Can Dogs Taste Their Food? How to Deal With Picky Eaters

Can dogs taste their food? If you’ve ever had your dog refuse to eat what you’ve given it, you probably suspect that the answer to that question is yes. And you’d be correct!

Even though dogs have fewer taste buds than humans do, their sharp sense of smell allows them to enjoy their food much as we do.

What’s more, it means that they naturally prefer some foods to others, even if they’re bad for them! But ultimately, there are plenty of ways to entice picky eaters to eat.


Can Dogs Taste Their Food? 

Anyone who’s ever watched their dog scarf down a treat will tell you — dogs love food. If you want to teach a dog to sit, you’ll probably persuade it to do so by dangling a biscuit in front of it.

But will it enjoy that treat more than its regular meal? Can dogs taste their food?


Luckily, there’s a conclusive answer to our question of the day. Of course, dogs can taste their food!

There are plenty of signs that indicate dogs enjoy certain foods more than others, which proves that they can taste the difference.

But we’re not about to accept that bare-bones answer — so let’s find out how refined out pups’ palates really are.


Can Dogs Taste Their Food? An Investigation

Several organs contribute to the mammalian sense of taste — our gustatory system. You’d think that the most important part of that system is the tongue.

However, the tongue doesn’t seem to be the driving force behind the canine perception of food. Still, it’s as good of a place as any to start our investigation.


Do They Have Specialized Taste Receptors?

As we all know, humans have a complicated relationship with food. Now, that relationship can vary depending on a person’s genetics and a score of other factors, but some things are universal.

For example, we all identify foods by groups based on our four basic taste receptors. But can dogs taste their food if it’s sweet, salty, sour, or bitter?


Well, even though humans have 9,000 taste buds as opposed to the canine 1,700, we do share those four main classifications.

Studies have shown that dogs can, indeed, differentiate between sweet, salty, sour, and bitter foods. They even recoil from those last groups, which never fails to make people chuckle.


Additionally, dogs and cats both have taste receptors to process the taste of water. They are located at the tip of the tongue, which is precisely what these animals use for lapping up water.

According to research, these receptors are even more sensitive after a dog has eaten salty or sugary food.


As we know, those flavors tend to dehydrate most animals — including humans.

Therefore, it stands to reason that craving water after eating a salty meal is a good way to remind oneself of the hydrate.


But that information will come into play later on when we discuss picky eaters in more detail.

After all, even if our dogs have the ability to taste salty or spicy food, there are other reasons to avoid feeding them seasoned feasts.


Can Dogs Taste Their Food If They Can’t Smell It?

We all know that the way humans perceive flavors has a lot to do with their sense of smell.

People who lose their olfactory senses permanently or temporarily experience food differently — they simply don’t enjoy it as much.


So we can only imagine the way our pups perceive food, seeing as their sense of smell is a million times stronger than ours.

But can dogs taste their food without sniffing it first?


To answer that question, let’s turn to our pups’ favorite food. Even though canines are technically omnivores, they show a distinct preference for meat-based products.

However, they don’t seem to be able to differentiate between different kinds of meat without their sense of smell. That indicates that dogs don’t register taste very well without their noses!


It’s also why kibble manufacturers make it a point to add a flavored coating to their products. Despite being meat-based, the pellets can’t smell like meat without the help of those additives.

On the other hand, canned foods need no such assistance, which is probably why dogs seem to prefer them.


In any case, they’re much closer to actual meat than kibbles are, which is another plus as far as dogs are concerned.

But does that mean that you should give up on serving your dog kibbles if it keeps refusing to eat them?


What to Do If Your Dog Refuses to Eat

Now that we’ve confirmed that dogs can taste what they’re eating, we can’t fault them for having their favorite foods. Don’t we all?


Still, having a preference can easily turn into a problem if a dog starts refusing to eat any other food. We can’t have it living on treats!

Fortunately, there are easy ways to make a dog eat when it loses its appetite for its standard meals.


Switch It Up

The easiest thing we could do when our dogs refuse to take another bite is to offer an alternative.

However, that option should be a last resort unless we want to solidify our pups’ picky eating habits. Still, if they’ve been eating the same thing for months or years, we should switch up the menu.


