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Do Dogs Have Taste Buds? Can Dogs Really Taste Their Food?

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Mary Nielsen

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Do Dogs Have Taste Buds

Finding out what your dog likes to eat can be pretty tricky. Dogs can be picky eaters at times. Other times, they prefer to gobble up stuff you wouldn’t want to put in your mouth. This makes us wonder: Do dogs have taste buds? How do dogs work out which taste good and which don’t?

Yes, a dog’s palate can be pretty unpredictable. If you’re having a hard time figuring out your dog’s food preferences, don’t fret. Dog Food Guide is here to give you everything there is to know about your dog’s sense of taste, how this affects their taste preference, and more. So stay tuned!

Do Dogs Have Taste Buds Really?

The short answer is Yes. Dogs have taste buds. In fact, an average dog has 1,700 taste buds. That’s one-sixth of the total number humans have, which is 9,000. This explains your dog’s “not-so” discriminating palate. 

Like humans, you can expect to find small bumps called papillae in your dog’s mouth. This contains taste buds which carry 50 taste receptors. A puppies’ taste sense already works at birth. It just takes a few weeks to be honed.

Sense Of Taste: Dogs Vs. Humans

Yes, humans’ tasting power is far more refined than dogs, considering how many taste buds humans have. But how a dog’s sense of taste works is fascinating nonetheless. Simply put, your dogs don’t taste food the same way we humans do. 

You’ve probably noticed your dog’s love for anything sweet. That’s because dogs also have a sweet tooth. Like humans, dogs can taste sweet.

They can also get addicted to sweets easily. And you know what’s more? Dogs can taste all four taste classifications, including salty, sour, and bitter. 

So, what’s the difference?

Dogs Do Not Taste Salty Foods Very Well

Dogs taste salt, but their salt radar is unlike humans’ highly-tuned salt receptors. And this is all because of the “mostly-meat” diet of your dog’s ancestors. 

Accustomed to eating meat, which naturally contains sodium, your dog’s ancestors’ bodies didn’t think developing their salt taste receptors was necessary. Since salty foods look less palatable for dogs, this helped dogs control their salt intake.

Dogs Have Water-Specific Taste Buds

Yes, you read it right. Aside from tasting sweet, sour, salty, and bitter, dogs are equipped with special taste buds specifically made to taste water. Don’t worry, though. Your dog is not alone. Even cats and other carnivores are born with water-sensitive receptors for tasting.

Found at the tip of your dog’s tongue, these become more sensitive when your dog feels thirsty. This usually happens after a dog eats salty and sugary foods, which would give most dogs a feeling of dehydration. This will prompt your dog to drink more water.

Dogs Have Meat-Specific Receptors

Aside from a dog’s ability to taste water, dogs are also built with taste receptors adapted to seek meat-related chemicals and fats. This explains why dogs often prefer meat-flavored dry and wet dog food.

Do Dogs Have Taste Buds? Can Dogs Really Taste Their Food? 1

How Your Dog’s Sense Of Smell Affects Its Sense of Taste

You’ve probably heard that dogs often perceive their world using their nose. This is true, and the same applies to food. 

In the canine world, taste and smell are closely related. In fact, smell plays a vital role in differentiating different flavors. Without the sense of smell, your dog will not be able to distinguish chicken meat from beef and pork. 

So, if your dog’s nose says that something smells good, that thing will taste good as well (edible or not). In addition, for dogs, food tastes better if it has a strong aroma. This explains why dogs prefer to eat wet food over dry kibble.

What Foods Taste Bad For Dogs?

Dogs generally don’t eat foods with a spicy, sour, bitter, or salty flavor. Consider this a good thing, though, since this helps dogs avoid contaminated or spoiled foods. In addition, many of the salty, sour, spicy, and bitter foods we eat are unsafe or offer little nutritional value for dogs.

For one thing, dogs respond negatively to spicy foods like hot peppers. Your dog might not be able to taste it, but your dog will surely feel its physical effects. 

