The more I research this area of canine smelling, the more intriguing it be-comes; and the more I want to share these new pieces of interesting knowledge and information with you. This means that we’ll wait a bit longer to delve into the theme of actual nasal ailments. Sorry folks!
First of all, the dog’s smelling function has more to do than just scent alone. There is an organ inside of the nasal cavity that has very specialized ‘sense of smell’ nerve receptors.
In other words these specialized receptors do not deal with ordinary odours, rather these scenting nerve cells respond to a range of substances that trigger other functions in other parts of the brain ̶ functions that have to do with mating and some very fundamental emotions.
These interesting groups of nerve cells detect chemicals (pheromones) in the air which then provide both sexes with information as to the availability and amenability of the opposite sex for breeding/mating.
We, pet owners, might not know about molecules and chemical pathways and all that scientific stuff; but we surely know that when our bitch is in heat, male dogs from (literally) a half mile away come congregating and a-courting at our gates; so sensitive is the canine’s sense of smell.
Additionally, these special/specialized nerve receptors in the nasal cavity (let’s say nostrils for easy understanding) are apparently able to detect (normally undetectable) odours, for example those which enhance the newborn pup’s ability not only to find its own mother, but a preferred teat on the mother’s breast. Wow! A dog’s sense of smell is truly powerful.
I would like to introduce at this point the question of similarity to humans. Inadequate (by comparison) as our sense of smell might be, is it too far-fetched to suggest that human males too pick up the scent of females who exude hormonal chemicals, especially at certain periods. I swear that after long winters in Europe, the new green awakening of spring seems to provoke not only provocative change of clothes but enhanced amenability to male overtures. I don’t know of any scientific studies to support that which I have just posited, but may I venture to say that empirical observation does have merits. And surprise, surprise: recent anatomical studies have confirmed that humans have similar specialized nerve receptors deep in our nasal cavities and that these nerves are capable of receiving and sending functional messages to the brain. Look, dear readers, as much as many of you would like to deny it, we humans are indeed sexual animals—just like the rest of nature.
But let’s get back on track about the way the sense of smell affects the dog. Actually dogs prefer to mingle with the scent of members within their own pack or herd. Within this same context, dogs can detect the human sense of fear, again because of chemicals humans exude when frightened. Also, we do know that dams (mother dogs), shortly after giving birth, can pick out their own offspring by smell; and puppies quickly learn the smell of their own mother’s milk; and, as I mentioned earlier, the smell of a preferred teat.
Within this context of the effects of the sense of smell on our canine wards, current re-search is going a step further and positing that certain scents may be linked with memories of past events—releasing positive or negative emotions in the dog. It may not be easy to correlate long-lasting emotions to past events, but it is something that every veterinary practitioner should consider when we are dealing with a behaviour problem that we cannot explain physically—for example, when a dog goes off its food for no apparent reason.
Next week we’ll begin with the actual ailments associated with the dog’s nose and adjacent areas. Then we’ll conclude this theme with some final comments on nutrition and its linkage with and support of the canine’s sense of smell.
Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-Heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals. Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. We still have the free spay and neutering programme. Exploit it. If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.
Have a pleasant week!