We don’t have to be scientists to appreciate or be fascinated by science. How dogs drink water is one example of raw, fascinating science at work. And once we understand what it’s like for our four-legged friends to try and drink, we can forgive the endless mess they (especially dogs) always seem to leave behind at the water station.
The Science & Engineering Behind How Dogs Drink Water
It may seem like a funny thing to study, but it’s actually something scientists didn’t understand until fairly recently. We always describe their drinking style as, “lapping.” As humans, we couldn’t drink the way dogs drink water. So, what is it about the way dogs drink water that makes this everyday act so special?
Dogs (and cats) have what scientists at Virginia Tech call, “incomplete cheeks.” As carnivores, they have cheeks that allow their mouths to open wide so they can kill their prey quickly. This means they can’t pull their cheeks together to suck water in as we can.
Instead, cats and dogs use their tongue to draw a column of water upward and into their mouths. Then they bite the column of water off when they shut their mouth. It may seem sloppy, but it’s scientifically sloppy. It’s called, “a nonlinear interaction between a soft body and a fluid.” The soft body is our fur-baby’s tongue, and the water is, of course, the fluid.
If we look at a dog drinking water in slow motion, we can see that they make a backward ladle shape with their tongue. It turns out, that isn’t so they can scoop water. On a hot day or when they are more thirsty, this ladle shape is exaggerated. They curl their tongue backward so as much of the top of their tongue will hit the water as possible. The water that is caught in the ladle falls back into their bowl.
When dogs reach into the bowl, they are trying to maximize the surface area of their tongue that comes into contact with water. More surface area means a bigger column of water will be captured and drawn upward, into their mouths.
And if that wasn’t interesting enough, dogs actually slam their tongue down and then draw it back up with an acceleration up to eight times the force of gravity! Cats drink a little differently from dogs and pull water back at two times the force of gravity. All this splashing also explains why dogs make so much more of a mess than cats when getting a drink.
More About When Dogs Drink Water
A healthy dog will drink about an ounce of water per pound of bodyweight each day. That means a 30-pound dog will drink approximately 30 ounces of water each day. Making a habit of refilling our pup’s water bowl every day will give us a good read on whether they are healthy and what environmental factors might be affecting them.
If we notice our canine companion is drinking more water than usual, it could just mean it’s hot outside, they are getting more exercise than usual, or they’ve been eating extra food. However, drinking excessive water can also mean signal something like kidney disease, diabetes, or Cushing’s disease.
Not drinking enough can also be a problem. If we notice the water bowl is a little more full than usual when we refresh their water supply at the end of the day, it could just be because it’s cooler outside, Fido is getting less exercise than usual, or they’re getting water from another source. It could also mean our pup is feeling nauseous.
Sudden changes like excessive water consumption followed by not drinking anymore can also mean there is a disease at work or some sort of health challenge. If we are concerned about health issues, a trip to the vet is an important next step.
Making sure our pup is in the best possible health will help ensure drinking water is just a normal part of being a fascinating engineering marvel, rather than a health concern. Be sure to take preventative measures such as using EcoBug to remove the threat of diseases from bugs and pests. Ticks, fleas, and mosquitos carry blood-borne illnesses that can cause life-threatening diseases for our canine companions and for our human family.