Dogs do a lot of strange things. Admittedly, some are more disgusting than others. Rolling in dead stuff is probably the worst, but licking other dogs’ urine is near the top of the list. It’s hard to fathom the possible appeal, especially given how sensitive their noses are and how smelly dog pee can be. I couldn’t help but dig a little deeper to demystify the strange behavior. I learned more about doggy social activities than I expected.
Why does my dog lick other dogs’ urine? The vomeronasal organ, also known as Jacobson’s organ, is responsible for this odd dog behavior of licking other dogs’ urine. Your dog is using their sense of smell to learn more from that pee than we’ll ever learn from a handshake.
You may have noticed that when your dog licks urine from other dogs, they do something else almost as strange. Many dogs will tilt their snout up and press their tongue against the roof of their mouth. Some have the Flehmen Reaction instead. They freeze in place with their tongue curled up. Either way, it appears as though they’re savoring the flavor. I’m not speculating on that part. Dogs may enjoy the taste, as well. There’s no way to know.
What scientists think is going on is more like reading someone’s permanent record and stalking their social media profiles. The difference is that not everyone speaks this language (thank goodness!). When your dog presses a strange pups piddle against the roof of his or her mouth, it’s getting the fluid nearer to the vomer bone. Hence, it’s also more accessible to the vomeronasal organ.
As bizarre as it is for those of us who are nasally challenged and lack the specialized olfactory organs of a dog, doing this tongue press lets your pup use its superpowerful sense of smell to decode all the information inside. The Jacobsen’s organ works like a rosetta stone and tells the dog everything they need to know about the dog who left the pee there.
Things to Keep in Mind When Your Dog Licks Other Dogs’ Urine:
- Licking other dogs’ urine is normal for them.
- Pee won’t make them sick. As long as you vaccinate, there’s little reason to worry about their health.
- Don’t scold your dog for licking piddle puddles.
- Your dog is learning, even if you find it a bit gross.
- Maybe you should avoid the doggy kisses for a bit and offer them some water.
Can Licking Other Dogs’ Pee Hurt My Pet
Most of the time, there’s nothing wrong with your dog licking other dogs pee. It may weird you out, but it’s deeply ingrained in their social culture and doggy genetics. However, when I say ‘most of the time,’ that means there’s an exception to this rule. Fortunately, I only found one notable exception.
Leptospirosis is an infection caused by spirochetes, which are ‘bad’ bacteria. Your dog could get Lepto from drinking other dog’s pee. Notably, it’s just as likely that they could get it from taking a drink of some stagnant water.
Pet owners change their canine companions’ water frequently at home. For those who want to take this a step further and make sure the water isn’t stagnant, I suggest the PetSafe Drinkwell Dog Water Fountain. It keeps the water in motion, which will help avoid bacterial build-up and prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs in your pup’s water in summer. Click here for prices and availability.
Regardless of how your pup gets Leptospirosis, there’s good news. It’s curable with the use of antibiotics like doxycycline. You’d have to ask your vet to get a proper diagnosis and prescription antibiotic.
Symptoms of Leptospirosis in Dogs:
- Depression- When your dog is mopey and lacks any interest in doing things they’d usually enjoy, you should be worried even if they don’t have Leptospirosis.
- Fever- Higher than average body temp can be a sign of numerous problems. Leptospirosis is just one of them. See your vet if your dog has a fever.
- Lethargy- A total lack of energy is common when your dog is sick or older. However, combined with other symptoms, it’s absolutely something to be concerned about.
- Redness of the Mucous Membranes- The inside lining of the eyes, nose, and mouth, among other areas, are all mucous membranes. When these tissues appear redder than usual, it’s a hint that there’s trouble somewhere inside your dog. Especially when combined with the other symptoms on this list, it may be an indication that your pup drank some bad pee.
- Vomiting- Anytime your dog is barfing, you should be paying close attention. Canines have incredibly strong stomachs. Dogs may eat grass to induce vomiting. Doing this may be familiar, but that doesn’t make it a good sign.
In extreme cases, if left untreated, Leptospirosis can inflame your dog’s kidneys. If the inflammation is severe or long-lasting, it can cause permanent damage. Young, old, and otherwise ill dogs who have compromised immune systems are the most at risk. However, Leptospirosis can happen to an otherwise healthy dog too.
