How Do Dogs Drink Water? The Fascinating Science of Dog Drinking

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Do you ever stop and wonder how dogs drink water? It's not as simple as just putting their mouth in the water and sucking it up.

Out of all the weird things we love about dogs, the way they drink water is probably the coolest (and also very messy).

In this blog post, we will discuss how dogs drink water and the science behind it!


Specially adapted way of drinking



Dogs have a specially adapted way of drinking that is different from how humans and other animals drink.

We humans suck water up using our cheek muscles, very similar to how elephants use their trunk to suck up water from a pool.

Essentially, we're using suction to get our water - from bottles, pools, or from our cups.

Dogs however don't actually have any cheek muscles (like cats). Instead, they use their tongue to scoop up water and then lift their head back to swallow.

This might seem like a more roundabout way of doing things, but it's actually more efficient for dogs since it allows them to take in more water per lick.


How does this work?


When a dog sticks its tongue out to lap up water, the muscles in its mouth causes it to back backwards, essentially turning it into a ladle.

This ladle helps in drawing up the water into its mouth.

So here's the interesting part - the 'ladle' doesn't actually draw as much water as we think - the idea was actually to increase the surface area of the tongue with the water bowl.

The water sticks to the front part of their tongues, which the dog then draws up into it's mouth and 'bites' at it, effectively swallowing it.

Once the water has been drawn up, the dog will then retract its tongue and the water will flow down the throat.

This process is repeated until the dog has had enough to drink.


This also explains why it's so messy - the tongue splashing into the water already makes causes a mess, and they repeat this process until they're full.


Evolved tongues


Their tongues are long and flat, which allows them to lap up large amounts of water quickly.

The roof of their mouth is also specially adapted to spread the water out as they drink.

And since dogs don't have any incisors (the front teeth in humans), there's nothing to get in the way of their tongue when they're lapping up water!


Unique evolutionary trait in their throats


They also have a special valve in their throats that prevents water from spilling out when they drink. This valve is called the pharyngeal reflex.


So next time you see your dog taking a long, hard sip from his water dish, you can be sure that he's doing it the best way possible! Thanks, science.


But why the mess?

Even with all these adaptations, dogs are still messy drinkers.

One study found that when small dogs drank from a bowl, they lost an average of 18% of the water they were trying to consume.

For larger dogs, this number was even higher - they lost an average of 30% of the water!


So why is this?


The simple answer is: gravity.

As your dog pulls water up from the bowl, the water droplets will fall back down, and your dog's mouth has to 'bite' the water back up into it's throat.

I know what you're thinking - the specialized evolutionary traits above seem... Less useful than we think.


But we must also realize something - dogs have been with us a long time, but it's only recently that we started living in smaller apartments, and giving them water bowls.

Their evolutionary traits evolved when they drank from a larger body of water (i.e. a lake or a river), where being messy didn't quite matter.

There are some high speed footage of dogs drinking water that confirms this, as well as a proper research paper on the fluid dynamics of dogs drinking water.



So even though it's messy, your dog is still doing the best he can with what he's got! Thanks, evolution.


Conclusion


Not all evolutionary traits in dogs have matched up to modern times - and it'll be some number of years until they do.

Till then, make sure you give your dog plenty of water to drink and watch them make a mess.

Or, you could also train them to drink from their water bowls elsewhere, where it's easier to clean up after they make a mess.



about the author

Frank Harrigan

Frank loves tacos and dogs - the good, bad and ugly sides of dog ownership.


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