Dog Senses (IV) Tongue: An Account into Dogs Taste Buds

Wag Wiki, last updated 15th, Dec 2014, Srishti Das


Sometimes it gets really hard to understand our dogs because we have a tendency to assume that they think and function just as we do. But well, that is not true.


Tasting Categories


Dogs are commonly misunderstood as carnivores, while they are actually omnivores, which mean that they don’t only eat meat. However, in the wild, dogs eat about 80% meat. While we know dogs have much stronger senses than we do, they have a much weaker sense of taste compared to us humans. The Dogs have a primary taste categories saltiness, sweetness, bitterness and sourness. Thanks to their carnivorous traits, dogs also have some specific taste receptors that are tuned for meats, fats and meat related chemicals. Dogs will tend to seek out, and clearly prefer the taste of things that contain meat or flavours extracted from meat.


Taste Buds


Humans have 6 times the amount of taste buds that digs usually do stated by The Merck Manual for Pet Health. Therefore, dogs don’t have a very potent taste. It’s usually very strange for us to look at our dogs licking or chewing on some of the most disgusting things. Now you know that the poor animal has way less taste than you do. An animal's taste sensitivity depends upon the number and type of taste buds that it has, much the same way that sensitivity for smell depends upon the number of olfactory receptors. Humans win the sensitivity contest for taste, with around 9000 taste buds as compared with only 1700 for the dog. 




One thing that dogs and many other carnivores share but lacks in humans are the taste buds for water. You must have noticed dogs curl their tongue to lap water; this is because their taste senses are found at the tip of the dogs tongue. This area responds to water at all times but the sensitivity increases when the dog has eaten salty or sugary foods. The guess is that this ability to taste water evolved as a way for the body to keep internal fluids in balance after the animal has eaten things that will either result in more urine being passed, or will require more water to adequately process. This is useful since dogs intake meat with high salt content and need more water in their system to digest it. It is certainly visible that when these special water taste buds are active, dogs seem to get an extra pleasure out of drinking water, and will drink copious amounts of it.


Reaction to Certain Taste


Not only do dogs taste weakly, they also react differently to certain tastes.  One prominent example would be the dogs reaction to salt, which is one of the most prominent components in a human diet. Salty flavour is one of the flavours that dogs don’t seem very keen on tasting. Having the smallest porting on their tongue for detecting salt and a general lack of sensitivity, dogs do not reciprocate much to salty tastes. The sweet taste buds in dogs respond to a chemical called furaneol. This chemical is found in many fruits and in tomatoes. Dogs seem to like this flavour, and it probably evolved because in a natural environment dogs frequently supplement their diet of small animals with easily available fruits.


Why we need to know about their Taste Buds


It's true that dogs are helpful to us in very many ways. However, that is not why we love them so much. Dogs are family, they are friends and it is very important for us to understand how their senses function. Even though their tasting skills are minimal, to avoid comparing them with us consciously or subconsciously helps. Knowing is caring. What dogs lose for in tasting, they make up for in their superior smelling.


How we use Dog Taste Buds


Dogs dislike bitter tastes just as humans usually do. Thus, the taste has been used in various sprays, and gels have been designed to keep dogs from chewing on furniture or other objects. This helps preventing dogs from chewing things that are either harmful to them or they could harm. These compounds often contain such bitter substances as alum or various substances derived from hot peppers. Coating items with such bitter tasting material will eventually keep most dogs from chewing on them. Unfortunately, the problem is that the taste buds that sense bitter are located on the rearmost part of the tongue. This means that a quick lick or a fast gulp will not register the bitter taste. Only prolonged chewing will let the bitter work its way back to where it can be tasted.

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