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Mealtime Manners: Curb Your Dog's Enthusiasm For Hasty Gobbling

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Does your dog attack his food so ravenously that guests might suspect that the poor thing is not fed every day? Dogs who devour their entire meal in the blink of an eye are not uncommon. While your kids might giggle at their furry friend's impression of a vacuum cleaner, eating too fast is not a laughing matter. Scoffing down food at warp speed can result in some problems. Luckily, by understanding the causes of speed eating in dogs, you can take steps to correct this voracious behavior.

Why Does Your Retriever Act Like a Hoover?

Dogs that make speed eating a regular practice often do so as a result of experiencing competition for food. This may have occurred early in life if your dog was part of a large litter and the littermates had to compete for feeding opportunities while their mother was nursing. It can also occur later in life, such as if your dog formerly resided in a household with other dogs that threatened his meal rations. Both of these scenarios taught your dog that to survive, he has to chow down the food as quickly as possible before someone else does. Other potential reasons for rapid and ravenous food consumption stem from a lack of nutrients and include the following:

  • Intestinal parasites
  • Inadequate nutrition

If your dog gobbles up his food with excessive gusto, schedule an appointment with a vet, like those at All-Pets Hospital, to rule out any medical conditions that can cause significant increases in appetite. Bring along a stool sample to be analyzed for intestinal parasites, and alert the doctor if you have observed diarrhea or weight loss in your dog.

What Are the Consequences of Eating Too Fast?

The potential consequences of your dog's speedy dining habits are behavioral and medical. The behavioral problem results if your dog continues to feel that his food source is under threat. This can lead to the development of food aggression, exhibited by growling or snapping at anyone who encroaches near his feeding zone. Some medical consequences of speed eating in dogs include the following:

  • Vomiting shortly after eating and before the food is digested, preventing the nutrients from being absorbed
  • Choking as a result of hastily swallowing partially chewed or whole food
  • Gastric dilatation-volvulus as a result of gulping air

Gastric dilatation-volvulus, commonly referred to as bloat, is an emergency condition that requires immediate veterinary intervention to save the dog's life.

Dogs that eat too fast may not realize that they have eaten their fill, which can lead to begging for additional feedings and handouts. This results in becoming overweight, which in turn raises your dog's risk for developing diabetes.

Changes to Satiate His Appetite

Once your veterinarian has ruled out any medical causes for a ravenous appetite and confirmed that your dog is free of parasites, consider your dog's diet and meal frequency. Choose a premium quality dog food that is nutritionally balanced for your dog's life stage. Once you have determined his daily feeding allowance, divide the amount into three or four meals per day instead of one or two. These changes can be helpful in satiating your dog's appetite and slowing down his eating rate if the speed eating is driven solely by hunger.

Other Tips to Slow Him Down

If your chowhound needs his progress impeded when he eats, consider the following tips to slow him down:

  • Place a heavy object that is too large for him to swallow on top of the food in his dish. This will force him to slow down because he will have to nose around the object to access the food.
  • Replace his dish with a dog dish that is designed with pegs or compartments that slow down eating in the same manner as the heavy object trick mentioned above.
  • Feed dry kibble from a puzzle toy instead of from a dish. These toys are designed to dispense a few kibbles at a time as the dog manipulates them.

To prevent the development of food aggression, eliminate the perceived threat to his food source by feeding your dog in an area where other pets and children will not approach him while he is eating. When you feed your dog, offer him some of the kibbles from your hand. Speak to him in reassuring tones, and get him acclimated to the fact that the presence of another being does not mean that his food will be taken from him.