Important physics breakthrough solves the mystery of how dogs drink

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Everything you knew about canine hydration was wrong! You will gasp in astonishment to discover the physical links between dog drinking and cat drinking! And learn the secrets behind messy dog slobber! All will be revealed!

For decades, physicists believed that they understood dog drinking. It was well-established that dogs loop their tongues into ladle-like structures and spoon the water into their mouths. Everyone knew this to be so. None dared question the conclusions of many brilliant minds. Why, it was even reported on this very site!


And all these years we have been wrong! The dog has been just as much a master of physics as the wily cat! Instead of just crudely ladling the liquid into their mouths with a curled tongue, dogs have been creating a column of water that they drink right out of the air.

Past scientists were right when they said that dogs curved their tongues into a scoop. Where they went wrong was seeing the shape and assuming that dogs lacked sophistication because of it. Recently, researchers took footage of a dog drinking both broth and a milk-barium combination liquid. They found that a little water collected in the hollow of the dog's tongue. The rest stuck to the length of the tongue. Water adheres to many surfaces. The meniscus in a test tube, when water can be seen 'climbing' the sides of the container and causing the surface of the water to arc downward slightly, is one example of this adhesion. A dog's tongue is another. When the dogs withdrew their tongues from the liquid, the water molecules came along for the ride, creating a column of water that traveled up into the dog's mouth. Once there, the dog's tongue trapped it against the roof of the mouth, the dog swallowed, and stuck its tongue out for another drink.


The curve of the tongue isn't the only reason why the physics of dog slurpery baffled researchers for so long. Feline and canine hydration results differ greatly. Cats have a reputation for fastidiousness that is well deserved. A dog bowl usually looks like the aftermath of a localized rainstorm. The difference in neatness comes from the slightly different technique the two animals have. While cats lap along the surface of a bowl of water, dogs dip their whole tongues in the water. They get a lot of water moving, and not all of it ends up in their mouths. Still, the physics of the actual drinking are the same. Perhaps this can finally allow dog people and cat people to gain some common ground.

Via Discovery.

Image via Getty