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How much is "too much" when "normal" is too little?

The Role of Water Intake for German Shepherds!

(and a bit for people too)

GSD with veg platterAs always, this Periodical holds more than the title would suggest, so stay conscious to the end.

It is YOUR GSD that is affected.

And if you didn't have a German Shepherd at the time you subscribed to the MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL way over two years ago, I trust by now you feel well-prepared to get a GSD, right?

Q-boxThe role of water intake for German Shepherds. Why this topic?

From the questions posted by site guests into our Picasso-styled Question Box in the right sidebar, and from subscriber comments too - the few that leave comments :roll: - I notice that too many dog owners are unaware:

a) how quickly GSDs feel dehydrated
b) and how much fluid deficits impact on dog behavior!

This is what a Top dog expert says:
Find out more: Click to save vet cost, training cost, and your nerves!

Therefore, I feel there is an urgent need for the wider topic of daily fluid needs of your GSD in this Periodical:

  • What matter is made of, and why matter matters
  • Factors that determine daily fluid needs
  • How much fluid in a day and how much drink in a day?
  • Water or something else?
  • When to drink and when not to drink
  • The impact of dehydration on dog behavior
  • Worried that your dog drinks too much?

What matter is made of, and why matter matters

All matter, anything you see, feel or use, is made of something, obviously. But did you know what all the stuff you know is made of?

people water content
  • Adult male German Shepherd Dog: 66% water!
  • Adult female German Shepherd Dog: 56% water
  • Barack Obama, the Pope, Yasser Arafat, Uncle Sam, your boss (if male): 60% water
  • Oprah Winfrey, Paris Hilton, Mother Teresa, your boss (if female): 55% water
  • newborn baby: 78% water!! (at 1 year: 65%)
  • celery, cucumber: 96% water!
  • lettuce: 95% water
  • watermelon, strawberries, sweet pepper, spinach: 92% water
  • broccoli: 91% water
  • milk: 89% water!
  • carrots, oranges: 87% water
  • yoghurt: 85% water
  • raw beef brisket: 71% water (56% after cooking!) *
  • raw chicken breast: 69% water (61% after cooking!)
  • even dried fruits!, human body bones, canine body bones: 31% water
  • canned ("wet") dog food: 65-85% water!
  • dog kibble: 5-10% water (max!)

Obviously, the figures vary slightly for each individual. And Yasser Arafat, Mother Teresa, and a few others are now made of: ashes.

  • fresh ashes: 0% water
  • old ashes: 5-40% water

You may be wondering: Why does Tim tell me these things?

To benefit your transfer of learning. :-) You just memorized (hopefully):

  • Female dogs and female people consist of less water per kg body weight than male dogs and male people
  • Meaning, females' daily water requirement is lower than the males'
  • Yet, way over half of the body mass of all females too is water!
  • Over half of the weight of all natural foods you or your dog could possibly eat is water
  • But the kibble that you give your dog, and the processed/packaged foods (except meats) that you eat yourself are exceptionally dry in comparison
  • A healthy diet for your dog and a healthy diet for yourself is one which overall replicates the body's water content
  • If instead you feed your dog kibble and you eat processed/ packaged foods yourself, you unbalance the body's natural composition
  • It's like, you attack your own body, and your weapon is to deprive your enemy of water: "I will dehydrate you, you bitch!"
  • For some years, your body will fight back with health signals - then it will surrender
  • "Just drink more" is not a worthy substitute because fluid absorption from foods is much better than fluid absorption from drinks!
  • Even substances you would think just cannot contain water, do in fact consist of water as well
  • This is because many items and substances are hygroscopic: they adsorb or even absorb water from the air *
  • Unfortunately, the canine body and the human body don't belong in this category, instead dogs and people permanently lose water through respiration and perspiration, urination and defecation, and most dogs and some people through salivation too
  • This is why we need to replenish the necessary level of total body water on a daily basis.

* adsorb: the surface molecules of a substance bind the water molecules; absorb: the substance combines with the water molecules by volume.

Did you notice? Even after cooking, the best meats are still way over 50% water! It's in microscopic amounts in every of the millions of cells that you have there on your dinner plate.

