Dogs have some interesting behaviors, and one of the most peculiar things they do is lick other dogs' urine. Although it may be repulsive to us humans, it actually serves as a way for dogs to communicate with each other. This behavior has various purposes, such as establishing dominance and gathering information about other dogs. It has intrigued both pet owners and scientists alike.
In this article, we will delve into the scientific reasons behind why dogs engage in this behavior and what it can reveal about the intricate world of canine communication. So, whether you adore dogs or simply have a curiosity about how our furry companions operate, come along with us on a voyage of exploration as we uncover the captivating realm of canine behavior.
Why does my dog lick other dogs pee?
Dog pee has several components, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, ammonia, urea, uric acid, creatinine, magnesium, and calcium. But what most owners don't think about is that urine is the body's liquid waste, so it can also contain traces of different elements, such as salts, electrolytes, carbohydrates, fatty acids, enzymes, hormones, traces of blood if the dog is in heat, drugs if she is on medication, and, as in people, urine is affected by diet.
Not all urine is the same. What it contains is going to depend on the particular dog that has urinated, and of course, this can vary from dog to dog, but also within the same animal throughout the day. Just like people, pee can tell a story about an individual dog and give a picture of its health.
A dog's ability to detect different components in pee is so powerful that it can tell if the dog that peed is sick, in heat, etc. If you have experienced your dog licking pee, you will have seen that he is very selective about which pee he chooses to lick, and this is due to the different compositions of the expelled pee, which then attracts your dog or the next dog that passes by.
Why did my dog suddenly start licking pee?
This can depend on a variety of factors, but let's look at some of the main reasons. In the end, you are the one who knows your dog, and you will figure out what fits your particular situation to determine if you need to make any small changes or if you need to talk to a veterinarian. Always do your research before you medicate, and only do so if necessary. In many cases, dogs' long-term health suffers because of medicine that is administered "just in case," rather than a more holistic and moderate approach to treating the problems that arise.
They are in the pee, and these chemicals naturally elicit a social response in the dog that smells them. They are a method of communication with other animals of the same species. Animals detect pheromones with their sense of smell, and if you've ever seen your dog licking urine and he freezes for a second with his tongue out - known as a Flehmen response - it means he's soaking up all the juicy details of the message. Animal pheromones can communicate everything: danger signals, alarm calls, territory or route markers, sexual traits such as willingness to mate, physical or health status, and predator or prey information. Even if a dog lives in a comfortable home, this type of communication still exists and is part of its natural survival instinct. So if you notice that your dog suddenly starts licking urine, it may be due to pheromones. Don't think too much about it, nature takes its course, and your dog is going to enjoy some much needed communication with his own tribe!
They are excreted in the pee, and when the dog selects one type over another, it may simply mean that it is an innate survival tactic to diversify the range of gut bacteria critical to his health. This is more prevalent in dogs that eat the same diet every day. Their microbiome range of beneficial gut bacteria is limited to what the owner chooses to feed them. A dog may need to seek out live food sources to diversify the gut bacteria essential for good immune health and to help with stomach pH.
In dogs on a dry food diet, which is full of by-products and carbohydrates, these "foods" are converted to sugars, which are present in a dog's urine in the form of glucose. Even if a dog's kidneys are healthy, with the amount of dry food consumed, there are going to be traces of glucose in the urine, which can then attract other dogs to lick it up. Since dogs can sense everything from urine, it may be that the dog that urinated earlier has glycosuria, high blood sugar levels, or diabetes, so the glucose levels expelled would be higher than normal, and sweet pee is attractive for dogs to eagerly take.
Most dogs that eat balanced food do not get enough water in their diet, so it could be that while out walking, especially on warm or hot days, certain dog pee will appear on cue to quench their thirst. It is unlikely that the pee intake is due to dehydration, as most dogs would drink from another source if it is within reach. If your dog is very thirsty, be sure to always carry water with you when out walking.
The question is whether you noticed any drastic changes in your dog's behavior that are unusual for him.
