This week we are going to dive into puddles and what’s better than that? Except these are particularly dirty ones. The ones our dogs seem to be mesmerised with and really enjoy lapping at as if they hadn’t enjoyed a drink in the last couple of weeks and needed to rehydrate QUICKLY.
This is a topic which has been thrown around the forum quite a bit, and rightly so, many owners are wondering whether this is due to a mineral or vitamin deficiency that the dogs are instinctively starting to “treat themselves” . My personal “gut instinct” was that this was the dogs gravitating to the bacteria in the puddles as a means of fortifying their immune systems. In a similar way to them eating horse manure, cow pats or other.
Whilst we don’t know exactly, the best guesstimate is that it is probably a combination of the above and several other things. So let’s break them down and cover them individually.
First and foremost dogs are scavengers. Yes they are carnivores, yes they hunt in packs, yes they can work as a team to hunt down live prey as we still observe with African Wild Dogs. However, primarily they are scavengers and this holds a clue to both their evolution and their success as a species….
Their scavenging nature allowed them to team up and work synergistically with mankind. Helping humans hunt in return for bones from around the cooking fire and shelter.
A dog has an inbuilt program to eat or drink as they see the opportunity arise, rather than simply the need and this is the crucial difference. My dog ran into the ocean today and took several mouthfuls of cold Atlantic swell. It’s far from ideal for her and she is probably not deficient in salt, but she did it because something wet went past her nose.
Same story food. Fully fed, resting and relaxing, eyes half closed in her basket when a dove flies into the window, knocks itself out and she is in like Flynn. Does he need to eat? No. I don’t think so.
It’s this scavenging instinct, collecting calories, nutrients and liquid when they arise that would have allowed a dog in the wild to survive when times were harder. Much like bears gorging on salmon and berries before a winter hibernation. A wild dog never knew when it’s next meal was scheduled.
Ironically its this constant putting of things in their mouths that provides our dogs with an arsenal of bacteria as protection from all of the potentially dangerous things that get chewed, snarfed, gobbled, licked, gnawed or inhaled. For the most part, fortunately. Which leads to the next point. Bacteria.
Feeding the beneficial bacteria.
Dogs are intuitively hunting out beneficial bacteria. We don’t know this for sure, having never interviewed one, but we can deduce this from consistent behaviour patterns. Why else would a dog leap at the opportunity to eat horse manure? It is entirely deficient in animal protein. Entirely at odds with its natural diet. Purely partially digested plant matter that is brimful of beneficial bacteria. An informative chat with our fabulous Vet Wendy told me that her dog instinctively selects the calf pats rather than the cow pats in her local field. Calves are raised initially on colostrum which is choc full of immunoglobulins to strengthen the calves’ immune system. Tasty. A puddle potentially represents a similar opportunity. A delicatessen of bacteria.
Chemical free hydration
As we all know, dogs have super keen senses of smell. The legendary bloodhound, or numerous dog handlers at Heathrow been cases in point. Tap water is highly treated, with fluoride added in most areas. Depending on where you are in the country there is also a variety of other chemicals that to a dog must smell intoxicating. Kismet loves drinking out of the rainwater bowl in the garden, and rarely drinks out of the bowl in the kitchen. Our vet noted that she saw this behaviour generally increase with fluoridation of the water supply 20 years ago. So nice chemical free bacteria ripe puddle must smell like an oasis to our dogs. (And yes mineral water will to some point also smell chemical to a dog, because of the way it is stored in plastic)
As we have discussed a couple of times (so I will keep this point brief), there is no such thing as the perfect diet. All dogs have different needs. And these needs are constantly changing. So a dog that requires more fats or a certain mineral one week might actually need less the next. They may be fighting an infection, recovering after exercise or simply growing. All we can do is our very best to provide a complete meal. The dog may then decide to “self supplement” with other items as they correctly (or incorrectly) see fit. For example, I am not convinced any dog actually needed that sock off the washing rail….
In summary, we don’t know why a dog loves to indulge in a dirty puddle. We do know that there are several potential reasons why and whilst we might not encourage it, it so far seems to be paying dividends for the species.
Thank you for reading, have a marvellous weekend and please as ever, raise your questions, post your feedback and help us build more positive momentum. We have dog’s lives to improve and those of their owners with it!
Wishing you well