Dog Activities, Dog Lifestyle, Pet Health

Can dogs taste sugar? Dog tasting food facts

My dog seemed to love it when we stopped by the bakery for a treat so I decided to figure out why. Ever wondered if your pup has tasted sugar or likes the taste of sugar? Well, the answer is yes! Your furry friend can taste sweet things like chocolate and candy but it turns out that dogs don’t have the same taste buds as humans, but they still do enjoy some of the things we eat, just perhaps not as much as we think.

Black and white dog eating a blueberry outside.

Read on to learn about how our dogs taste and how to determine what they find the most satisfying and hint, it is not likely sugary treats!

How does a dog taste?

Dogs have about 1,706 taste buds and this is compared to humans with 9,000 taste buds, that leaves them with a palate six times inferior to ours. 

A dog’s taste buds are set on the tip of their tongue, and they can taste bitter, sweet, sour and salty flavors just like us.  

According to the AKC, Since dogs are omnivores, they have also developed a liking to sweet flavors—likely developed from the fruits and vegetables their omnivore ancestors ate in the wild.  

Golden dog holding a bunch of carrots in his mouth.
Dog’s ancestors ate fruits and vegetables in the wild which developed their taste buds

The Scientists as Popular Science note that we consider tasting to be a hedonic pursuit, but in much of the animal kingdom, as well as our own prehistory, the role of taste was more functional than sensual.

Taste, like smell, is a doorman for the dog digestive tract, a chemical scan for possibly dog dangerous (bitter, sour) elements and desirable (salty, sweet) nutrients. 

How is Taste Associated to Smell?

Which brings us to smell!  The writers at Organic Authority note that Taste and smell are closely related and it’s probable that dogs receive more info about their food from smell rather than taste. 

We all know that dogs sniffers are much more developed than humans and their sense of smell is one million times better than humans!  Just like humans a dog’s sense of smell is closely related to how things taste to them. 

A close up picture of a dog's black nose with words that indicate a dogs sense of smell is closely related to its taste.

Scientists recognize that dogs rely more on smell than taste in making choices about what to eat and how vigorously.

In fact, when manufacturing dog foods dog food formulators put a heavy emphasis on ensuring that dog foods have an appealing smell but not so appealing it will offend the dog or its care giver. 

The problem is that the average dog’s nose can be up to 10,000 times more sensitive than the average human’s, evidenced by the fact that dogs can even detect cancer, cadavers and other discrete smells that make dogs great contributors to conservation causes.

Accordingly, a flavor that to you or me is reminiscent of grilled steak may be overpowering and unappealing to a dog.

With the right smell the dog will dive in with instant and obvious zeal, and the owner will assume the food is a hit. When in reality it might have only smelled like a hit.

How Does a Dog’s Taste and Smell Work Together?

Basically, dogs have a membrane inside their noses which captures molecules and sends impulses to their brain. Along with a special organ on the dog’s palate, they can even taste certain smells. 

So, regardless of how something tastes, if it smells good to a dog, they’ll eat it and love it.

Black and white Bull dog at a table to eat in a red tie.
If a food smells good to a dog they will likely enjoy it.

How Do You Know If Your Dog Likes Something?

Interpreting animals’ eating behaviors is tricky. For example, as the scientists at one dog food testing lab noted, one of the highest compliments a dog can pay for its food is to vomit. 

When a dog that gulps its food, is excited by a food’s aroma, it will wolf down too much too fast. The stomach overfills, and the meal is reflexively sent back up to avoid any chance of a rupture.  Pet lovers do not like that but it is simply the best indication that the dog food was really enjoyed!  

The best way to tell is to just have your dog try it and determine which they like the best, vomiting may not be necessary.  

Why would a dog want to eat sugar?

As pet lovers we love to treat our dogs and tend to apply our food choices to our dog which is why you may find us sharing an ice cream or other dessert.  Simply because we find something decadent and enjoyable we assume it will be equally appreciated by our pets.  

Is it harmful for your dog to eat sugar?

No, it is not harmful to feed your dogs sugar in moderation.   Dogs are prone to diabetes and other health issues from sugar intake as we talk about in our article on what treats not to feed your dog. Since it is not really something they consider amazing, feeding sugar coupled with the health risks is not really the best choice.

If you really want to feed your dog something sweet that may actually also benefit your dog consider raw honey which is low glycemic and may have other health benefits.


The taste of sugar is a sweet sensation for humans, but it’s an entirely different story when you’re a dog. Dogs can’t taste the sweetness like we do because they’ve lost that specific receptor in their genetic makeup and instead rely on smell to detect if something tastes good or not.

If your pup has been licking its chops every time he smells food cooking, don’t be alarmed—it just means he likes what you’re making!

You may also like: Can my dog eat spicy jalapenos?

Dogs and Sweet and Sugar FAQ

What happens if a dog eats sugar?

Sugar is not only inflammatory to dogs (and all mammals) but it may upset the stomach biome and cause sugar spikes that may lead to diabetes. A small amount is harmless but lots of sugar is not a good choice for your dog.

Does sugar give your dog worms?

No sugar will not give your dog worms, however, dogs are more likely to be able to resist worm infections if they are in optimum health and consuming sugar and processed dog food will not support that effort.

How much sugar can a dog eat in a day?

In general dogs should not eat any sugar and for dogs sugar is hidden in commercial pet foods and treats already so it is best to avoid giving dogs sugar as they likely already get some inadvertently in commercial pet foors. Many are tempted to give sugar considering it a high value treat but recognize that dog’s taste profiles are different than ours and they will not necessarily think a sugar treat is a high value treat.