Some of the easiest problems to solve are when a dog urinates inside the house environment and then licks its own pee. This is going to depend on a couple of things, such as whether it is an adult dog or a puppy, or if it is an untrained senior dog. It's quite natural for this to happen since they resort to denning behavior. Train your puppy and retrain older dogs with positive reinforcement techniques only. If you challenge him, you will cause him more emotional damage in the long run. Don't make it a big deal, but when you go out with your dog, congratulate him and give him a small reward with a natural snack to show him he did a good job. Be consistent with training until your dog learns. Consider shortening the time between walks so that your dog has more opportunities to go out rather than having to hold on all day while desperately waiting for you to take him out.
Just think, you could be the problem. Unfortunately, many pet owners do not establish a routine with regular schedules for their dog and do not allocate enough time for him to be outside and go to the bathroom as he should many times. If day to day, your dog has no idea when it is time to go to the bathroom and eat. They are trying to make the best of a bad situation that you created. If this is the case, they prioritize their self-protection. For a dog to be forced to relieve himself inside the house goes against all his natural instincts, and licking his own urine becomes a mechanism to hide the evidence. Think about how many times a day you go to the bathroom and start calculating that your dog has to match that amount. Or, at the very least, schedule times for him to go to the bathroom throughout the day so he knows when it's time for walks.
Just like people, dogs age and experience body changes. In many older dogs, the problem may be related to the amount of time they have to wait between walks. Or it may be the onset of incontinence. Your adult dog may have a weaker bladder, which is why he leaks drops of pee when he changes position and, because he knows he is doing so within his area of refuge, he tries to lick it up, resorting to his innate behavior.
An underlying health problem
See if your dog is peeing more than usual or licking other dogs' pee more frequently. If this is part of the problem, then there may be an underlying illness. If you know that everything else is the same, such as his walking schedule, diet, etc., talk to your veterinarian. Some common diseases related to excessive pee intake are as follows (not an exhaustive list).
Urinary tract infections Bladder diseases Cushing's syndrome Cognitive dysfunction Dementia Kidney diseases Liver disease Diabetes
Male dogs often lick up more pee than female dogs, especially if a female dog expelled pheromone-filled urine to show that she is in heat. Males identify these signals and the scent.
Dogs that suffer from anxiety, fear, or have a nervous personality often pee more or have small accidents depending on the situation they are in. When this happens, your reaction can either help or worsen their behavior. If you get angry, you are likely to encourage a negative reaction and more frequent peeing behavior. Whereas if you deal with the situation more kindly and understandingly, you help your dog calm down and reduce the need to lick his own pee.
The difference between male and female dogs' pee licking behavior
Male and female dogs may exhibit different patterns of pee licking behavior. Male dogs often focus on marking territory and asserting dominance, leading to more frequent urine licking. In contrast, female dogs may show more interest in reproductive and health-related information present in the urine. These differences reflect the distinct priorities and strategies of males and females in the canine world.
Common misconceptions about dogs' pee licking behavior
There are several misconceptions about dogs' pee licking behavior. Some people believe that dogs engage in this behavior solely for hygiene purposes, which is not entirely accurate. While dogs do have grooming instincts, pee licking serves a much deeper purpose in their social and communicative repertoire. It is essential to dispel these misconceptions to truly understand the significance of this behavior.
Read also: Why Do Dogs Sniff Each Other's Butts?
Is it dangerous for my dog to lick other dogs' pee?
Really not. He will be alright, much like if a dog eats another dog's poop. Even while there is a slight possibility that he could get a parasite of some sort, the probability is negligible.
Dogs have ancestral digestive systems, which is why they have the ability to process higher microbial activity than humans, which is why they can eat raw meat and bones, eat spoiled food, lick pee, and eat poop without getting sick. It is also part of their survival instinct and is what they learn as sheltering behavior. Dogs are more protected against pathogens and bacteria than many pharmaceutical companies would like you to believe.
If you are concerned about parasites, a simple technique is to always have an alternative water pot in your home that you replace often and that has a little apple cider vinegar in it. Your dog will naturally select this water when he needs the apple cider vinegar to help keep his stomach at the optimum pH to prevent parasites.
In conclusion, the science behind why dogs lick other dogs' pee sheds light on the captivating world of canine communication. Their sense of smell, the use of scent, and the role of pheromones all play significant roles in this complex system. By embracing and exploring these behaviors, we can forge deeper connections with our canine companions and provide them with the understanding and care they deserve. So, let us continue to unravel the wonders of canine communication and appreciate the incredible ways our furry friends interact with the world around them.