to survive. However, it’s crucial to understand puppies have different hydration needs than adult dogs. 

Young puppies, especially those under eight weeks old, may not be able to regulate their water intake as well as adult dogs. This means that they may drink too much water too quickly, which can lead to water intoxication. 

Another factor to consider is the type of food the puppy is eating. Puppies that are eating wet food will generally require less water than those that are eating dry food. This is because damp food contains more moisture than dry food.

When Can Puppies Drink Water?

A six week old puppy drinking water on the grass while out on a walk

Before they are three weeks old, puppies typically receive all their hydration from their mother’s milk. The mother’s milk not only provides hydration but also essential nutrients and antibodies to help the puppies grow and stay healthy.

3 to 4 Weeks

At this stage, puppies begin the teething and weaning process, where they start to transition from solely nursing to consuming watery gruel and can also begin to drink water. Initially, their water consumption is minimal, as they are still adapting to the new experience of drinking water.

4 to 6 Weeks

As puppies grow and wean, their water intake will gradually increase. They will rely more on water for hydration as they consume less of their mother’s milk.

6 to 8 Weeks

When puppies are ready to be weaned and transitioned to solid puppy food, they should drink water regularly. At this age, their water intake becomes more significant as they adapt to a primarily solid food diet.

A small puppy trying to get water out of an orange bucket that is too big for it to reach the water

How to Introduce Water to Puppies

Introducing water to puppies is an essential step in their development. Here are some steps and tips to help you introduce water to puppies:

Choosing the Right Bowl

When choosing a water bowl for your puppy, ensure it is the right size and material. The bowl should be shallow enough for the puppy to reach the water easily but not too shallow that it spills quickly. A shallow bowl is also essential because a deep bowl is a drowning risk for young puppies.

A stainless steel or ceramic bowl is a good choice because it is easy to clean and doesn’t harbor bacteria and chemical compounds like plastic bowls can.

Make the bowl appealing

Initially, you can add warm water to their puppy food to create a soupy or watery consistency as it encourages them to lap it up and learn to eat rather than relying on nursing from their mother. Initially, they usually don’t show much interest in plain water, but it’s essential to have a fresh source available for them to experiment with between meal times.

According to a 2004 study by Dr. Wendy Brown, they have stated that water temperature does not influence a dog’s water intake. However, dogs with low body temperature chose to take warm water compared to others. Puppies under eight weeks old can struggle to regulate their body temperature, so keep the water available to them lukewarm to keep it from lowering their body temperature. During winter, you can even try to keep the water slightly warm.

Supervised introduction

Sit with the puppies and gently dip your finger into the water. Allow the puppies to sniff and investigate. You can even dip your finger into the water and let them lick it off your finger. This can help them get used to the taste and sensation.

Encourage with praise

When a puppy shows interest in the water or takes a sip, offer praise and positive reinforcement. Use a happy and encouraging tone to let the puppies know they’re doing well.

Be patient

Some puppies may gulp water down, while others might need more adjusting time. Don’t force them, but keep offering water and positive reinforcement. Gulping, however, shouldn’t be encouraged as it can lead to discomfort due to excess gasses in the stomach. If your puppy keeps gulping down water as they get older, you can try a slow water bowl to keep them from drinking too fast.

Make Fresh Water Available Most of the Time

It is vital to monitor and create a drinking schedule for your puppy to prevent over-drinking, which can lead to the puppy peeing a lot. However, young puppies should have access to water at all times until they begin potty training, when you may want to cut off water at night to prevent them needing to go outside to potty every two hours.

For example, if your puppy is slurping up  too much water and having frequent accidents, you may need to adjust yourself and take them outside more frequently. Not allowing your pup’s access to water when they are thirsty can lead to polydipsia (drinking water excessively)and resource-guarding behavior, which can lead to your dog drinking more water once you allow them access, leading to more accidents.

When it comes to potty training, it is critical to know how long they can hold their pee. Start with small amounts and gradually increase as they get used to it. Keep an eye on their behavior and make adjustments to make sure they are drinking fresh, clean water throughout the date.

Keep the water bowl clean

If you have a litter of young puppies that are learning to drink water, chances are they are going to be walking in their water bowl and even pooping in it for the first few weeks. This means it is vital to have several water bowls on hand to switch out for a clean one three or four times a day. Disinfect the water bowls daily exactly as you would disinfect a baby’s bottles.

Also, make sure puppies are dewormed as early as possible (as well as their mothers), with a dewormer that is safe for very young puppies. This way you prevent intestinal worms being spread among the litter in the water.

