The Nerd Side Of Life

Cone of Shame Turns Dog Green, Owner Explains Why

Dr. Stephanie Olson posted a picture of her dog Olive looking upwards with a plastic cone around her neck on the morning of July 18th to Twitter. Extending below the base of the cone and down the dog’s front was a mass of green colored fur, looking almost as if the dog was literally being dyed green.

In a series of tweets, Dr. Olson (a geochemist) provided a perfectly rational- if not a touch unusual- answer as to why Olive was turning…uhh..oolive!

So, why is her dog’s neck turning green? Well, to put it simply, and spoiler alert here, it all comes down to drool. Some dogs drool more than others and Olive is by all appearances, as you can see from the post, a drooler.

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“But wait Nerdbot writer whose name I probably didn’t even glance at, drool isn’t GREEN!” I hear you say. And yes, you are indeed correct. Drool is not green. But apparently, according to Dr. Olson, dog drool is rich with iron porphyrins. Porphyrins are organic compounds found throughout nature. In our bodies they can bond with iron, and form heme, a compound found in hemoglobin. In dog saliva though, there’s enough iron in it that when exposed to oxygen for long enough, can begin to oxidize and rust.

“Oh no, Nerdbot writer!” You start to say again. “You fooled me once with the drool color but you won’t fool me again. There’s two things I know about rust. One is that rust never sleeps, and the other is that rust is red!” And again you would be right, and I applaud you for your knowledge of Neil Young‘s discography. That being said, Dr. Olson has a further explanation for all this.

So, some dogs, Olive included, have a lot of fatty neck folds. While sleeping on her tummy, with the neck cone around her, Olive’s drool basically started draining towards her neck due to the cone’s shape. When you combine the cone with Olive’s neck folds, with the position she was laying in, Olive was effectively cutting off oxygen from reaching that area of the neck. The bacteria in her saliva used the oxygen to feed, removing even more of those molecules. And take a guess at what color rust becomes in low oxygen environments? That’s right: green.

So there you have it, the secret to Olive’s green fur, courtesy of Dr. Stephanie Olson. We’d like to thank the good doctor for using her scientific savvy and adorable dog Olive for giving us a fun little science lesson we probably wouldn’t have learned otherwise. And in an absolute pinch, now we know another way to turn our beer green come St. Patrick’s Day. All we need is a sleepy drooling dog, a neck cone, and a low oxygen environment!

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