Chicken Gatorade? Scientists Invent Bird-flavored Electrolyte Drink for Police Dogs

Work dogs get dehydrated quickly – imagine if you were sniffing suitcases, looking for cocaine and contraband peaches all day

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Massachusetts Task Force 1 K9 "Arie" drinking water while the team conducts a search operation at an area hit by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, September 25, 2017.
A K9 drinking water while conducting a search operation in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, September 25, 2017. Other flavored drinks are available.Credit: CARLOS GARCIA RAWLINS/REUTERS
Ruth Schuster
Ruth Schuster

Sniffing is hard work if you’re a police dog. Staying hydrated is key to keeping their little wet noses in working order, and now scientists have developed an electrolyte drink especially for them – flavored not like fake orange but bird.

To us, it might sound about as appealing as worm soup. But the folks at the University of Pennsylvania veterinary school have proved that, compared to regular water or electrolyte by intravenous injection, the chicken drink works best. So they say in their paper in Frontiers in Veterinary Medicine, based on work with vehicle-screening dogs at a crossing point in Sarita, Texas (a really, really small town near Corpus Christi).

By “works best” we mean that, volume-wise, the dogs consumed more chicken drink than water.

“Under conditions of controlled activity in moderate heat and humidity, dogs accustomed to the work and the environment were more likely to increase fluid consumption and hydration when provided a flavored oral electrolyte solution,” they wrote.

There really is a problem, explain the scientists. Working dogs are prone to heat prostration: Eager to placate their human masters, for whatever reason, they can work hard and when it’s hot, panting for thermoregulation (to cool themselves) doesn’t do the trick. Even in moderately hot weather, the dogs can easily work to the point of exhaustion and heatstroke.

“Heat injury is a significant concern of the Special Operations Forces Multipurpose Canine (SOF MPC),” wrote a different team in the Journal of Special Operations Medicine in 2012.

Hydration is the key and, until this study, there was no data on doggie drinking do’s and don’ts at Texan border points.

The classic technique to hydrate a dog is to put a bowl of water on the floor. Apparently, a bowl of free-access, chicken-flavored electrolyte solution works better.

They also checked whether the canines suffered a buildup of electrolytes in the blood and concluded they did not, so the drink is safe.

Israeli employers of SOF MPCs need to worry about their canine commandos, given the relative heat and aridity of the local climate. Dogs are widely employed in Israel by the armed forces and police, and they aren’t using the endemic Canaanite species.

In 2016, for instance, the Israel Police imported six Czech shepherd dogs, who might have been dab paws at nabbing bad guys smuggling weed, money or fruit, but were probably unused to the local weather.

Chicken Gatorade is not coming to a grocery near you any time soon, but it’s good to know.

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