When it comes to our furry companions, we often wonder about the extent of their taste buds and their ability to experience different flavours. While dogs are known for their exceptional sense of smell, their taste preferences have also been a subject of curiosity. One intriguing aspect of taste is the elusive “umami” flavour, often described as savoury and meaty. In this blog post, I am going to delve into the research surrounding dogs and umami, exploring whether our canine friends can truly appreciate this unique taste sensation.
Before we explore dogs’ perception of umami, let’s briefly understand what this flavour is all about. Umami is one of the five basic tastes, alongside sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. Discovered by Japanese scientist Kikunae Ikeda in 1908, umami is characterised by its rich, savoury and mouthwatering qualities. It is commonly found in foods like meat, cheese, mushrooms and fermented products.
Taste Receptors in Dogs
Dogs, like humans, possess taste receptors on their tongues that allow them to discern different flavours. These taste receptors are specialised cells responsible for detecting specific tastes. Dogs’ sense of taste is far less sophisticated than ours. They only have around 1,700 taste buds, whereas we have about 9,000.
Recent studies have identified taste receptors in dogs that respond to sweet, sour, salty and bitter flavours and umami substances.1
While research on umami taste receptors in dogs is limited, studies conducted on other animals, such as mice and cats, shed some light on the topic. In humans, umami taste is primarily detected by a receptor called “T1R1/T1R3.” Research has suggested that dogs possess similar taste receptors, which may indicate their potential to perceive umami.
Though the scientific exploration of dogs’ umami taste perception is ongoing, some behavioural observations provide interesting insights. Dog owners often report their pets showing enthusiasm for certain umami-rich foods. For instance, when presented with meaty treats or broths, dogs tend to exhibit heightened interest and enjoyment. While these observations may not be definitive evidence, they do suggest that dogs might have some level of sensitivity to umami flavours.
And this is why, when you have a fussy dog, adding bone broth to their meal is recommended to increase palatable. Not only it makes meal time more enjoyable but it also provides nutritious hydration and addition to their diet. Please note that conventional hour-long bone broth is high in histamine which can affect dogs prone with allergies. As an alternative, you can try a 30-minute fish broth or our mushroom broth or DASHI broth recipes (link here for recipe).
It is important to note that taste perception can vary among individual dogs, just as it does among humans. Factors such as breed, genetics and individual preferences can influence how dogs respond to different tastes, including umami. Additionally, while umami-rich foods may appeal to many dogs, it is crucial to be mindful of their overall diet and nutritional needs. Moderation is key, as excessive consumption of certain umami-rich ingredients may not be beneficial for our furry friends.
While the research on dogs’ ability to taste umami is still evolving, there are indications that our four-legged companions may indeed have some capacity to appreciate this savoury flavour. As scientists continue to uncover the mysteries of taste perception in dogs, one thing remains certain: the joy and companionship our dogs bring into our lives are truly priceless, regardless of their umami preferences. So, let’s cherish our furry friends, explore their taste preferences within safe limits and continue to unravel the fascinating aspects of their sensory world.
‘Good health starts with good food. Let’s eat healthfully and mindfully.’
Check out our Umami-filled dog friendly (and also human friendly) DASHI (Japanese soup stock) recipe here.
1 Kumazawa, T., Nakamura, M. and Kurihara, K. (1991). Canine taste nerve responses to umami substances. Physiology & Behavior, [online] 49(5), pp.875–881. doi:10.1016/0031-9384(91)90197-v.