Much like humans, dogs can taste–and enjoy–a variety of different flavours, according to The Dogs Trust, but the similarities may stop there. Dogs appear to be able to discern specific tastes in water, perhaps explaining why they don't seem to get bored of the liquid that humans sometimes describe as "flavourless."
But do dogs taste the same flavours in the same way people do? It would seem, since they're known for eating nonfood objects and sifting through rancid garbage and other unmentionables, that they may not. But this could be due to the fact that while dogs' taste buds can detect the same kinds of flavours ours do, they have significantly fewer taste buds on their tongues. As PetMD notes, humans have around 9,000 while dogs have only about 1,700. So, curious what your dog might like best to eat, be it chicken vs. beef, warm vs. cold or wet vs. dry dog food? And how do we even know if dog food tastes good to dogs? Let's explore some of the food types and factors your dog's palate may prefer.
Factors Affecting How Your Dog's Food Tastes
- Flavours: According to a survey presented by Pet Food Industry, chicken is the most popular dog food flavour worldwide. Of course, this may not be because it is the canine preference but instead could be because chicken is widely available as far as protein sources for dog food go. Before purchasing a large bag of dog food, it may be wise to source samples from your veterinarian or pet food store. For canned and pouches of food, you can get a few single servings to ensure your dog enjoys that particular dog food taste before going all in.
- Texture/Formulation: When it comes to texture, dogs prefer softer and chewier foods, though most dogs will not snub their nose at any single texture. While some dog parents report they have the snootiest of eaters, this is thought to be because the dog has subversively trained the owner to offer the tastiest — and not always the healthiest — of delicacies rather than a true food aversion. Mixing wet food in with dry food is a winning combination for some picky eaters.
- Temperature: Cook's Illustrated explains that scientists have learned that human taste buds are quite temperature-sensitive and work far more efficiently when foods are consumed at warm temperatures. This explains people's general preference for heated-up foods (though cold pizza for breakfast remains an outlier). While this study focuses on humans, the logic should hold up for our canine family members, who also often prefer their food slightly warmed. It can't hurt that scent molecules are released from foods at higher temperatures, further increasing the appeal. And while we have far more taste buds than dogs, they can smell anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 times better than humans, according to VCA Animal Hospitals.
- Supplements and Toppers: While liquid supplements, gravies or powder toppers have their place on store shelves, vets aren't quick to endorse these products because of their sparse oversight and regulation. In some cases, such as when a dog is known to have a chronic disease, such as kidney failure, topping food with a savoury gravy might be the only way to keep them eating. It's important to note that nutrient excesses can be as harmful as deficiencies, so if you sense that it's becoming essential to use additives to ensure your dog eats, it's time to get a vet's guidance to make sure there aren't other medical concerns.
Other Questions to Ask Your Vet About Your Dog's Food
There are several questions to ask your vet to help you select the healthiest and tastiest food for your dog. While most dog parents will ask these questions at a new puppy appointment, it's important to keep this conversation going over the years, through health and sickness. Here are some guideline questions:
- Does my dog like how their food tastes?
- Do you have any specific food recommendations based on my dog's lifestyle or future health risks?
- Is there any indication for a dietary change based on lab findings or a physical exam, such as being over- or underweight?
- Does my dog have any skin conditions? Dental concerns? Gastrointestinal or urinary problems?
- Does my dog have any food allergies?
So Does My Dog Really Like How Their Food Tastes?
There is no need to stress over flavours or wet vs. dry dog food. Usually, your dog will like how their food tastes. Don't forget to bring in the expert and consult your vet for guidance on selecting the best dog food since flavour isn't the only way to your dog's heart. High-quality and balanced meal options are crucial for your dog's long and healthy life, but time together and shared memories are the real keys to your pooch's happiness.
Dr. Laci Schaible
Dr. Laci Schaible is a small-animal veterinarian and entrepreneur. She has authored thousands of publications and serves as an adviser for several startup ventures in the veterinary space.
Reviewed by Dr. Hein Meyer, DVM, PhD, Dipl-ECVIM-CA and Brana Bonder, B.S, M.S