How Do Dogs Taste?
No matter how hungry your dog may be at mealtime, you’ll notice that a quick sniff of the food will always precede the chow down. Like a connoisseur inhaling the bouquet of fine wine before the first sip, your dog decides if what you’ve laid out for the meal is worth eating.
Dogs reportedly have about one-sixth the number of taste buds that we humans do, but their sense of smell is far more sophisticated than ours. “The tissue in their brain used for smelling is bigger and weighs more than the same tissue in the human brain,” says Dr. Nancy Scanlon, DVM, at the Sherman Oaks Veterinary Clinic in Sherman Oaks, Calif.
Moisture on your dog’s nose helps to dissolve molecules in the air around the food, which are then inhaled, making contact with the nerves inside the nose. The nerve impulses travel from the nose directly to the brain. At this point, your discriminating doggy can immediately determine if this food is familiar, fresh, rotten, sweet, or salty — and whether or not it should be eaten.
But dogs are not easily fooled. Once your dog starts eating, the sense of taste takes over. If a food has been artificially altered so that it smells like beef but is soybean mush, your dog will not continue to eat if the flavor is not to its liking.
What Is A Dog’s Favorite Food?
One study found that dogs prefer meat to any cereal foods. They like canned meat more than fresh meat, and cooked meat better than raw. And while dogs have a taste for sweetness, they can quickly detect and avoid food with a bitter taste.
Some dog owners may feel that their pets need a variety or certain intensity of flavors to keep them interested. Not so, say experts. “Dogs don’t need a lot of flavors,” says Scanlon. There is no need to switch foods, she says, unless you need to coax your dog to eat, for instance, when it’s sick. Most dogs love and will accept flavorful treats, but these should only be used when you’re training your dog or other special times, but not as a meal replacement.
Stimulate Your Dogs Appetite
Most dogs will happily vacuum up whatever is placed in front of them. But some canines go from voracious chow hounds to discriminating nibblers, while others seem to be fussy about their food all the time. Your four-legged friend wasn’t born picky, but may be suffering from a canine eating disorder. While the inborn temperament of a dog can vary — just like its owner’s can — food finickiness in canines is often a sign of illness or an unintentional feeding-related goof. Here’s advice on how to prevent appetite problems from arising, and what to do if your dog seems bored with its dinner.
Dogs Are Creatures Of Habit With Food
“If you start off feeding a dog dry food, it will eat it. If you switch to wet food, the dog will prefer that,” says Trisha Joyce, DVM, a veterinarian at New York City Veterinary Specialists. “Going back to dry food can then be difficult. The pet may protest, or go on a hunger strike.”
If you’ve been feeding wet food and need to switch to dry, begin by combining the two foods, with one-quarter dry and three-quarters wet. The second day, go to half and half, and so on. You can also add a bit of hot water to dry food to make it more aromatic. Or buy a gravy supplement to make it more palatable.
My Dog Is Not Eating His Food
Most of us know dogs that will eat just about anything. These tend to be bigger dogs, strays, or dogs that were bred to be hunters. “But for the picky guys, the fresher (the food), the better,” says Scanlon, who adds that small, thin dogs, such as Whippets or Greyhounds, tend to be pickier eaters. Canned food or a combination of canned and dry may be best for these dogs.
Suppose you regularly change your dog’s food, or frequently give your dog scraps of human food. In that case, you could create a picky eater, says Dr. Kimberly Bolduc, DVM at Willowood Acres Veterinary Clinic in Romulus, Mich. Keep your dog on a consistent diet and refrain from offering human food, which can be dangerous to a dog’s health.
Can You Feed Dogs Human Food?
“In my experience, small dogs tend to be more finicky,” Joyce says. “I think this is because they’re used to being catered to by their owners. They sit on their laps and eat chicken and quickly figure out that human food tastes better than dog food.”
