Do You Know Why Dogs Drink Water the Way They Do?

Do You Know Why Dogs Drink Water the Way They Do

Do You Know Why Dogs Drink Water the Way They DoEverybody have seen the cute and funny way that dogs drink their water. It’s all splashes and spills, and water everywhere. But did you know why that happens? New research results show that the reason behind the wet mess that dogs leave after drinking water is a mechanical logic of carnivorous compensation.

Scientists have now found out that dogs splash water because of the way their cheeks are structured, which is a result of dogs being predatory quadrupeds. By studying the drinking habits of various dog breeds and sizes, a group of researchers at Virginia Tech and Purdue University has recently identified and modeled the fluid dynamics at play when dogs drink water.

Study’s lead author’s Sanny Jung‘s research focuses include biofluid mechanics and the nonlinear interactions between soft bodies and surrounding fluids. His current project is sponsored by the National Science Foundation’s Physics of Living Systems program.

“Three years ago, we studied how cats drink. I was curious about how dogs drink, because cats and dogs are everywhere,” said Jung, an assistant professor at Virginia Tech, in a press release.

How cats and dogs drink water

As members of the order Carnivora, cats and dogs have incomplete cheeks, which allow them to open their mouths wide to deliver killing blows. But what makes pack hunting possible also makes suction drinking impossible. Unable to seal their cheeks completely, there is no way for a dog to suck up water. Conversely, humans have “complete” cheeks, and we drink by creating negative pressure, allowing us to suck water into our mouths and down our throats.

Cats, too, lack suction, and they compensate by drinking via a two-part “water entry-and-exit” process. This consists of a plunging and a pulling phase, in which a cat gently places its tongue on the water’s surface and then rapidly withdraws it, creating a column of water underneath the cat’s retracting tongue.

“When we started this project, we thought that dogs drink similarly to cats. But it turns out that it’s different, because dogs smash their tongues on the water surface — they make lots of splashing — but a cat never does that,” says Jung.

Mechanics of dogs drinking water

When dogs withdraw their tongue from water, they create a significant amount of acceleration — roughly five times that of gravity — that creates the water columns, which feed up into their mouths. To model this, Jung placed cameras under the surface of a water trough to map the total surface area of the dogs’ tongues that splashed down when drinking.

Do You Know What Happens When a Dog Drinks Water vs Cats
Curved tongue of a dog is rapidly withdrawn as he drinks, and a water column is formed underneath. A physical experiment is designed to understand and characterize the underlying fluid mechanics. / Photo: Sean Gart and Sunghwan (Sunny) Jung/Virginia Tech

The researchers found that heavier dogs drink water with the larger wetted area of the tongue. This indicates that an allometric relationship exists between water contact area of the dog’s tongue and body weight — thus the volume of water a dog’s tongue can move increases exponentially relative to their body size.

In order to better understand how the physiology works, Jung and his colleagues could only go so far by watching dogs drink. They had to have the ability to alter the parameters and see how they affected this ability, and since they could not actually alter a dog in any way, they turned to models of the dog’s tongue and mouth.

“We needed to make some kind of physical system,” Jung said.

For their model, Jung and his colleagues used glass tubes to simulate a dog’s tongue. This allowed them to mimic the acceleration and column formation during the exit process. They then measured the volume of water withdrawn. They found that the column of water pinches off and detaches from the water bath primarily due to gravity. Dogs are smart enough to close their mouth just before the water column collapses back to the bath.

Further research for Jung includes investigating the diving dynamics of plunging seabirds, the skittering motion of frogs and the response of leaves in response to high-speed raindrops.