Monitoring Puppy Hydration

Dehydration and overhydration (water toxicosis) can be severe cases for puppies and lead to various health problems. Here are some tips on how to monitor your puppy’s hydration:

Observe Urine Output

One of the most straightforward ways to monitor a puppy’s hydration is by observing their urine output. Healthy puppies should urinate regularly, and their urine should be pale yellow. If you notice that your puppy is urinating less frequently or that their urine is dark yellow or concentrated, it may be a sign that you need to hydrate your dog.

Check the Gums

Healthy gums should be moist and pink. Gently press your finger against your puppy’s gums. If the gums feel dry, tacky, or pale, it could indicate dehydration. Hydrated gums should return to their standard color within two seconds after pressing. If they take longer, it shows hydration.

Skin Elasticity

Gently lift the skin on the back of your puppy’s neck and release it. In a well-hydrated puppy, the skin should quickly snap back into place. If the skin remains lifted or returns slowly, it may suggest dehydration.

Monitor Thirst

Pay attention to your puppy’s water intake. A well-hydrated puppy should drink water regularly. If your puppy suddenly drinks significantly more or less water than usual, it could be a sign of a problem. Keep fresh, clean water available at all times. 

Monitor their water intake and do not allow them to have too much water. Too much water intake could lead to decreased coordination, lethargy, dilated pupils, and a bloated stomach. It can also lead to death.

Assess Activity and Energy Levels

Dehydrated puppies may become lethargic and lose interest in play and exercise. Monitor your puppy’s activity and energy levels. If they seem unusually tired and uninterested in activities, it could be due to dehydration.

Watch for Symptoms

Dehydration in puppies can lead to symptoms such as dry nose, stumbling when walking, sunken eyes, loss of appetite, and panting. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s essential to address the issue promptly.

Keep in mind that overhydration, while rare, can happen. Puppies born with diabetes or other endocrine disorders, for example may drink water excessively (polydipsia). Sometimes polydipsia can be psychogenic, meaning there is no physical reason it happens. While this is not something to worry about typically, keep an eye on puppies gulping a lot of water all the time as it could be an underlying health issue or cause water toxicosis.

Ensure your puppy always has access to fresh water, especially during hot weather or after physical activity. If you’re concerned about your puppy’s hydration, don’t hesitate to seek professional advice from your veterinarian to keep your puppy healthy and well-hydrated.

Veterinary Advice on Puppy Hydration

Two Vizsla puppies drinking water from the same bowl

Puppies have different hydration needs due to their smaller size and developing digestive system. Here’s what veterinary experts recommend for ensuring your puppy stays appropriately hydrated.

Heat Considerations

In hot weather, puppies can become dehydrated more quickly. Space out water breaks throughout the day and provide shade during warm days.

Diet and Feeding

Consider the type of food you’re feeding your puppy. Dry kibble may require more water consumption than wet or raw diets. Make sure your puppy’s diet supports their hydration needs.

Hydration Alternatives

In addition to water, puppies can get hydration from wet food, which has a higher moisture content than dry kibble. You can offer your puppy ice cubes or frozen treats from low-sodium chicken broth.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How much water should a puppy drink in 24 hours?

A general rule is that three to four-week-old puppies should have about half a cup of water per pound of body weight per 24 hours. However, this can vary depending on the breed, age, and activity level of the puppy.

When can puppies drink water at night?

Puppies can ingest water at night if they are thirsty, but it is crucial to monitor their intake. Puppies under six months old may need to go outside to relieve themselves during the night, so it is essential to limit their water to two hours before bedtime to make potty training easier.

When can puppies drink milk?

Puppies should drink their mother’s milk for the first few weeks of life, as it provides essential nutrients and antibodies. After three to four weeks, puppies can transition to solid food and consuming water.

Can a one-month-old puppy drink water?

Yes, puppies can start drinking water at around four weeks old. However, they should still be nursing from their mother or drinking puppy formula to ensure they are getting enough nutrients.

When do puppies start eating food?

Puppies can start eating solid food at around three to four weeks old. It is essential to introduce food gradually and choose high-quality puppy food that meets their nutritional needs.

When can puppies have water before bed?

Puppies above six months old can have water before bed since they can sleep through the night without going to pee. For younger puppies, it is recommended to stop giving water to puppies two hours before bedtime to allow yourself time to take them for one last potty break.

Final Thoughts

It is generally safe to offer your pup water when they are three to four weeks old as soon as they start eating solid food.

It is essential to monitor a puppy’s water intake and ensure they do not have too much water too quickly, as this can lead to water intoxication. Puppies should also be encouraged to drink water throughout the day, especially during hot weather or after exercise.

Overall, providing puppies with access to clean and fresh water is essential for their health and well-being. Following the above mentioned guidelines, pet owners can ensure their puppies are properly hydrated and healthy.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.