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How Dogs Smell And Taste

The ability to taste sweetness, saltiness, bitterness and sourness depends on the number and type of papillae, or what we usually call taste buds, on the tongue (those small bumps you can see when you stick your tongue out) and in other parts of the mouth. Humans have many more taste buds than dogs - 9000 compared to about 1700, so we seem to have a more highly developed sense of taste. Interestingly, unlike humans, dogs have special taste buds that only taste water.

When it comes to the sense of smell, however, dogs rule! Their ability to smell is estimated to be 10,000 to 100,000 times better than ours and certain breeds are exceptional masters of scenting. That's why dogs are used for drug detection, search and rescue work, bomb sniffing, police work, and even locating bedbugs in hotels! There are also dogs who seem to have the ability to sniff out cancer and detect tumors when traditional tests say a person is cancer free.
Because the receptors for taste and smell are located close to each other in the skulls of both humans and dogs, there seems to be a correlation between taste and smell. When you eat, for example, part of the pleasure you experience is both the taste of the food and its appealing odor. So when your dog eats something that you consider smelly and repulsive, is it because they really can't taste it as much as you would? Or does it actually smell delicious to them?

For now, it seems that science and dog experts cannot completely answer that question so it's best to watch your dog when you're out and about together. A long dead critter may smell delicious to your dog and he or she may really want to eat it, but it's likely to cause great gastric upset later, coupled with the need for you to do a lot of cleaning!

Deborah Dobson, FizzNiche Staff Writer