Dog Taste Buds: What Flavor Do Dogs Love?
Do dogs have taste buds? Yes! But do dogs care about taste? Again, they clearly have flavor preferences. Of course, we know some of the odd and nasty weird stuff dogs eat—I really do need to record an Ask Amy about why dogs drink out of the toilet—but do they actually taste such things? How dogs taste remains a mystery, but also impacts dental health and how to keep teeth clean..
DOG TASTE BUDS
Dogs taste sense mirrors that of humans, one reason your dogs beg for yummies from the table. For young dogs, smell of the food seems to trump taste. With some dogs, dirty socks might be a flavor enhancer . . .
We don’t know everything about the dog’s sense of taste. We know that a facial nerve is “wired” to the taste buds on the front two-thirds of the tongue only. That leaves the rest somewhat of a mystery. Most of the dog’s taste buds are circular structures on the upper forward surface of the tongue, and in four to six large cup-shaped bumpy papillae at the rear of the tongue. Interestingly, the dog’s taste receptors don’t stop in the mouth, but extend down into the larynx.
WHAT FLAVORS DOGS LOVE: CANINE SWEET TOOTH
Most canine taste buds respond to sugar. This reflects their omnivorous evolution. Dogs needed to eat seasonal fruits and vegetables to survive, so they evolved a sweet tooth because sweetness is a mechanism in plants that signals optimum ripeness. And like people, dogs can detect a kind of “fruity-sweet” flavor that attracts us — and them — to the calorie-rich ripeness of fruits and vegetables.
That doggy sweet tooth gets them in trouble, though. The sweet flavor tempts them to pack on the pounds if those puppy-dog eyes make us dole out sugary snacks. Dogs help themselves to cookies, dangerous chocolate treats, or even grapes that can cause toxic reactions. The sweet taste of antifreeze kills dogs when they drink it.
WHAT FLAVORS DOGS HATE: SOUR & BITTER
The second greatest number of canine taste buds responds to acidic tastes, which correspond to sour and bitter in people. These flavors may cause your dog to reject spoiled foods that don’t taste fresh, or medications that taste nasty.
Dogs don’t appear to have a specific response to salt. Perhaps they get enough salt from the meat portions of their diet.
As you’d suspect, the dog’s sense of smell plays a big part in what dogs taste. If it smells good or intriguing, dogs more readily take a taste. Then they remember, and in future beg for more apple slides, or look disgusted when presented with a lemon.
OLD DOG TASTE BUDS
Dog sense of hearing, site, and taste fade with age. Sour perception and bitter tastes are more sensitive to aging changes. That could account for senior canine behavior changes, like acting more picky about what they eat. Many dogs have only a quarter of the active taste buds as when younger.
Chemical irritations and “mouth feel” influence how well the dog likes or dislikes a flavor, too. That explains some of the odd kibble shapes that commercial food companies create. Changes in saliva production also influence taste, so for aging dogs with dehydration problems, this may impact the dog’s sudden “snubbing the food” that he adored before. Even the odors or tastes produced by dental disease can make a dog refuse a favorite food.
What about your dogs? Are they garbage gluttons that gobble food without sniffing first? Or do they need a whiff before ready to gulp? Learn more about how dogs eat in this post.
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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!
Dog taste bud stuff was fascinating. Thank you for your informative/interesting blog each eeek.
I think it’s interesting, too. Cats are different, of course.