Fast eating in dogs can be a problem. Many dogs love their food so much that they’re ready to do anything to get it. However, not all dogs eat at the same pace. Some take time to chew and enjoy every bite, while others swallow everything in the blink of an eye. Dogs in this latter group barely have time to taste or chew their meals because they gulp down everything so fast.
If your canine companion is eating too quickly, you might have thought that he just has a healthy appetite. However, this isn’t always the case. Fast eating can be a result of several other reasons, including underlying medical issues and competition. Taking time to understand this unhealthy habit in terms of the root causes, dangers, and possible solutions, puts you in a much better position to nip it in the bud before it gets out of control.
7 Possible Reasons Why Your Dog is Eating Too Fast
Competition is one of the common reasons why some dogs eat very fast. It’s very normal for puppies who come from a large litter to fight and compete with one another when nursing. The strongest puppy manages to get food first because they can push everyone else out of the way. The weakest ones are often left to struggle to get the nutrients they need from whatever is remaining.
If your dog was raised in such an environment where mealtime was always a competition, it’s possible for him to carry on with the behavior into adulthood. Likewise, if you’re raising multiple dogs in your household, there’ll always be fear that food might run out before everyone gets his share. So, each dog will try to gulp down as much as he can before the others access and finish the food. The closer the dogs are to one another while eating, the faster they’ll try to eat.
Underlying Medical Problems
Other than competition, certain underlying medical conditions can also cause dogs to eat too quickly. Untreated health problems that interfere with metabolism or food absorption can leave your dog feeling extremely hungry all the time, causing him to eat too quickly.
Similarly, if there are intestinal parasites like tapeworms, hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms living inside your dog’s body, they’ll feed on the food meant for your dog, creating a nutritional deficiency. This can cause him to feel hungry more often and gobble down food.
Another possible reason behind fast eating in dogs is ancestry. Wolves are believed to be the primary ancestors of domestic dogs we have in our homes today. In the wild, wolves spend their time looking for prey, not sure where their next meal will come from.
They can go for several days without eating anything, and when they finally hunt down prey, they’ll eat as much as they can very quickly to increase their chances of survival. It’s believed that some domestic dogs still carry on with eating habits of their ancestors.
A History of Starvation
Dogs that have been rescued, especially those with a history of starvation and malnourishment may also feel the need to devour their food very fast. Because of what they’ve gone through, they’re likely to be fearful of starving again. That fear can cause such dogs to become so possessive over the food that they’ll growl and even attack any person that comes close by.
Also, if you’re feeding your pooch only once a day, it can contribute to him gulping down food. Twenty four hours is a long time to wait before eating, so he’ll most likely be very hungry by the time you serve him his next meal.
If your dog is a fast eater, you might also want to check the brand of food you’re feeding him. Some brands, despite being labeled balanced, offer substandard nutritional value to dogs. Poor-quality dog food will never satisfy your pet or meet his nutritional needs no matter the quantity you give him. Because he’s not getting the necessary nutrients he needs to stay healthy and strong, he’ll feel hungry constantly, causing him to eat faster during meal times.
If you’re not sure whether your dog’s food is responsible for his unhealthy eating habit, consider having it checked by a vet. He or she will most likely recommend a high-quality dog food for you if the current one doesn’t provide all the nutrients your dog needs.
Irregular Feeding Schedule
Dogs whose previous owners didn’t stick to a regular feeding program or those who were strays before they were adopted can also exhibit a speedy eating habit because they’re not 100% certain whether they’ll ever eat again.
If you’re raising such a dog, it’s your responsibility as the new owner to shower him with lots of love and care, while serving him his meals consistently every day. It might take a while before he realizes that his next meal is guaranteed and begin eating slowly.
A Natural Love for Food
Finally, there are dogs who just love eating anything and everything. They’ve been fed nutritionally balanced meals all their lives, have never competed with other dogs during meal times, and have never suffered from starvation. It’s their natural love for food that drives them to eat as fast as possible. Golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers are examples of breeds that love their food.
Irrespective of your dog’s reason for eating quickly, it’s very important that you help him slow down and enjoy the taste of his food. Eating more slowly also helps him avoid the numerous side effects associated with fast eating.
Why Eating Too Quickly Is Bad For Your Dog
Here are 6 side effects of fast eating you should know:
It’s easy for your dog to overeat without even realizing it if he’s a speedy eater. And of course, the more food he eats, the more weight he’ll gain. Obesity, as you may already know, increases your pet’s risk of getting cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and many other diseases that affect the quality of his life negatively.
