Championship sniffers

Why dogs have such an amazing sense of smell

Do dogs have a sixth sense? Experts are still arguing the point, but one thing’s for sure; dogs are equipped with heightened senses almost beyond belief. Dogs can hear mice cough and discern a world of aromas completely unknown to us. Especially when it comes to sensing smells, dogs are way ahead of us.

A supreme sense of smell

A dog can smell a million times better than us humans. That’s because dogs have so many more olfactory cells than we do. In the cell count, we do quite poorly in comparison. Humans have about five million olfactory cells, but a German Shepherd has approximately 220 million! Dogs can pick up on the smallest details through their sense of smell alone. It doesn’t come as a big surprise then that our four-legged friends make fine colleagues for drug and explosive detection, as well as manhunt and rescue missions.

How a dog’s nose works

The reason why a dog’s sense of smell is so keen is because it’s moist. But why does it have to be moist? Simple: the moisture filters scent molecules, which pass through the dog’s nose from the air outside to the olfactory membrane inside his nostrils. From here, nerve impulses send important information to the brain’s olfactory centre, which is forty times larger than that of humans.

Dogs can “taste” smells

And then there’s the palate’s vomeronasal organ which, allows our four-legged friends to essentially “taste” certain smells. This information is subsequently transferred to the limbic system, the part of the brain responsible for establishing a dog’s emotional state of well-being. And for good reason!

Since it’s the smells related to a dog’s social life and sexuality in particular that are picked up by the vomeronasal organ.

The long and the short of it

Incidentally, the length of a dog’s nose influences how well he picks up smells. A Dachshund’s sense of smell is only half as sensitive as that of a German Shepherd. The ability to smell depends largely on the number of sensor cells within the olfactory membrane.

Dog food: smell is everything

Whether your dog likes his food or not depends more on his sense of smell than his sense of taste. This is because a dog’s sense of taste is not very advanced. In fact, a dog only has about 15 % of the number of taste buds that a human does. So although he can distinguish sour, sweet, salty and bitter from one another, remember that smell is everything!
Call into your local store today to discuss your dog’s personal needs with our Maxi Zoo Pet Experts.