The "best meats" because, today all commercial meat packages have added water: Quite literally, water is being injected into the meat to increase the weight sold (the price)!* Oddly, by law only part of the added water needs to be declared on the label. Thus processed/ packaged meats are even higher in water content - and accordingly they have less protein, fat, and mineral content.

pork hash* I tested this myself across several shoppings (though from the same supplier, thus not a representative sample), and here's the result for commercial Pork hash: Weight sold 1800 g (3 packages of meat à 600 g), weight after cooking 915 g, thus 49.2% of the weight sold evaporated during cooking!

Above you saw that beef brisket loses 15% water weight during cooking and chicken breast loses 9%. I know that the water content of pork meat is in between those two, thus we now know that about 1434 g of this commercial pork meat sold is water, ie 80%!

If this commercially packaged pork meat naturally is 70% water, it means that an additional 10% water weight is injected, so basically the vendor raises the price we pay by 10% without (most of us) even realizing it.

This is what a Top dog expert says:
Find out more: Click to save vet cost, training cost, and your nerves!

Why is your dog (and you too) primarily made of water?

Functions of water in the body

total body water

Vital functions of water in our body and in our dog's body:

  • Essential to survival, growth, and reproduction
  • Helps to produce hormones and neurotransmitters
  • Transports oxygen to all body cells
  • Enables the dog to breathe, see, hear
  • Regulates body temperature (panting, sweating)
  • Keeps mucousal membranes moist
  • Carries nutrients from the food we eat to the cells that need them
  • Flushes out toxins and waste through urination and defecation
  • Acts as shock absorber to the brain, spinal cord, bones etc
  • Forms saliva for digestion
  • Serves digestion in the gut
  • Lubricates joints
  • etc.

In short: Without the high water content in the dog's body (56%/66%) and in our own body (55%/60%) we simply can't thrive!

Read this again. Because I am not saying something like: "If you and your dog don't drink enough, you can't survive". So much you knew anyway. That's obvious.

Instead, I am saying: "If you and your dog don't maintain the body's natural water content, you can't thrive". Meaning, we have to maintain that very level: 56%/66% for the dog, and 55%/60% for us. *

* Obviously, the exact figures vary slightly for each individual, depending on too many factors to mention. As always, the key message is what matters here.

What's the rest of the matter?

If natural foods are primarily water, then what's the rest? *

* Let's not discuss what the rest in people and processed foods is, because the opinions would differ there. ;-)

  • The remainder in meats and poultry is protein, fat, carbohydrate (only 1% as glycogen in muscle tissue), and trace minerals.
  • The remainder in fruits and vegetables are natural sugars and essential rehydration salts like calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium, as well as antioxidants, vitamins and trace minerals. *

* It is for these essential rehydration salts, antioxidants, vitamins and trace minerals lost through respiration, perspiration, spitting and "snot rockets" why athletes take isotonic drinks, and why for working dogs exist equivalent canine remedies like Rehydrate and VarsityPets' Drool Fuel

(This is now on Amazon as well but with shipping cost it isn't any cheaper than when we order directly from VarsityPets, which gives their perks).

Fruits and vegetables also contain high levels of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin which allow for better hydration than water alone: These foods provide twice the hydration that water alone provides, and more hydration and nutrients than the best sports drinks provide!

sports drinksThus, if you weren't so much affected by TV and other advertisements..., you wouldn't buy "sports drinks", rather you would put for example a cucumber and plain water in your food processor and drink the veggie water instead during your exercise. You might even want to come up with some unusual but potent recipes and start a booming business with "hydreggies", similar to the "smoothie" business! * ;-)

* Once you are financially successful with that, remember us here and share some of your profits to subsidize this site. Urgently needed! :-| You don't even have to donate because you can get terrific consideration with the uniquely revealing Dog Expert Interviews with Reviews which will save you further money, and a LOT!

Factors that determine daily fluid needs

dog slobberEvery day our dogs (and we too) lose body fluids through respiration and perspiration, urination and defecation. Further, most dogs lose body fluids through excessive salivation (slobber) and sneezing.

