If you’re a dog owner, you are well aware that dogs tend to lick, sniff, and sometimes eat, the strangest of things. Sometimes it seems they feed off our “ew” response!
Being a dog owner in someplace like the Midwest, or anywhere cold and snowy, means you may have probably witnessed your dog devouring yellow snow. Then immediately thereafter, attempting to kiss your face…Yuck!
Why do dogs insist on eating snow with urine in it?
There’s no one clear explanation for this phenomenon but the most likely explanation is that dogs eat pee covered snow out of instinct but it could be related to a medical condition. Some dogs may just enjoy eating and licking snow and just don’t mind a little urine as well.
Let’s take a closer look at what’s going on here and how you can figure out which reason makes the most sense for your dog.
Reason 1: Instincts May be Causing Your Dog to Eat Pee Snow
Located between your beloved canine’s nose and mouth, deep within the soft tissue lies something known as the Jacobsen’s organ. This feature typically will cause members of the canine community to obsessively smell the urine of other animals, especially of other dogs.
The Jacobsen’s organ also explains why your dog (male or female) gets so excited about not only smelling everything on a walk but also peeing on everything too. When dogs sniff a spot of pee or anything else, their Jacobsen’s organ helps them pick up chemical messages to or from other dogs, via pheromones (hormonal chemical messengers). By peeing in different spots along the walk (or in the snow) your dog can also leave their own chemical messages.
These pheromones signal all sorts of messages between dogs. For instance, whether a female is in heat, or if another male is within the territory. It is completely instinctual and normal behavior. While sometimes gross and undesirable to us people, it’s just how dogs roll. It’s like their top-secret form of canine communication.
If instead of just sniffing, a dog chooses to go a step further and lick the urine, it gives off a stronger chemical message to the olfactory system. By licking up urine, your dog gets an invigorating blast of chemical messages from other dogs. This could be rather exciting to your dog and could be why they continue to eagerly lap up the urine of other dogs.
When snow absorbs the urine from other dogs, it can sometimes keep it front and center in an easy-to-lick format. I know, that sounds a bit gross but compare urine-soaked snow to urine that gets absorbed by the dirt and you can see what I mean. Some dogs can’t resist that chance to lick or eat a little snow while learning more about whichever dog took a tinkle.
Reason 2: Health Issues Could Cause Your Dog to Eat Pee Snow
If your dog has recently developed this habit of eating urine from the snow, and hasn’t done so before, this could potentially signal that they may be dehydrated. While there are a multitude of different health implications that could cause dehydration in dogs, the most common is due to urinary issues, like a urinary tract infection (or UTI). Cushing’s Disease could also be an underlying cause to dog dehydration.
Dehydrated dogs may want to lick and eat snow regardless of whether there’s urine in it or not.
Another health issue that could be causing your pet to eat their urine in snow, is a condition known as Pica. Basically, Pica is a condition that drives people, and other dogs, to crave strange things that are not food. Pica could be caused by new stresses that may have recently been introduced to your dog.
Is there a new baby in the house? Did you move recently? Pica can also occur if certain nutrients are not being digested due to some form of hormonal imbalance, or even parasitic infection.
If you suspect your pet is dehydrated, or could have some form of underlying issue occurring, it is always best to discuss these concerns with your veterinarian for further investigation on the issue.
Reason 3: It Might Just Be Business As Usual For Your Dog
Another possible explanation for your dog’s affinity towards eating snow with urine in it is that they were brought up as puppies in less-than-desirable conditions.
For instance, dogs raised in puppy mills may not have always had access to freshwater, and licking up urine could have been a normal way to get additional liquids. The same goes for dogs who may have been rescued from some sort of hoarder situation. While it is an extremely depressing thought to consider, this could be another explanation for your dog’s obsession with ingesting urine in snow.
It is something they may have been used to in their past environment.
Could My Dog Get Sick from Eating Pee Snow?
While urine can contain very low levels of bacteria, it helps that it’s diluted from the snow and it’s extremely unlikely that your dog will get sick from eating snow with urine in it.
Something to keep in mind though is that there could be other contaminants in the snow that your dog may get into.
For instance, sidewalk salt (which can be toxic to dogs) could mistakenly be shoveled into the yard where your canine friend may be able to access it. Oil or other vehicle byproducts from the road could make their way into the front yard as snowplows push snow from the road towards your yard.
It is always best to only allow your dog to eat snow in areas that you are familiar with, and that you know do not contain such hazards. Or just play it safe and avoid letting them eat or snow at all regardless of whether it as urine in it or not.
Some Things You Can Do to Keep Your Dog from Eating Pee Snow
While it may not sound like the most idealistic method to keeping your dog from eating their pee snow (or pee snow from others), the best method for doing so, is to scoop the yellow snow and transfer it to a place that your dog cannot access.
Keep a good eye out while walking your dog in public places, or even in your own yard. Avoiding those bright yellow spots altogether might be your best bet for keeping pee snow out of your dog’s mouth!
Be sure your dog always has access to clean and fresh drinking water.
You could also try some training methods to attempt to keep your dog from eating urine in snow. Using a leash and keeping a pocket full of yummy treats as a distraction enough times may even keep your dog’s mind off the yellow stuff!
Still, there’s usually a very low risk to your dog from eating urine-soaked snow…even if it is a bit gross!
Moral of the Story is
There could be a number of possible explanations as to why your dog continues to gross you out and eat urine-soaked snow. From underlying health issues to maybe questionable pasts. While the most likely culprit is simply because that is how they communicate with other dogs, it is good to take all the other possible factors into consideration while trying to pinpoint the issue. Dogs never cease to amaze when it come to doing gross things, but we all love our furry friends, just the way they are!