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Knowing how many taste buds dogs have will allow you to learn a lot more about your canine companion.

These little knowledge nuggets can also help you better understand some of your dog's behaviors and why your dog sometimes acts in quirky ways. 

It's fascinating learning more about dogs and discovering how their sense of taste works. Does your dog taste food in the same way as you do? Let's discover how many taste buds dogs have and other interesting findings!

How Many Taste Buds Do Dogs Have?

Dogs have 1,700 taste buds. Although this number may seem high, it's very little compared to the amount of taste buds humans are blessed with. Indeed, humans have about 10 thousand taste buds.

However, dogs have way more taste buds compared to some other critters on earth. For instance, birds have the fewest taste buds, with chickens having a mere 50 taste buds. 

Lions on the other hand, have around 470 taste buds and so do several other felines such as cats. Felines are also taste-blind to sweets, which makes sense since they're obligate carnivores, and taste buds for sweetness aren't necessary for survival. However, felines can detect bitter flavors which helps them avoid rancid meat.

At the top of the flavor experts are cows and pigs. Cows have around 25,000 taste buds while pigs have 14,000. The reason for so many tastebuds is the fact that, for herbivores, it's crucial being able to tell whether a specific plant contains dangerous toxins.

Do Dogs Have Weaker Taste Buds?

Equipped with significantly fewer taste buds, it comes as no surprise why dogs don't get to enjoy the same depth of flavors as people do. 

You will therefore never see a dog sitting at a restaurant swishing a sip of wine around his mouth to recognize sweetness, acidity, tannins, and body! 

After all, from an evolutionary standpoint this makes total sense. With a history of scavengers and hunters, leading a feast or famine lifestyle, competition over food must have been quite fierce. 

Spending too much time to savor every morsel could have meant a competitor snatching the food from them. Now you know why your dog gulps down food like there's no tomorrow!

 And even if there ever was a surplus of food (with no opportunistic vultures around) dogs found it more productive to bury any leftovers under ground (a behavior that is know as "caching") rather than contemplating flavors. 

Can Dogs Taste All Flavors?

Humans are known for being capable of discerning salty, sour, sweet, bitter and umami (also known as "savory'). Interestingly, we are evolutionarily attracted to several of these flavors as we associate them with nourishment. 

For instance, we are attracted to salt because it helps us replenish lost electrolytes, sour is appreciated as it's sign of acidic foods, sweet translates into energy and umami attracts us as it consists of amino acids commonly found in some vegetables, seafood, meats and cheeses.

Dogs have been found of being capable of discerning salty, sour, sweet, bitter.

Do Dogs Like To Taste Sweets?

Dogs don't have sophisticated salt receptors compared to humans, and this is likely because their meat-based diets are naturally high in sodium. They seem more attracted to sweets though, and according to a study, salt helped enhance the taste of sweet.

Dogs are known for being capable of tasting furaneol, which is the sweet flavor found in fruits. Evolutionary, this make sense, as in the wild, canines supplemented their diets with the occasional fruit.

Sadly, a dog's sweet tooth is the very reason why so many dogs end up getting easily poisoned by ingesting antifreeze which contains ethylene glycol, known for its sweet taste.

Fresh Fruit for Dogs

Can Dogs Taste "Umami"?

Umami is a fifth flavor that has been most recently added among the other known flavors humans are capable of distinguishing (salty, sour, sweet and bitter). In Japan, the word umami means delicious or yummy.

 A 1991  study has also found proof that dogs may be also capable of recognizing “umami substances.”

Do Dogs Have Taste Buds for Water?

 Yes, it looks like dogs may allegedly have special taste buds for water. Where are these taste buds located?

These dogs' taste buds for water appear to be mostly distributed on the tip of the dog's tongue, the actual part that curls when dogs lap water from a bowl, according to Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.

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So while you will never find Rover competing at a wine-tasting contest, he might make a good luxury water connoisseur! 

A question may at this point arise though: why would it be important for our dogs to have taste buds for water? Some researchers believe that dogs were likely gifted with specialized taste buds for appreciating H2O because of their diets.

For an animal whose ancestors relied mostly on eating meat, it therefore might have been important to make sure that Rover's fluids stayed in balance considering that meat is high in sodium.

What are Taste Buds Exactly?

Taste buds are tiny bumps found on the tongue. You may not see them if you stick your tongue out and look at it in the mirror, but if you drink some milk and allow it to coat your tongue, you'll be able to individualize the bumps.

 These tiny bumps (called papillae) contain special taste receptor cells which relay messages to the brain so to detect different flavors.

Courtesy of taste buds, it is therefore possible to sense different flavors which can sometimes trigger strong emotional reactions from intense pleasure to deep disgust. 

While we associate taste buds with pleasant experiences such as enjoying a fine meal at a restaurant, interestingly taste buds are there for a noble survival purpose. 

Taste Buds Can Signal Danger 

Both in humans and dogs, taste buds play an important role that is critical to our survival as they ultimately help us decide whether a food is a healthy source of nutrients or a potential poison. 

A bitter or sour taste can therefore be a strong indicator of poisonous inedible plants

Dogs rely on their instincts and Mother Nature has developed their senses so that they could avoid eating things that can be potentially harmful.

Bad tasting things therefore raise a red flag about something that can be harmful or even toxic and that therefore should be avoided. What looks like stubborn behavior to us is instead the clever work of nature and the behavior is highly adaptive.

Do Dogs Have Bitter Taste Buds?

Yes, dogs are in particular sensitive to bitter substances, a biologically prepared tendency that may have had survival value considering that many poisonous items are frequently bitter (Thompson, 1993). Taste buds sensitive to bitter may have also helped dogs avoid rotting protein-rich food. 

The function of taste is so important for survival purposes that, in puppies, the sense of taste (along with the sense of smell and touch) is one of the first senses to be present, even though it takes a few weeks to fully sharpen.

Because of a dog's natural aversion to bitter tastes, various bitter sprays (like Bitter Apple and Bitter Orange) have been crafted to prevent dogs from chewing on furniture or other objects. However, not all dogs find such bitter tastes aversive enough to avoid. 

How Do I Get My Dog to Take Flagyl?

Veterinarians are well aware of the struggle dog owners face in getting their dogs to take a pill of Flagyl. Also known by its generic name metronidazole, Flagyl is indeed known for its super bitter flavor.

Dogs are often drooling, gagging, or frothing at the mouth in response to this pill. If the pill is crushed, it will overpower any food it's mixed with and may potentially cause dogs to associate that specific food with the bitter pill. 

Fortunately, compounding pharmacies are capable of magically turning bitter pills into tempting delicacies that are easier to administer to dogs and cats. An injectable form is also available for critical cases. Contact your vet if you're struggling. 

Do Dogs Lose Their Sense of Taste as They Age?

As humans, we replace our taste buds about every two weeks and dogs appear to do the same, but as we age, this replacement process tends to slow down. 

The elderly are therefore left with about 5,000 working taste buds at any given moment. 

The same is likely to occur in dogs. As they age, their sense of taste may weaken. This is why many owners of senior dogs are often seeking ways to make their senior dogs' food more palatable.

One way of improving things is by adding some warm water to kibble. The warmth helps enhance flavor and smell. 

However, since loss of appetite can be indicative of a medical problem, it's best to firstly rule health issues out before blaming Rover for being finicky. 

References:

  • Ebook: The Science of Psychology: An Appreciative View
  • InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. How does our sense of taste work? 2011 Dec 20

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