Dogs, like humans, can taste sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami. However, they have far fewer taste buds than we do. The much more pronounced sense of smell plays a major role in feed intake.
The sense of taste in the animal world
500 million years ago, when the first primitive fish was born, it could taste its food. For the first vertebrates, however, the food was rather one-sided: they only tasted umami – meaning meaty and hearty. In the course of evolution, bitter, sweet, sour and salty were added.
For a long time, biologists assumed that all mammals have these five basic tastes. Far from it: Already in the 70s it was found that cats do not perceive anything sweet. The same applies to tigers, cheetahs, lions, hyenas, sea lions and dolphins. Because these and other predators lost their taste for sweets when they specialized in meat.
Pure carnivores therefore do not need sweetness, since they feed exclusively on meat and fish. Plant food does not end up in their stomach. With omnivores like bears, however, the situation is different: You need a sensor for sweets, because in addition to meat, they also use berries. The sweet sensor helps them to find food.
The sense of taste in dogs
In contrast to pure carnivores cats, dogs have not lost their sense of taste for sweet. However, the sense of taste for dogs generally plays a less important role. Dogs have 1,700 taste buds – just one sixth of human taste buds. As a result, they perceive differences in taste less differentiated. The dog’s tongue has two important functions: First, because of its mobility, it serves to absorb liquid. Secondly, the dog cools down by panting. Of course, the dog also tastes good with its tongue, but mainly it absorbs the flavors of its food with the nose. If the food does not smell good, the sense of taste is usually no longer used.
The taste buds are spread all over the tongue in the dog and also in humans. However, certain types of taste buds are concentrated in different areas of the tongue. Most of the taste buds are present, which react to amino acids as well as mono- and disaccharides and have a sweet taste. In contrast, salty taste is less noticed. Bitter flavors are avoided by dogs.