In a emergency, could a dog be used as a water filter?

They say urine is sterile, and well, dogs seem to be able to lap up pretty much any body of water without ill effect.

Let’s say you were traveling with your furry friend somewhere with dirty, potentially parasite-infested waters. Could you send the pooch to drink and milk its urine to drink safely?

What would the dog pass on through its urine – bacteria? viruses? synthetic chemicals?

Pee might be fairly sterile, that is, devoid of bacteria and other germs. (ETA: That is, absent any actual, y’know, infections in the peeor.) More ETA: Doctors have allegedly used it to wash wounds, when clean water was unavailable.

That doesn’t make it clean. It’s full of all kinds of junk – metabolic wastes and various pollutants – that your kidneys know how to filter out of your blood. That’s the whole point of piss! So drinking pee will provide you with at least your Recommended Daily Allowance of all the very junk the dog filtered out for you!

So yeah, a dog’s kidneys may separate crap in the blood from the worthwhile components, sending the twain into different output bins. And then you’re drinking from the junk output bin!

There has been some cultish attitude that drinking human urine is healthful, and some people are said to have sworn by this. Cecil touched upon this subject (see the very last few paragraphs of the last update to that column).

Your first problem is that dog kidneys are roughly as efficient than human kidneys. That means that drinking dog urine is about on par with drinking human urine. IOW you will be drinking fluid with a concentration of salts and toxins that is already at or above the ability of your body to handle it. You would die in short order.

You could overcome that if you could somehow force feed the dog with large quantities of water to make it produce very dilute urine. All you need is a funnel, a length of hose and a very, very tolerant dog.

So, having solved that problem, you get to the next. The mammalian gut and kidneys do a really good job of filtering out microbes. So urine is effectively sterile and you have no need to worry about viruses or bacteria. So far so good.

What the kidneys are also very good at is filtering out non-living toxins such as benzene, heavy metals and many others. And by 'filtering out" I mean that they dump them into the urine for disposal. Because your dog will be using some of the water it drinks for cooling and faecal production, it will be urinating less water than it drinks, The result is that the urine will contain a greater concentration of some toxins than the water itself. IOW you will be consuming more of some toxins by drinking urine than by simply drinking the water.

You can mitigate this by force feeding the dog with water, but you will never be able to eliminate it, and in many cases you will never be able to improve the concentration above that of the water. When we say that kidneys filter out toxins, we mean that filter them out of the blood and concentrate them in the urine. The stuff you want to drink.

The we get to the third problem, which is that many toxins have their potency increased through ingestion. Once they get metabolised by the body they break own into even nastier compounds. Benzene, for example, breaks down into a dozen different toxins, many of which are much nastier than benzene itself. They also get rapidly excreted through the kidneys. And canine physiology is very different human. So the products that a dog’s body excretes may be highly toxic to humans and not something that your own body would produce at all if exposed to the progenitor directly.

As a result, the dog might be drinking water with 10 ppm of benzene, but excreting urine with 5ppm of phenol. That might sound like an improvement, except that phenol is about 6 times more poisonous than benzene. So as a result of drinking dog urine, you have effectively *doubled *the amount of poison you are drinking.

In short, your idea is acceptable if you are only concerned about pathogens or highly active toxins such as strychnine and provided you can force feed the dog. If you are concerned about salt or about relatively inactive toxins such as arsenic or hydrocarbons, you are outta luck. Your solution won’t help much, and unless you know exactly what the water is contaminated with you may be turning a relatively innocuous brew into a highly toxic one.

Problem #4: Milking the dog urine

It’s often far easier to boil contaminated water, or use solar water disinfection, than collect a sufficient amount of urine from a dog.

I am disturbed that you know this.

Use a dog as a water filter? Why not? Some American beer makers obviously use a horse to filter their beer.

I would think this would be an extremely short-lived solution, considering the dog would probably get sick and die from all that parasite-infested water you’re making him drink.

Dogs are no better than humans at surviving contaminated water. It’s just that, a, they don’t complain as much when they suffer bad effects from it, and b, a rate of bad effects that’s considered acceptable for a dog is not considered acceptable for a human.

Your best bet is to use the dog as a miner’s canary: When you find a new water source, let the dog drink first. If the dog stays healthy, they you can go ahead and drink from the source, too. If the dog gets sick or dies, you need to find a different source (and possibly a new dog).

In a pinch, I think you’d be better off drinking your own urine. As mentioned above, each time you do this the concentration of poisons increases, so you wouldn’t want to do this repeatedly.

Frankly, I’d rather bring along the katadyine than the family dog.

I can’t imagine a scenario where you had enough materials to make a collection mechanism for the dog but couldn’t rig a solar still or something.

Are you sure about that?

Humans have been cooking food for at least 250K years and possibly as long as 2M years, essentially externalizing parts of our digestion system. I suspect our immune systems have adjusted to be optimized for different conditions than even that of the family dog. We know that scavengers have a much higher resistance to the microbes in carrion. Wolves are both hunters and scavengers, and quite a bit more omnivorous than most people realize.

I’d guess that dogs are better at surviving microbes in scavenged food sources, though I’m sure your other comments still hold true (we have a higher tolerance for sick dogs than for sick people.)

I hold Bear Grylls (and his producers) personally responsible for questions like the OPs.

My first impulse, on reading the title of this thread, was to just say “No” and move on.

On second thoughts, though, it seems to me that Reply has raised an interesting and (so far as I’m aware) original question; with not just a practical element, but also ethical and moral ramifications; and deserves a more considered answer.

Good God, no.

Also: eww.

That’s what I’m thinking. You can use the dog, but only once.

How about this? You have a pack of dogs. They drink nasty water and live off of eating dead birds and catshit and the like.

You survive by drinking their blood. Water and sustinence baby! Eat the occasional orange or wild green vegetable and you should be good to go.

Didn’t the mongols drink mare’s blood in just this way? Of course, you have to be careful and know how often you can bleed the mare without causing her to weaken and die. I’d guess you can bleed a dog far less, given the smaller volume and body mass.

Could well be. I was remembering something about some tribes in Africa? that do the same thing.

My dogs are named Brita and Culligan BTW :slight_smile:

Bad username/post combo.

You may be far better giving yourself a dirty water enema.