Dog Tips

Do Dogs Have Taste Buds?

Picture this: your dog devours their kibble like a five-star meal, but also seems to think that your smelly gym socks are a gourmet treat. Do they really appreciate the flavors, or are they just culinary adventurers with no fear? You can’t have taste buds that like meat and smelly socks right? But turns out that dogs do have taste buds, just that they are a little different than ours. 

Let’s understand this more and answer all your curiosities here. 

So, the way people like us taste things is through small bumps called papillae which form taste receptors. Our tongue has different types of receptors at different locations on the tongue that are employed there for a specific task. Some are for all the sweet stuff while others are for bitter, sour and all other tastes. Dogs have a similar structure on their tongue. There are some prominent differences between their taste buds and ours.

Dogs have only about 1700 taste buds as against an average of 9000 in humans. But in compensation, nature has given dogs a special gift. Ability to taste water! (1) Ever experienced the feeling of drinking water at 3 a.m. on a silent night that feels like it came from God's own pond? Dogs may be feeling it every time they drink water. 

We know you have a lot of other questions in your head. We’ve answered them below!

Can Dogs Taste Spicy Flavors?

Can Dogs Eat Beets?

If you’re wondering if your dog is going to be able to enjoy Cheetos Famin Hot’, the answer is no. Dogs do have receptors for spicy foods, but they usually avoid foods that are spicy, sour or bitter. Moreover, they won’t be able to taste the spice as much as us, but they’ll definitely feel the heat. And there’s a high chance that they won’t enjoy the heat like we do. So, Richard Montañez, the janitor turned executive, credited with the creation of Lay’s Flamin’ Hot, if you’re reading this, try not to launch a dog’s version of it. 

The way a dog’s taste buds have evolved is that they enjoy foods that are healthy for them and not the ones they are not supposed to eat. Their tongue is like a gatekeeper for their stomachs.

Can Dogs Taste Bitter Flavors?

dog eating fruits

Yes, dogs do have taste buds for bitter foods. But if you’re thinking that if you offer a bitter guard to your dog and think of it as something healthy for them, and that they would devour it, you’re wrong. Dogs generally avoid bitten foods. This is also because most of the bitter things are unsafe for your dog to eat. (2)

Can Dogs Taste Sour Flavors? 

dog eating fast food

Sour is another taste that dogs usually avoid. This is because the taste is associated with unsafe foods in the wild like a bad fruit or a toxic plant. So even if the marketers out there convince you to feed sour candies ‘specially made for dogs’ to your buddy, do not risk it. They are not only unpleasant for your dog but can also cause stomach problems. 

Do Dogs Taste Sweet Flavors? 

Sweet is something that dogs can not only taste but will mostly also enjoy. Dogs, unlike cats, are omnivorous. Their natural diets consist of meat along with fruits and vegetables. This is why they’ve developed taste buds and a liking for sweet things. There’s a reason why your dog goes all gaga when you offer a treat. Having said that, sweets, especially sugar, are unhealthy for them. Human foods like chocolates and desserts are not only full of sugar but also carbs. This can cause medical issues like an upset stomach, obesity, metabolic changes, and diabetes. In more severe cases, your dog could even end up with pancreatitis. 

Chocolate, the love of humans, is actually toxic to dogs. Make sure you avoid all types of sugars like brown sugar, processed sugar, cane sugar, etc. Xylitol, a sweetener present in most of our candies and gums is also highly toxic to dogs.   

More About Dogs and Taste Buds

dog eating pizza

One interesting fact about dogs and taste is that they cannot really taste salt like we do. For us, salt can be a game changer to a dish. But for dogs, it won’t make much difference. This is because meat contains enough salt naturally to satisfy their body’s requirements. So, they never had to seek additional salts and hence evolution did not allow for salt taste buds.

Did you know that if you eat an onion keeping your eyes and nose shut, it may actually taste like an apple? This may or may not be true scientifically, but many people have tried it and will vouch for it. This shows how much influence smell has on taste. It’s the same for dogs. While dogs have 5 times fewer taste buds than us, they have up to 300 million smell receptors, which is 40-50 times more than humans. 

Dogs also have a special scent organ along their palate that helps them “taste” through smell. When a dog smells something, they capture molecules that tell them how the food will taste. And just for your curiosity, these smell receptors are not just for food. They can smell when you are stressed. Dogs have also been used to accurately detect cancer, predict seizures and identify people with low blood sugar, just by using their noses. (3)

About Spot Pet Insurance

While their smelling ability is a special gift to them, it can lead to your dog eating unsafe things and getting sick. Dogs have something called neophilia, which means they are attracted to new and interesting odors. There is a chance that they will think of a good-smelling thing as a good-tasting thing and put it in their mouths. Sometimes, it can be toxic and cause severe issues for your dog. 

Apart from that, yes, dogs will usually refrain from salty, spicy and sour foods. But at times, their curiosity does make them eat it. They can be really bad for your dog. Sweet foods, on the other hand, are bad for your doggo and they won’t even refrain from eating them as they do have taste buds that love them. Overeating these kinds of foods can lead to problems such as gastrointestinal upset, causing vomiting, and diarrhea. Some foods can also cause toxicity that can be fatal in severe cases. 

Spot accident and illness plans can be used with any licensed vet in Canada or the U.S. Whether you are home, or traveling to the U.S., veterinary services your pet receives for the diagnosis, treatment, or management of covered conditions can be eligible for reimbursement. Spot’s accident and illness plans can help cover a variety of conditions including; broken bones, lacerations, aggression, kidney disease, diabetes, and more. With the addition of Wellness Riders for an extra cost, you can also receive reimbursements for wellness exams, certain vaccinations, dental cleanings, and more. 

Learn more about dog insurance or get a free quote. 


  1. Coile, C., PhD. (2021, January 12). Accounting for taste: What do dogs find most delicious? American Kennel Club.

  2. Manucy, T., DVM. (2022, September 7). Do dogs have taste buds? PetMD.

  3. 13 Fun facts about your dog’s sense of smell - CareCredit. (2015, September 22).

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