For example, if the dog is used to dry kibbles, it’ll love eating wet food. You could even prepare it yourself by simply boiling unseasoned meat and rice for your pup.


Try Some Healthy Treats

As for treats, there are plenty of healthy alternatives to store-bought biscuits. On the one hand, the internet is full of pet-friendly cookie recipes.

Alternatively, dogs also love fruits and veggies, though you’ll have to take any seeds, stems, and leaves off first.


Apple slices, banana, and watermelon are always a great choice, as are carrots, green beans, cucumber, and zucchini slices.

Useful: Can Dogs Eat Strawberry Ice Cream?


Foods You Shouldn’t Give to Your Beloved Mutt

Conversely, there are certain foods that should never find their way into your pup’s bowl. For a start, let’s talk about sweet and salty snacks.


Processed Sugar and Salt

Now, we’ve all seen the way our pets look at us when we start eating cake or popcorn in front of them.

You’d think they never ate anything at all! But should we cave and share those snacks with our loyal mutts?


As we have established, research has proven that dogs can register salty and sweet flavors. And just think back to our discussion about the canine sense of smell.

Even though dogs don’t necessarily have the same number of taste buds we have, their sense of smell may enhance their tasting experience.


Therefore, they might prefer to eat foods that have been sweetened or seasoned. Of course, what they like and what’s good for them are usually two completely different things.

But, you might be wondering, what’s the harm?


Well, we’ve already determined that eating salty food can lead to dehydration, but that’s not even the worst potential consequence.

Accumulation of salt within the organism can cause sodium ion poisoning, which can present as diarrhea, vomiting, high temperature, and even seizures.


While sweet foods don’t generally cause those horrifying symptoms, we can all agree that if sugar isn’t good for us, we probably shouldn’t give it to our dogs.

Even though your pup wouldn’t mind helping you devour a whole tray of cookies, that could shorten its lifespan by quite a few years.


Not only could that lead to obesity, which can seriously impact your dog’s joints, but it may even cause diabetes later on.

So even if your dog refuses to eat anything else, you shouldn’t let it have sweet and salty treats. Instead, take the time to find a healthy, preferably meat-based alternative your pup will enjoy.


Other Foods You Shouldn’t Give to Your Pup

Don’t think that weets and salty snacks are the only things that could potentially harm your pet! There are other foods you should probably keep out of reach.


Some fruits like grapes, raisins, and avocado can be detrimental for canines. The first two can lead to kidney failure, which, as you know, can be incredibly dangerous.

Meanwhile, the avocado plant, including the leaves, seed, bark, and fruit itself, contains a fungicidal toxin that could potentially poison your dog.


Even when you’re feeding your dog a fruit it can eat, you should always extract the seeds. Peach and plum pits contain cyanide which can seriously harm your dog in large enough quantities.

All of these ailments will likely present as either vomiting or diarrhea before progressing to the more dangerous symptoms.


So if you notice those signs, take your dog to the vet immediately.

Giving adult dogs milk or dairy products can cause similar digestive problems. After all, most animals lose their tolerance for milk after their infancy.


And there are plenty of other beverages that are safe for humans but not for dogs, mainly ones that contain caffeine and, of course, alcohol.

Even some foods people think of as safe for dogs can be life-threatening.


For example, many dog owners think that keeping their mutts a diet of raw eggs, meat, fat trimmings, and bones is a good idea.

However, every one of those things can be a potential threat.


For one, raw food can contain all sorts of bacteria and fat trimmings can cause pancreatitis.

On top of that, giving your dog bones, especially hollow ones, can lead to choking and even internal bleeding!


As the dog shreds bones into tiny fragments and swallows them, the splinters can wreak havoc on the entire gastrointestinal tract.


So Can Dogs Taste Their Food? Some Final Thoughts

According to our investigation, it would appear that dogs can tell different types of food apart.

However, they seem to have less discerning tastes because most of them will eat almost anything you set before them.


And how could we blame them?

With an olfactory sense as sharp as theirs, anything that smells remotely appetizing is fair game as far as our pups are concerned.


So, to make a long story short: can dogs taste their food? Of course!

They may not have the same number of taste buds we do, but their sense of smell certainly makes up for that deficiency.

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