I always encourage pet-parents to stay calm. Should you suspect there’s a problem like Leptospirosis, get medical help for your pup.
What’s In This Stuff
Licking other dog’s pee is a learning experience because urine is more complicated than you might think. Dog urine is made up of a potent combo of hormones, ammonia, uric acid, and bacteria. Before you freak out about the ‘bacteria’ part of that, there’s nothing to worry about. Most urinary bacteria are perfectly healthy. Dogs, like people, require beneficial bacteria to survive.
The ammonia and uric acid probably don’t do your pup’s sensitive nose any favors, but the hormones and bacteria tell stories that they can really get into. Canine olfactory prowess is so incredible that they can understand the gender of another dog just from their pee. Beyond that, male or female, your dog can determine whether a female dog is in heat.
Likely, they can also tell, from the bacteria, whether or not another dog is sick or has an infection. Luckily the acid in a pup’s stomach will kill off most anything that’s dangerous.
For dog owners who don’t appreciate the urine drinking habits of their furry best friend, I have an easy solution. Pick up Hill’s Science Diet Adult Oral Care Dog Food to clean their teeth and freshen up that dog-pee breath. You’ll still know they did it, but at least it won’t smell like ammonia when your pet ‘kisses’ you. Get details by clicking here.
Male Vs. Female Dogs Drinking Pee
Dog lovers who have had more than a few pups in their life may have noticed that some dogs, especially males, react more strongly to licking up other dogs’ pee. Sometimes it’s because a male dog senses a female is in heat, which can cause drooling and other odd behavior like leg humping in some cases.
Female dogs seem to react less, but the exact reason hasn’t been studied very well. This likely has to do with doggy reproductive urges. Simply put, girl dogs genes don’t tell them to behave the same if they find a competitor or a virile boy dog.
What if My Dog Drinks His/Her Own Pee?
Though drinking other dog’s pee is normal and healthy behavior, a dog who is drinking their own pee may be unwell. There are four main reasons dogs drink urine they made. None of them are good signs, but some are more worrisome than others.
Reasons a Dog Might Drink Their Own Pee
- First, dehydration can cause your dog to go into canine survival mode. Drinking their own pee slakes their thirst. Dogs are, after all, opportunistic omnivores who can and will eat almost anything. Why would their drinking habits be less ubiquitous? It’s probably not as good as filtered water, but given the sensitivity of their noses, tap water might not smell worse to them. We do treat it with bleach, after all.
- Second and similarly, it could be a sign of a Urinary Tract Infection. Having a UTI may make your pooch feel more thirsty than usual. While it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re dehydrated, feeling that way makes dogs react the same as when they’re running low on water in their bodies.
- Third, training and shame might be the culprit. If your pup had an accident, and they know it will make you, their alpha, angry, they might clean up. Sure, it’s gross, but they may feel it’s better than getting in trouble.
- Fourth and finally, puppies and untrained dogs are more likely to drink their own urine. Why do they do this? I don’t know, and I didn’t find a satisfactory answer except for the ones I’ve already given.
Don’t Get Angry if Your Dog Licks Urine
One of the most important things to keep in mind if your dog is licking other dog’s urine is to stay calm. Surely we prefer that they don’t do it. There’s a small chance they could get sick, and as humans, we typically don’t want strange-dog pee kisses or drool getting on us.
Regardless of how you feel about seeing your pet behave this way, it’s normal. Canine instincts, older than their relationship with humans, which has lasted thousands of years, are telling them to have a taste. You can gently and firmly guide them away, and train them with treats to stop, but don’t scold your pet for being a dog. It won’t ‘fix’ anything, plus it makes them feel bad.
Of all the bizarre doggy things to do, drinking one another’s pee is the one that baffled me the most. After years of seeing their behavior, I was sure the ammonia and uric acid should bother their delicate noses more. However, it’s all part of a sophisticated learning tool in their powerful noses.
Your dog’s nose is a translation device. It tells them about the world through the use of their Jacobson’s Organ. It’s no wonder dog social culture involves sniffing each other. Rather than being disturbed by what our limited sense of smell can detect, they ‘see’ outside our spectrum, enjoying the full bouquet of pheromones and more.
Even knowing how important it is to a dog, the pee licking will probably always make the average human stomach turn. Perhaps someday we’ll invent a machine like heat vision goggles for the nose that gives us more of the picture as they see it.