Most dogs will eat just about anything. From sweet and savory human foods, raw vegetables, dog treats, your socks, shoes, and even their own poop. But when it comes to sour foods like pickles, dogs can be quite fussy. But why is this the case? Wouldn’t your dog rather eat a pickle than nibble on vegetables? After all, the reason why you pickle your cucumbers is that you find them tastier that way than when they are raw and unprocessed. Worse still, why would your dog think that a shoe tastes better than a pickle. It doesn’t make sense, right? Well, to your dog, it does and we explain the reasons why below.
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The Root of the Behavior
To explain why dogs don’t like pickles, it’s important to explore their anatomy. Your dog’s like or dislike for certain foods is all about smell. Sure, dogs have a sense of taste, but it is very blunted compared to their sense of smell. So, before your dog can taste what he is eating, he has already decided whether he likes it or not based on how it smells. Dogs smell things 100,000 times better than human beings, meaning your dog can detect even the subtlest of scents. This is what makes dogs great at tracking or sniffing contraband in suitcases or in the trunk of a car.
Contrary to their sense of smell, a dog’s sense of taste is quite dulled as compared to that of human beings. Human beings have around 9000 taste buds while dogs have roughly 1700 taste buds, meaning that if you and your dog are eating the same food, say a piece of steak, your enjoyment of the meal is more about taste than smell. For your dog, his enjoyment is more about smell than taste hence if he perceives something as smelling bad, his senses will tell him it tastes bad too. Additionally, just like in humans, taste buds in dogs are specialized to detect certain tastes, hence some parts of a dog’s tongue are sensitive to sweet tastes and other parts to bitter tastes. Which brings us to the issue of the pickle.
Dogs dislike the smell of bitter and acidic foods, such as lemons and pickles. In fact, because dogs are so put off by these smells, some dog products such as those intended to prevent fur biting are laced with these scents. Way before your dog tastes a pickle, he has decided how it will taste based solely on its vinegary smell. It is common belief that the aversion by dogs to some smells is a protective mechanism against dangers posed by poisonous foods. It follows therefore that if your dog seems to dislike some foods, it’s best to lay off them not only because he dislikes the smells, but also because it could be harmful to him.
Encouraging the Behavior
It is understandable to want to share everything you eat with your dog because you love him and feel as if you are being mean by not sharing your snacks. You also probably think, “Hey, if it’s safe for me it’s safe for my dog. Right?” Wrong! Pickles are fermented cucumbers. They get their name from the process of making them called pickling, which involves soaking cucumbers in brine (vinegar, salt and/or spices).
Pickles are very unhealthy for dogs due to their high sodium content. Consider that your dog’s store-bought food already has sodium in it thus by adding pickles to his diet, you overload his body with sodium. When this happens, your dog will become very thirsty and if he doesn’t get enough hydration, he will suffer from sodium ion poisoning. This will weaken his muscles causing tremors, in addition to symptoms like diarrhea, seizures, fever and vomiting. If treatment is not sought immediately, your dog could suffer from depression or worse, death.
Dogs cannot detect salt like humans do, therefore it is very important to stick to a diet recommended by your dog’s veterinarian or dog expert as these foods are carefully made to be safe and to cater to your dog’s daily dietary needs. Before you give your dog additional food, consult his veterinarian as even the most seemingly harmful foods can be dangerous to your canine.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Pickles that are marinated in a brine solution containing onion and garlic pose an even greater danger as onions kill red blood cells in dogs. This will cause anemia, not to mention, the increased likelihood of death when combined with sodium poisoning. Some dogs eat pickles depending on their age and gender. Older dogs, puppies and some breeds of dogs that have a less pronounced sense of smell are especially likely to eat pickles and are in more danger. If your dog falls in any of these groups, it is important to keep an eye on everything he eats. Additionally, if you feed your dog a burger or sandwich containing pickles, the smell of the meats will overwhelm the smell of pickles causing your dog to ingest them. If this happens, keep your dog hydrated and avoid feeding him on foods containing sodium. If he exhibits any symptoms of illness, take him to the vet.
There you have it! Your dog’s dislike for pickles is a protective mechanism designed by nature to ensure his survival. I’m sure you’ve heard it said that a slice or two of pickles won’t do any harm, but do you really want to take that chance? Keep your dog safe by feeding him on dog food.