Ever wonder what food is like for our furry Fidos? They love a good steak. But they also happily chew on roadkill. They enjoy peanut butter popsicles. Then they turn around and eat out of the garbage. It seems like they’ll eat anything, but there is a bit of rhyme and reason behind the mind-boggling palates of our pups.
Taste Buds & Sense of Smell: The Nose Knows
Dogs definitely have taste buds, but they have 40% fewer taste buds than humans. While 80% of our sense of taste is actually derived from what the food smells like, dogs rely on smell even more. Plus, their 1,700 or so taste buds are concentrated mostly around the tip of the tongue. So, once the food is in his or her mouth, they aren’t likely to question the taste.
Just like us, they can taste bitter, sour, sweet, and salty, but it turns out nuances aren’t as important to our fur-babies as they are to us. That’s why a piece of the saran wrap that covered our meal may seem interesting to them, even though it’s actually dangerous. The plastic and the texture just aren’t enough to deter them from the basic human food flavors they are detecting.
This can seem confusing if you’re like us, here at Vet Organics, where we often have a hard time hiding medicine in our dog companion’s food. They may not pick up on nuances, but they can definitely smell when something in their food isn’t right. They eat around the pills or just plain refuse dinner altogether. That’s because their olfactory system is thousands of times more powerful than that of us mere humans.
One-third of a dog’s brain is dedicated to their mental library of scents. When they’ve had the same or similar dinner night after night, they know when something is different. And that’s why we resort to hiding pills in spoonfuls of peanut butter or handfuls of cheese. We need the smell of a treat to help mask the medicine smell.
What Do Dogs Like To Eat?
Well, there are a few factors at work. Dogs have preferences, just like anybody else. Offering a variety of foods to young puppies can determine whether they will like trying a variety of foods as adults. Try fresh fruits and veggies, canned food, dried food, different kinds of treats. As long as we stick to dog-safe choices, this also helps to build a healthy digestive system.
Freshness plays a role in desirability. If we are sticking to dry kibble, it only remains palatable for about a month after having been opened. After that, the fats in the kibble start to smell bad as they go rancid. Keep the bag tightly closed or store it in a large airtight container.
Canned food gives off a stronger aroma than kibble and can be more enticing. This is especially helpful for those fur-families with picky eaters. The shelf life of unopened canned food is about two years. That’s when the vitamins begin to degrade. Once opened, they last about 3-5 days and sometimes the aroma isn’t as strong once it’s been refrigerated.
Pro-tip: add just a little warm water to refrigerated canned food to help reinvigorate the aromatic flavor.
The season and time of day can affect how our pooch perceives his or her meal. If it’s cold, the aromatic flavor may be reduced, making it less palatable. If our pups are hot enough that they are panting, they won’t be able to sniff their food, which will make it less flavorful for them. Serving food in a fair climate or climate controlled environment can help quite a bit if we find out dog turning his or her nose up at their meal.
Just like humans, aging affects our pup’s sense of smell and taste. This can account for the common decline in appetite we all often experience as we age. Different foods may appeal more and different smells may suddenly be more appealing. Switching things up over time and listening to our pup’s preferences can be a great way to keep them satisfied, healthy, and interested in their food.
Beyond Kibble & Cans
We are all on that epic search for the ultimate dog food that will be nutritious and easy to prepare, while also being considered delicious to our most finicky eaters.
For some, the answer is raw food. A couple of years ago, we shared some important news about raw diets for dogs: Raw Foods Might Be Riskier Than We Think. The article shares some ‘food for thought’ and gives some valuable perspective.
Semi-Moist is a type of dog diet that tends to taste the best to dogs because it is commercially formulated to, but they are also the least nutritious. They typically have artificial colors and flavors. And they are only based on real food rather than actually containing real food. Think of bacon bits and bacon-shaped treats. Those are considered semi-moist. Use them for rewards and treats, but we should all be careful to keep nutritious food in the food bowl.
Home-cooked is a common approach to healthy dog diets. It can be more time-consuming because it takes more preparation than simply opening a can or dumping kibble into a bowl. However, it’s often preferred because it gives pet guardians the peace of mind that vital nutrients aren’t being ignored. Similar to the semi-moist foods, canned food, and kibble are commercially produced and can lack nutritional content.
Combo-diets are becoming an increasingly popular solution. Combining nutritious and affordable dehydrated food with home-prepared protein helps eliminate the question marks around commercial food while saving on the time investment of home-cooked diets. There are a few to choose from, but Vet Organics offers EcoEats, which is nutrient-rich, all natural, grain-free, gluten-free, and allergen-free, dehydrated food. A two-pound bag yields 16-pounds of fresh dog food and all we have to do is add the protein. It’s been tested, and overwhelmingly, dogs love it.
It can be easy to humanize dogs and assume they see, taste, feel, smell, and hear things just like we do. But the truth is, they perceive the world as a vastly different place than we do. And although we relate to our canine companions in so many ways, their senses of smell and taste are wildly different. A stronger sense of smell and a markedly weaker sense of taste mean we have to work a little harder than dog food commercials would have us believe, in order to find delicious, nutritious dog food. In a way, finding and overcoming our differences is just another fun way to build a strong, healthy relationship with our pups.