In honor of Helen Fields’s beloved series about the bugs she comes across in her daily life [see Fields, H. “Bugs on my Window,” LWON (June 24, 2015)], I’d like to present a semi-related post:
Bugs (or Other Things) that my Dogs Probably Regurgitated
As a writer and a “scientist” (I studied Conservation Biology, which is only science about 1/3 of the time), when there is something on the ground or floor that I don’t recognize, I typically inspect it closely before cleaning it up, hoping to learn something new. Sometimes I smell unidentified things as my husband watches in horror. No, I do not taste them (unless I’m 99% sure it’s a bit of chocolate that came off as I snapped a square from a bar earlier). (The other 1% in that scenario is a killer.)
But when signs point to “a thing the dogs ate or dragged in,” I’m less likely to put my face near it, even in the name of science. Fortunately, those things usually can be identified from arm’s length.
Here’s a countdown of 10 of the previously alive things I’ve discovered tangled in dust bunnies under my desk or left behind in a dog’s bed. Inside my house. Where I live. Ewww.
10. Regurgitated fly
9. Regurgitated honeybee (sorry, pollinators!)
8. Vole, probably Microtus pennsylvanicus, whole
7. Shrew, maybe Sorex cinereus, partial
6. Egg shell sans chick, likely American robin (Turdus migratorius)
5. Chick, newly fledged, Common/European starling (Sturnus vulgaris) (invasive), partial
4. Regurgitated cricket, thorax intact, missing 1 forewing, 1 hind leg
3. Regurgitated earthworm (why? Why?)
2. Stink bug, Brown marmorated (Halyomorpha halys), chewed and spit, preserved in dog slobber
1. Bird foot, species unknown, whole
When you think about it, it’s amazing what the dog gut can handle. Why don’t they get sick from the same things we do, especially bad bacteria?
I know some reasons. For one, their saliva contains lysozyme, an enzyme that kills off such stuff. They also have a short digestive tract, which means food (or whatever they ingest) moves through quickly—giving bacteria little time to grab on and build a colony. Dog guts are also really acidic. So, that helps. There are probably other explanations. But basically, they’ve evolved to handle funk in the environment because their wolf-like ancestors ate raw meat, and later garbage, rather than nosing around in bowls of high-priced kibble from the fancy dog food store.
Still, some things just don’t sit right. Each day, especially in the summertime, I learn something new that falls into that category. Although, I’d theorize that a lot of items come back up simply because they feel gaggy in the throat, not because of any toxic bacteria they carry. A buzzing fly in the esophagus feels funny, I’ll bet. It probably doesn’t get very far down the old shoot.
Some people might say I’m actually fortunate, because my dogs do not eat their own or each other’s waste. By waste I mean shit.
Broom photo by Rigel via Flickr
Dog and kangaroo photos by the author