In addition, people may lose further body fluids through coughing, spitting, "moist" talking (not sure how you'd call that?) and/or "snot rockets" (I won't underline this one). :-|

people slobber

An increase in respiration and perspiration (and in some people and some dogs even an increase in urination, defecation, and salivation) may be caused by:

  • stress!
  • changes in exercise
  • dietary changes
  • intestinal parasites, heartworm, etc
  • medicaments or flea and tick remedies
  • temperature or seasonal changes
  • chemical house cleaning agents

All the above factors impact daily fluid loss, and it really is a LOT, oh yes. Thus:

  • The more your dog is panting (from exercise, illness or stress!), the more body fluid is lost and needs to be replenished
  • Dogs have sweat glands only on the paw pads and nose, hence perspiration in dogs is minimal - while in people perspiration is maximal, even if we don't feel like we're sweating (up to 10 times the amount of urination!)
  • Forget the notion: "The more my dog gets to drink, the more I need to let him out to urinate!"
  • The better notion to remember is: The more your dog is urinating (read: getting rid of built-up body toxins!), the more (s)he can drink to replenish fluids lost and get back up to the optimal total body water content (56/66%). Great!
  • If your dog suffers from any illness or stress that as a side effect(!) results in incontinence, don't think: "I'll give the dog less to drink"
  • Instead, make sure you change the dog's diet towards natural foods rather than kibble, because they naturally provide much higher hydration (see above)
  • Remember here that fluid absorption from foods is much better than fluid absorption from drinks, thus the dog's incontinence actually will improve! ;-)
  • If your dog suffers from Diarrhea for more than 24 hours then visit the vet
  • But even if it's for less than 24 hours, Diarrhea excretes excessive amounts of body fluids (and minerals) that need to be replenished through the right natural foods once you've identified and addressed the cause of the Diarrhea
  • If your dog suffers from Vomiting for more than 24 hours then visit the vet
  • But even if it's for less than 24 hours, together with the vomit excessive amounts of body fluids (and minerals) have left the body that need to be replenished ASAP
  • The dryer the food you serve your dog (read: the more kibble and commercial treats), the more drink you need to provide along with the "food": kibble kg = extra water liter!
  • Note that this is already the weaker alternative - assuming that if you serve dry food you do it because you don't want to serve natural foods (this would be the better alternative)
  • If you are one of those who follow the "Feed Raw" fashion, all other cons aside, check again above how much lower the water content is in meats than in fruit and veggies
  • Also remember what your dog's natural diet would be if you weren't there (scroll down to "Wild Dog Diet")
This is what a Top dog expert says:
Find out more: Click to save vet cost, training cost, and your nerves!

"Feeding Raw" and nothing else really is a fashion and nothing else. Before say the 1950ies when dogs became pet dogs and started to get "pampered" on commercial dog "food", the dogs weren't fed raw either! They were fed what was left from the human meals (table scraps). :idea:

Only that those table scraps were very different from those today. Basically, they were all natural foods - while today too much of our table scraps is "fortified", "enhanced", and "filled" with additives from food laboratories! The few spices that most people add to their meals really don't matter, that was no different until the 1940ies.

feed better

Note that dogs need MUCH more to stay healthy than just meat and innards. If you don't give your dog veg and fruit as well (ie if you belong to those 15.1% of our subscribers who don't!), don't ask me about any issues you have with your dog, because that's it, that is your issue then.

Well, no. It's your dog's issue of course! Which ultimately again is: your issue. :-?

How much fluid in a day and how much drink in a day?

Did you notice that even this chapter is split?

In other places you will only find an article like "How much should your dog drink in a day?" (that is an article). But on MYGERMANSHEPHERD.ORG such a topic is just a chapter, and even that chapter is split to convey the right insight: Because there is a BIG difference between fluid intake and intake of drinking water.

Above you noted already:

  • "Just drink more" is not a worthy substitute because fluid absorption from foods is much better than fluid absorption from drinks
  • Also, no matter how much more drinking water you give your dog, (s)he won't get all the essential rehydration salts, antioxidants, vitamins and trace minerals that (s)he would get with veg and fruit *

veg and fruit* Yes I know, you could argue: "I'll just add a Rehydrate tablet or a Drool Fuel powder sachet to the water" - but I'd strongly advise against that: Rehydration supplements are supplements, they must never replace a balanced diet of natural foods. And a diet of natural foods is cheaper anyway. Thus why not try my "hydreggies" suggestion above and see if your dog drinks half of your own cucumber-water, or whatever your favorite recipe is? :-)

How much fluid intake in a day?

Now you will see why all the above was not only interesting but needed.

As with everything, there are of course differing views as regards:

  • "How many bowls of water should my dog drink per day?"
  • and "How many glasses of water should I drink myself?"

