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Smelling Like a Dog

By Dr. Greg Martinez, DVM
Updated: 2009-09-14 4:03 PM 2549 Views    Category: Health and Behavior
 
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Wouldn't it be great to have a sense of smell like dogs do?  You could tell where family members have been, and who they have been with by the odors left on their clothes. In fact, if you were lost you might be able to "smell" your way home by the odors of plants, trees, or activities present in your neighborhood. Dogs rely on their sense of smell as much as their owners rely on vision for  information about their environment. To compare dog's capability of smell to ours; they smell in big-screen HD TV compared to our small black-and-white TV with poor reception ability to smell.
 
This is because dogs have billions of smell cells in their nose while we only have millions. They detect odors a thousand times better. That is why they are used to find lost people, illegal explosives, fruit, and firearms. Dogs have been trained to “smell” the odors associated with hypoglycemia or low blood sugar and seizures. I have read anecdotal reports of dogs alerting their owners to skin cancer by their obsessive licking of the growth.  Could be that developing diabetes, seizures or tumors have  strange or unusual odor not present on normal skin?
 
So here’s the question I know you all want answered: Why are dogs so intent on sniffing each others’ behinds?  They get as much info from the 20-second sniff as we would in a 15-minute conversation. They can detect the individual’s marking scent from the anal glands (name), the territory (address), pack (other pets and humans), diet (food odor), and sex or receptivity (male, female, intact, neutered). Scenting is a time saver, and it would not be easy to conceal odors. You either got them or not.
 
My dogs always sniff the air when we are in the backyard and they hear a car drive up. They already know the sound of our cars, so they are probably anticipating friends or family, and want to know who it is. They usually get more excited, if they are given enough time and odors from the arriving guests, dilly-dallying and wafting their odors about. We have all seen dogs do embarrassing things like sticking their nose in a guest’s crotch, or just smelling us when we come home after handling other animals. Their nose knows.
 
My three dogs can smell my homemade dog food cooking and are definitely more excited about their next feeding, than when I feed commercial brands. My yellow lab, Tucker, raises his nose in the air, at counter level, and sniffs to answer the question, “What’s for dinner?” Bone Appetit!
 

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