Unlike dog food, which is specially formulated to meet your pet’s nutritional needs, human food alone usually does not provide your dog with its daily protein, vitamin, mineral, and other dietary requirements. And proportion control is a problem. Some dog owners serve too much food, and obesity can become a problem. “Some dogs have an ‘off’ switch, but most don’t,” says Joyce.
“They’ll pretty much eat as much as you give them.” Her advice: no table scraps.
Even worse, a dog that has been fed a regular diet of people food may be in big trouble if it becomes sick and completely disinterested in food. “At the hospital,” explains Joyce, “we can often tempt a dog that’s lost its appetite with people food — but only if the dog has not eaten that as a regular part of its diet. Otherwise, it’s not as appealing.”
Feed Your Dog A On Schedule
If you feed your dog at the same time each day, it will tend to have the most dependable appetite. Dogs also eat better when kept away from treats that don’t offer much nutrition and can interfere with their appetite at mealtimes. And keep in mind that your dog is a social animal — it may prefer to eat with the family and be fed at the same time as everyone else, if possible.
Why Is My Dog Still Not Eating?
So, what is the most common cause for a usually ravenous dog to skip a meal? It’s the doggie version of the stomach flu. “If your dog skips one or two meals, and has another symptom like diarrhea that comes on abruptly,” Joyce says, “it’s probably gastroenteritis, an upset stomach, from something it ate.”
On the other hand, if a dog that generally has a healthy appetite stops eating for long periods, you should watch for other symptoms such as vomiting, excessive urination, or lethargy. If these occur, take your dog to the vet. “Dogs can stop eating because of metabolic disorders — like liver or kidney disease — or something rare, like a brain tumor. But really, it’s most likely they have a tummy ache.”
If your dog has lost interest in its food, for some reason, here are a few tips to try to make it more palatable:
- Warm the food in the microwave for a minute or two, making sure it doesn’t get too hot. Most dogs prefer moderately warm to cold food. Warming has the added advantage of heightening the food’s aroma, making it all the more enticing.
- Add a little bit of fat-free chicken or beef broth to the food. The added hint of moisture, taste, and nutrition can sometimes pep up your dog’s interest. It can also help to keep the food moist if you microwave it, per the first tip. You can also achieve the warming effect by heating the broth itself, not dog food, before stirring the two together.
- Combine wet with dry dog food. Canned food can be more satisfying to some dogs, so try adding a tablespoon or two of canned food to the bowl of dry food, mixing it thoroughly.
- Try adding a small amount of a specially formulated dog food sauce to your dog’s dry food. These new sauces are designed just for dogs, so look for them at your local pet food store or other pet food retailer.
I have a 2-year-old Havanese that is so picky about food that he will go for long periods without eating. What can I do to encourage him to eat?
Havanese dog owners often describe their pets as being picky or quirky eaters. There are even reports of these very social dogs not eating unless a person is in the room with them. If you spend a lot of time with your dog, his wishes make sense. He basks in your company and then may feel suddenly abandoned come mealtime. The food itself could be part of the problem.
Choose a high-quality dog food and try out a few different flavors to see which one your pet prefers. If you are feeding dry food, select a “mini chunk” variety that is easier for small dogs to chew. Pet food manufacturers now also offer sauces in flavors like bacon, country chicken, and pot roast that can entice many picky eaters to nosh. If you feed wet food, try warming it for a short time in the microwave. You can also add some warm water or the previously mentioned sauce to boost the food’s mouthwatering aroma appeal.
Feeding times are also critical. Some Havanese owners offer food for limited periods, such as 15 minutes at a time. If the dog doesn’t eat then, remove the food for a while and offer it later. Always leaving food out may not provide enough mealtime stimulation for your pet.
Even though your breed does have a reputation for being finicky, you should also make sure that there isn’t an underlying health issue affecting your dog’s appetite. Stress, teeth problems, and many other health issues can lead to loss of appetite. Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out any of those other possible causes.