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Five Interesting Facts About a Dog's Taste Buds

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.

A dogs' taste buds compared to a humans' lose the taste award.

A dogs' taste buds compared to a humans' lose the taste award.

How Good Are a Dog's Taste Buds?

Wondering how your dog's taste buds work? When you watch Scruffy lick his chops and wolf down tasty morsels of food, you think that the best way to his heart must definitively be through his stomach. Don't be too fast though to assume that your pal must be blessed with the best taste buds in the world. Contrary to what many dog food commercials make you think, consider that dogs aren't really that sensitive to taste.

Yes, of course, when it comes to appreciating a tasty morsel of food, Scruffy must thank his taste buds. Generally, the more taste buds an animal has, the better his sense of taste. If a taste competition between humans and dogs was ever held, humans would win hands down with an astounding 9000 taste buds compared to Scruffy's mere 1700, according to an article by Stanley Coren. Scruffy's self-esteem though may quickly bounce back once he competes against Felix the cat, who is left with only 470 buds to enjoy!

So when it comes to taste buds, things are not as rosy as they seem. You may be tricked by Scruffy's eagerness to eat in believing that he's gifted with the superior taste buds. It turns out that Scruffy's taste buds work in a tad bit different way than humans and this is in part due to a dog's evolutionary past.

Five Interesting Facts About Your Dog's Taste Buds

1. They Appreciate Fine Meat

If your dog could voice his opinion, he would likely tell you how much he would love to have some sort of meat on his menu. In the wild, a dog's diet is mainly comprised of meat, but he may occasionally indulge himself with some fruits and berries. In addition to having taste buds crafted for the purpose of detecting sweet, salt, sour, and bitter flavors, Scruffy is also gifted with receptors specifically tuned for appreciating meats, fats, and other meat-related chemicals.

2. Their Taste Buds Aid in Survival

Don' t underestimate Scruffy's sense of taste; indeed, it may serve many important purposes. For instance, in the wild, his sense of taste could have literally helped save his life. Anything tasting bad was often suggestive of something potentially harmful, indigestible, or poisonous. You should also consider that dogs are blessed with taste buds tuned for water. Because meat has high salt content, these special taste buds played a vital role in helping Scruffy's fluids stay in balance.

3. They Are Sensitive to Bitter Flavors

As mentioned, dogs appear to be particularly sensitive to bitter flavors, which explains why the well known ''bitter apple spray'' often prescribed in dogs to prevent them from licking wounds or chewing furniture can be effective in some dogs. Yet it's also true that bitter sprays are not always as effective as thought. A possible explanation for this is that those bitter-detecting taste buds are located towards the rearmost third of the tongue according to Stanley Coren.

4. His Sense of Smell Helps

Blessed with a nose about a million times more sensitive than the nose of the average human being, it's not surprising why dogs are trained to put their sniffers to work at airport checkpoints, in police work and in search and rescue missions. On a less serious note, when Scruffy is on a mission to wolf down his dinner, his nose seems to compensate for the fewer taste buds. Indeed, it turns out that dogs gain much more information about their food by using their powerful sniffers in place of their taste buds.

5. They May Not to Be Able to Smell Their Food as Well as They Age

As Scruffy ages, he may lose his appetite and start looking thin. While you shouldn't underestimate these symptoms as they can be a sign of a significant illness, consider that the source of Scruffy's problems may be right under his nose. Perhaps he no longer can smell his food as well as before.

  • Try to unleash some tantalizing aromas by warming up his meals or mixing in some warm chicken broth.
  • Adding some smelly foods to his chow or cooking him a healthy, home-made meal may also help.
  • Just make sure new foods are added gradually in the course of two weeks: An older dog may need more time to adjust to novel foods, suggests Barbara Royal, veterinarian and owner of The Royal Treatment Veterinary Center.

Further Reading

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Dimitris Man on February 28, 2013:

Its interesting and useful to know, great information!!!

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 28, 2013:

Thanks for the votes up Clucy! Sounds like an awesome dish to me, but yes, their odd eating habits make you wonder at times!

Kristin Tamke from Frederick, MD on February 28, 2013:

good hub. always read that if a dog doesn't like some food it is due to them not liking the smell of it. Proud that my dogs love the food I make for them, chicken and some veggies with kibble. then I take them for walks in the woods and see them eat the 'au natural pate' they find....then I realize. so the 'pate' they found smells as good if not better than my cooking???? LOL. voted up.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 28, 2013:

Thanks for stopping by and commenting! I have noticed than when it comes to training treats, often the stinkier the better!

GiblinGirl from New Jersey on February 28, 2013:

Very interesting, and good to know. Thanks for sharing. Voted up.

Dilip Chandra from India on February 28, 2013:

Its interesting, good work.

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