You may have heard of the:

  • "an ounce per pound of body weight" recommendation for dogs
  • and the "eight glasses a day" recommendation for people

But by now you must have realized that I do not like to parrot pub talk (gin mill talk). For that you are much better served in other places. So let's not copy here what others have copied already, but instead we'll combine some biology and math to gain some new insight! Obviously all figures below are simplified, we'll leave out the finer details here. Simple is best for everyone to understand:


==> Next edition: Let's go hiking! <==

Miguel at 28w Can you give back a bit today?


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  11 Site Comments, ZERO SPAM Add one


    Thanks for discussing hydration and our dogs. This was very informative and helpful.


      Thanks Kathy. So What motivates your dog to drink water?

      What do you feed, how much, and how much water does your dog drink in a day?

      Would be very helpful to everyone if everyone left such comments.


    For future topics: our shepherd is very vocal, is there a way to control that a bit.


      Always Thanks for suggestions Kathy. Now, this was indeed already dealt with in each relevant Periodical (because how vocal your dog is depends on a LOT of factors of your own behavior), but the key Periodical was standalone: How to end GSD excessive barking.


    It is very evident to me that you are very interested and passionate in the idea you have posted. Very good detail, and very informational.


    Wow! Excellent article on hydration of GSDs! What an incredible amount of work you went to. Thank you! My two GSD always have water available BUT we live in the desert and I probably need to change their diet based on your article. Thank you again.


    As usual, a great periodical Tim. I actually have no idea what motivates my dog to drink, other than thirst. She has fresh water always, and she drinks a lot. I fill it two or three times a day. However, she does not drink after our long walks, or hikes. After a hike in the woods, usually a few hours, she will not drink until she gets home. I always bring water, and always offer it, but she refuses. I actually do not know how to motivate her to drink! Once I offered her the iced tea that I brought along for myself, and she did drink it, but I wasn't sure if it was good for her (caffeine), so I didn't let her have much. I have filled a thermos with ice cubes and given her those on really hot days, but they don't stay frozen long enough either. So.....how to motivate? Can I give her apples? I know some fruits, such as grapes and peaches are not good for her. I read that you suggested adding broth to her water, but I am not so sure that's a good idea when we are out on a hot day. Some motivation tips would be greatly appreciated.


      Hmm, I suggested broth? I hardly know how to write it, just looked it up :lol:
      What I do suggest (you always ask so kindly! thanks!!): Whenever you feel she should drink more (certainly during hikes, yes, and always for those who feed dry food/kibble!!), then how about adding a few slices of cucumber to the water (find out if she likes it), or a strawberry, or pieces of a pear, or even a slice of banana?
      And if you notice she isn't into veg and fruit appetizers in her water, then how about adding the residual "meaty water" after cooking/steaming meat? Or if you don't do that, how about the "sausage water" of a glass of sausages? (but check salt level first, some producers add a lot of salt to that!)

      We do all of the above. But here's the funny thing (almost unbelievable for dog owners!): This new puppy/dog here (you may have read, named Miguel) suddenly stopped liking meaty water!!! Crazy for a dog, isn't it? So now whenever I re-try and pour the meaty "water" from steaming meat into his bowl (when cool!), he doesn't touch that bowl for days! :roll:

      But the meat itself, and even the bigger "meat" chunks that drop through the steamer baskets (if you know what I mean?), all that he loves to EAT. Yet if I pour out too much water with that, he won't. VERY ODD, isn't it?

      Veg and fruit appetizers in the water are this dog's favorite.

      Hope this helps/ gives ideas?


    THANKS TIM! Kiera and Tsar have been on a home made diet for a week now, and I have noticed they do drink less. In your Puppy Week by Week Multimedia book you broke down the water content in key vegetables, so we've been using a lot of broccoli, spinach, zucchini, cucumber...

    Sometimes I was worried about Tsar drinking too much, but he eats kibble some days, so days I worry probably correspond with days I feed him kibble hm? :-)

    Both dogs like clean bowls with fresh cold water, they love ice cubes. I'm going to try the flavoured cubes you suggested (in the summer time). Right now we're buried in snow, so they're eating A TON of snow.

    .... now I should work on my own hydration I have found from reading this...


      Thanks Krystal, this landed in SPAM though because you didn't read what it clearly says above the button that you clicked... :-)

      I coincidentally saw your comment before I clicked DELETE 1275 SPAM comments... Yours got saved!


        oh whoops! I didn't think links from your site were included :) This new comment subscription is fantastic! Thanks again! I am now leaving a bowl of fresh water in the bedroom where Kiera sleeps so she doesn't have to go to the kitchen to get a drink.

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