Excessive Drinking is a Critically Important Symptom

A Thorough Diagnostic Workup is Essential for Life


My 7-year-old Akita mix has started drinking a lot of water. He was tested for diabetes and Cushing’s and results were negative. Is there something else that can be causing him to be so thirsty?


Dr. Nichol:

Your dog’s excessive drinking (polydipsia) (CQ) is critically important; you may lose him if the cause isn’t fully understood soon. A heavy thirst is usually compensation for too much water lost in the urine. It’s dangerous in part because your dog becomes mildly dehydrated requiring him to drink a whole lot just to keep up.


The diagnostic work that’s already been done is good-as far as it goes. Diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes) and Cushings (excess cortisol from the adrenal glands) are common causes of polydipsia. Have your dog retested following a fast (never withhold water) to definitely rule out these two diseases. A chemistry profile, blood count, urinalysis, and blood pressure are also important to check for kidney problems, liver disease, and high calcium (often a telltale sign of malignancy).


Many dogs with kidney failure have poor appetites and vomit. But diabetes insipidus, a less common cause of excessive drinking, often has no other symptoms. Your veterinarian relies heavily on lab work as well as your powers of observation. Be your dog’s vigorous advocate. Your commitment is his best hope.