Can dogs taste?

April 13, 2012

Dogs are generally branded as voracious eaters. Dogs would eat anything. Even well fed ones would still raid trash cans and feast on rotten and spoiled food. To the consternation of dog owners that provide the pet with nutrient rich premium quality foods, dogs would not forgo the chance to eat their own or other animal’s poop. Dogs also have the habit of gnawing and eating sneakers, carpets, furniture and other non-edible objects. We know that dogs have heightened scenting, hearing and seeing abilities. With the indiscriminate eating habits, it seems that the taste buds of dogs are not functioning. Do dogs have the ability to taste?

Dog’s sense of taste is not as well developed as its other senses. However, dogs can taste. A dog uses its sense of taste to assess the delectability of the offered food. Dogs are noted for their huge appetites. At the sight and smell of food, a dog would be highly agitated. The dog would salivate, bark and jump excitedly in anticipation of the dog dish filled with kibble. This behavior would be enhanced if the bowl is filled with home cooked doggie food. And yet, a dog may sniff the food, take a first bite and then turn away. Dogs will also leave foods that they don’t like to eat in their bowls. This suggests that dogs can indeed taste.

A dog’s basic taste is pretty similar to humans. Our furry friends can taste sour, sweet, bitter and salty. The taste varies from dog to dog but generally, dogs would prefer sweet over bitter and sour. A dog that has developed a taste for fruits would eat banana but would commonly turn away from lemons and other citrus fruits. Generally, dogs hate the bitter taste. Dogs may not be able to complain about the bitter or sour taste of a home cooked meal but given the huge appetite of dogs, it would be obvious that the food is not to the dog’s liking if the doggie bowl was ignored. Pet owners use bitter substances on furniture and on other objects to stop the chewing habit of the pet. Dogs are noted to have more receptors for savory taste. This explains the dog’s preference for meats.

At the tip of the tongue are sensitive water receptors. When dogs eat sweet and salty foods, these receptors became more responsive. More liquids are necessary to process these particular foods so that when dogs are given sweets, hams or any other salty and sweet human foods they would require more water. Because of these sensitive water receptors, dogs are noted to be rather choosy with the water they drink.

Dogs have one thousand seven hundred six gustative receptors. These taste buds are mostly located on the upper surface of the tongue, at the mucosa of the palate and at the epiglottis and pharynx. Studies have shown that the less developed sense of taste is influenced to a great extent by the dog’s acute sense of smell. Dogs may sometimes lose their appetite. When the dog turns away from the food it is not because the meal is unpalatable or that the dog food that was provided by the owner day in and day out has become boring. Unlike humans, dogs do not need varied menus. Because a dog’s sense of taste is not very well developed, it would eat the same type of food over and over again. Sick dogs would commonly refuse to eat. A perfectly healthy dog may refuse food if the smell is not attractive to the dog. Dogs would smell first before eating. In the wild, dogs would know what plants are toxic simply by smelling. And yet dog owners would wonder… if the dog’s less developed taste is greatly influenced by the sense of smell, why then do dogs have the propensity to eat poop?

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