On the other hand, salt, for dogs, gives off an intense taste. While acidic and bitter foods are a major turn-off. This is why most dog repellent products have a citrusy or bitter scent.

Other Factors That Affect Your Dog’s Taste Preferences

Since dogs usually opt for foods that smell meaty and delicious, you can expect your dog to like hot or warm food over cold food. This is because warm food often smells better than cold ones.

Besides the food’s temperature, a study suggests that young puppies tend to like the foods that their mom ate while nursing them. As such, a dog’s future food preferences can be a result of the types of food they ate as a puppy.

picky eater

Why Is My Dog So Picky?

Although a dog’s taste buds aren’t that many, some dogs prefer certain foods, and other dogs are a bit fussier. You might find your dog turning their noses up whenever you serve them their usual kibble. Why is this so?

There are a couple of reasons. Here are some of it:


Dogs can also feel stressed and anxious. And when they do, they may not eat as much. Spending some quality time with your dog might help bring back your dog’s appetite.

Treats Or Other Types Of Food Taste Better

If you enjoy giving your dog table scraps and the like, your dog might choose to hold out eating their regular dog food and wait for something better. Giving your dogs too many treats can also make them feel “full” and ruin their appetite.


Although most dogs can live eating the same food as long as they like it, continuously serving your dog food that they don’t like can result in food fatigue.

Do Dogs Have Taste Buds? Can Dogs Really Taste Their Food? 2

Tips On How To Deal With A Picky Eater

If your dog often leaves its food untouched even after serving your dog different food, you might want to try these tips:

Details matter. When giving your dog its food, make sure it’s fresh. You can do this by ensuring that the food is stored in a sealed container, whether its in its original bag or not. Your dog’s serving dish must also be washed regularly. Lastly, you can opt to add warm water in their dry kibble or warm the wet food before serving it since food tastes and smells better when heated. 

Minimize treats and table scraps. It’s okay to reward your dogs now and then, but don’t make a habit out of it. Remember, treats should not exceed 10% of your dog’s daily calorie intake.

Let ‘em rest after drinking. Drinking water can leave your dog feeling full. You might want to let your dog rest for around 20 minutes before feeding your dog.

Schedule feedings. Set a schedule and serve their food at the same time each day. If your dog doesn’t eat it after 15 or 20 minutes, get your dog’s bowl and try again in the next meal. Don’t worry. Your dog will live even if it skips a meal. 

Make dinners extra special. You can make your dog’s meal extra special by topping it with some treats or wet food.  

Food For Thought

If humans and dogs were to have a taste test, humans win. After all, dogs have fewer taste buds than humans and other animals. This isn’t a big deal, though, for your dog. 

At the end of the day, all your dog wants is some TLC. Now, as dog owners, your primary responsibility is to make sure your dog is getting a complete and balanced diet. If your dog is picky, be extra patient. 

Since smell comes first and flavor comes second, try adding a little extra on top of your dog’s kibble to make it more appetizing. Asking your vet’s expert advice and food recommendations also goes a long way.

Do Dogs Have Taste Buds? Can Dogs Really Taste Their Food? 3

Do dogs taste spicy food?

No. Dogs only have 1,700 taste buds, while humans have more than 9,000. This is why dogs can't taste spiciness and only react to the heat from spicy foods. Dogs are also more sensitive to foods like hot sauce and peppers. Dogs must only be fed food that is safe to be given to children.

Do dogs like their food warm or cold?

A dog may not have the appetite to eat if they are sick or injured. You can tweak your recuperating pet's appetite by feeding them a nicely warmed up meal that is high on energy and nutrition. The recommended food temperature to serve dog food is 38 Degrees Centigrade.

Why do dogs lick you?

If your dog loves to lick you, it's for a few reasons: they're very affectionate, looking for your attention, or acting on their wild instinct. A dog licking its owner is so common, dog owners usually call it “giving kisses” and consider it a sign of affection.

What flavor can dogs not taste?

Compared to people, dogs can't taste salt very well. That's because they evolved to eat meat, and meat naturally contains enough salt to satisfy their body's need for it without them having to seek it out.

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