Does it seem like your hungry hound can finish an entire bowl of kibble in seconds? If so, you’re likely wondering, “Why does my dog eat so fast?” Truth is, some dogs are just naturally fast eaters and will swallow anything that comes their way. However, in some cases, there’s a specific cause that leads to this habit.
What happens if a dog eats too fast?
To start with, eating too fast may cause your dog to choke, as they’re more than likely swallowing their food without chewing.
Another problem with rapid eating is the fact that it causes your dog to swallow air. This can lead to stomach discomfort, and make your pet vomit or regurgitate.
But perhaps the most disconcerting part of eating too fast is a condition called Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV). Gastric dilation, or bloat, is a serious medical issue where the stomach expands with food and gas, which may cause it to erupt. If this happens, it can be fatal, so it really is an important habit to break.
Why does my dog eat so fast?
Before we get into the things you can change to slow down your dog’s eating behavior, here are some of the causes related to fast eating.
1. Competitive eating
In every litter of puppies, there are usually one or two who need to compete for their food while still nursing. This behavior can quickly turn into a pattern, and continue to influence the dog throughout their life.
Even if you only have one dog, a combination of a high prey drive and a food-motivated personality can lead to an eating problem.
Similarly, if you run a multi-dog household, competition over food may be the reason for the hasty eating problem. If one dog is constantly worried that another will steal their food, they will try to scarf it up as fast as they can.
Likewise, your dog might be a bit of a glutton, and they eat their own food quickly so they can move onto someone else’s.
2. Underlying medical issues
If your dog has an untreated pathological problem that interferes with the absorption of food or metabolism, they will always feel hungry and therefore eat fast to try and satisfy their craving.
- Diabetes: One of the major symptoms of diabetes is increased appetite and excessive thirst. Especially if your dog’s blood sugar levels aren’t under control, their body can’t convert food into energy.
- Cushing’s disease: As is the case in diabetes, Cushing’s disease can also spike insulin levels, as well as cortisol levels, which are responsible for regulating hunger and fullness.
- Hyperthyroidism: An overactive thyroid in dogs can lead to an increase in appetite, metabolism, and even weight loss, as this gland has a direct effect on metabolic rate.
- Worms: Worms and other intestinal parasites tend to feed on your dog’s nutrients, which may create a deficiency in your pet’s body, and make them experience intense hunger.
If you notice your dog is experiencing increased thirst, increased urination, excessive panting, loss of weight, diarrhea, vomiting, and/or lethargy, it’s best to consult a veterinarian as soon as possible.
3. Low-quality food
All dog foods aren’t created the same.
Some brands simply have an inferior nutritional value, which means that if you feed them to your dog, they may not feel satisfied. As a result, every time you give them their food, they gulp it down immediately.
Don’t be fooled because a particular brand says that it’s “complete and balanced”. Instead, look at the list of ingredients. If it’s a plant or grain protein-based food, it’s not going to digest as well as food with animal protein.
How to slow down your dog’s eating
While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with this issue, here are a few tips to help you slow down your dog’s eating.
Talk with your vet
If you suspect that there might be a medical reason for your dog’s behavior, it’s best to have them seen by a veterinarian. You want to rule out any health issues that might interfere with your dog’s ability to feel full or absorb nutrients.
Feed your dogs separately
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In a house with multiple dogs, you really do need to feed each dog with its own plate and (preferably) in separate rooms, so they have their own private space to eat quietly. That way, no dog will have to fear for their food or get the chance to steal another dog’s meal, which could lead to aggression.
Switch to another dog food
Try switching to a different dog food, preferably one with less empty fillers and more actual meat or fish. Additionally, look for a recipe with high-fiber content, as this will help make your dog feel full without adding extra calories.
Spread out your dog’s meals
It sometimes helps to divide your dog’s normal portion into two smaller meals to keep them more satisfied and prevent overeating. This is especially true if you’ve previously been feeding them once a day.
Start by feeding your dog 50% of their regular portion in the morning and then another 50% in the evening.
Stick to a feeding schedule
Don’t wait until your dog gets too hungry and eats fast to simply fill up. Instead, decide what time of day they will get their meals, and turn it into a routine.
Get a “slow down” eating bowl
These uniquely shaped dog bowls are by far the best way to slow down your dog’s eating, but not in a way that interferes with the eating itself. They can also be used to prevent choking and bloating.
If you’re not ready to invest in a special bowl, you can use the one you have, and place a tennis ball or another large item inside. While not a fool-proof method, it makes it just a little bit harder for your dog to eat fast.
Hide your dog’s food
Another way to slow down your dog’s eating is by hiding their food in different places throughout the house, so they would have to hunt for it. Besides slowing down their eating, this will also provide them with some mental stimulation.
Similarly, you can give your dog their food inside a puzzle or treat-dispensing toy.
Eating too quickly can cause digestive upset and even lead to more serious health problems like bloat or choking. While you may think that your dog has a healthy appetite, fast eating can also be a sign of an underlying issue.
If there’s no apparent medical concern, there are several strategies you can use to help slow your dog’s eating. These include feeding them separately from other dogs, changing their food, dividing their meal into smaller portions, and using a toy or bowl that forces them to work for each nugget.