How Long Can a Camel Go Without Drinking Water?
The amount of time that camels can go without water depends on several factors, such as the temperature and the food it eats. A camel traveling across the hot desert can go a week or more without a drink. But in cooler weather, it can go without water for several months. When a thirsty camel does drink, it can gulp about 25 gallons (95 liters) of water.
Camels can endure without water because their bodies lose water very slowly. They also get some water from food. Camels store water throughout their bodies. Their humps are mostly fat. Camels do not directly store water in their humps as was once commonly believed.
Camels have a series of physiological adaptations that allow them to withstand long periods of time without any external source of water. Unlike other mammals, their red blood cells are oval rather than circular in shape. This facilitates the flow of red blood cells during dehydration and makes them better at withstanding high osmotic variation without rupturing when drinking large amounts of water.
Camels rarely sweat, even when ambient temperatures reach 49 °C (120 °F). Any sweat that does occur evaporates at the skin level rather than at the surface of their coat; the heat of vaporization therefore comes from body heat rather than ambient heat.
Camels can withstand losing 25% of their body weight to sweating, whereas most other mammals can withstand only about 12–14% dehydration before cardiac failure results from circulatory disturbance.
When the camel exhales, water vapor becomes trapped in their nostrils and is reabsorbed into the body as a means to conserve water. Camels eating green herbage can ingest sufficient moisture in milder conditions to maintain their bodies’ hydrated state without the need for drinking.