Your vet may recommend portion control to help bring down the excess weight, which is good. However, food stealing is very common among fast eaters. They can go to any length to steal food when you’re not watching, making it extremely difficult to manage their weight.
Choking or Gagging
A dog that gulps his food without taking time to chew it properly can also suffer from choking or gagging. Both of these conditions are serious, but the good news is that they can be prevented if you teach your pet to eat more slowly.
Regurgitation is another common occurrence in dogs who consume large volumes of food too quickly. When the stomach cannot keep up with the amount of food it’s receiving, it sends everything back. Regurgitated food barely makes it to the stomach before it’s sent back. That’s why it looks almost the same way it was when it was eaten.
Occasional regurgitations are nothing to worry about. However, if your dog is regurgitating frequently after meals, consider taking him to the vet to find out the root cause of the problem. Underlying medical issues such as infections, parasites, and digestive illnesses can all cause regurgitation, so don’t be too quick to assume that speedy eating is the cause.
Eating too quickly can also increase your dog’s risk of suffering from bloat (also referred to as Gastric Dilatation Volvulus). This is a life-threatening medical condition that occurs when a dog gulps down a lot of air together with his food. The more air he swallows, the wider the stomach cavity expands. As the cavity reaches maximum capacity, it begins to twist and turn within the abdomen, leading to a stomach rupture.
Early signs to watch out for include excessive breathing, vomiting, drooling and collapsing. Many dogs go into shock and die very fast from this condition. Therefore, it’s important that you contact your vet if you notice any of the above symptoms so your dog can be treated professionally. The faster you do it, the higher will be his chances of survival.
Swallowing food hurriedly without chewing can also lead to future dental problems for your dog. Take, for instance, foods like apples and carrots that are known to help dogs keep their teeth clean and breath fresh. If your dog eats them too quickly without taking the time to chew them, they won’t be able to remove the plaque and tartar on his teeth. In worst cases, swallowing such foods whole could lead to choking.
Lastly, a speedy eater can also become very possessive over his food, leading to aggressive behavior towards anyone who comes closer to his food during meal times. Such a dog poses a great danger to everyone in your household, especially to the smaller kids who cannot defend themselves when attacked.
So, how can you help your pet eat his meals more slowly? Here are several practical tips you can use to control your furry friend’s eating habit:
7 Ways to Slow Down a Fast-Eating Dog
Talk to Your Vet First
Before anything else, you should have your dog checked by the vet to rule out underlying health problems that may be interfering with his ability to absorb nutrients or feel full. If there are illnesses or parasites responsible for his fast eating habit, then proper treatment should be started right away to restore his normal appetite. Once he’s declared healthy, then you can try the tips below:
Provide Smaller Portions of Food Throughout the Day
If you’re currently giving you pet only one big meal a day, consider dividing up that same amount of food into smaller portions and feeding him throughout the day. The smaller portions can be two, three, four, or five; it’s all up to you. This will greatly help to keep him full, making him less likely to eat too quickly. Spreading out the meals also reduces your dog’s risk of choking and developing bloat.
However, if your current schedule doesn’t allow serving multiple meals throughout the day, you can ask or hire someone to do it on your behalf. Or better yet, invest in a high-quality automatic feeder that will dispense smaller amounts of food to your pet at the set time, even when you’re away from home.
Stick to a Consistent and Reliable Feeding Schedule
Certain dogs just need the consistency and security of having regular meals to start eating more slowly. So, you shouldn’t wait until your pooch looks all hungry and miserable before giving him his meals.
Divide up the food into smaller quantities as suggested above, and decide which times of the day you’ll be feeding your dog. If you’re able to stick to a consistent feeding schedule, it will go a long way in eliminating his fear of not eating again.
Provide Your Dog with the Right Nutrition
You can also modify your pet’s eating habit by feeding him the right amount of dog food that’s nutritious, highly digestible, and of high-quality. This is the only way you’ll be 100% sure that his nutritional needs are being met. Seek advice from your vet if you have no idea which types of food are right for your canine companion.
Feed Your Dog(s) in a Secure and Separate Space
Another way to control speedy eating is by serving your dog(s) in a secure and separate space. If you only have one dog, you want to make sure that you’re serving his meals in an area where he feels safe, confident, and comfortable enough to eat slowly and enjoy every bite of his food. Avoid areas with loud noises, high traffic, flashing lights, as well as the presence of family members.
On the other hand, if you’re raising multiple dogs, it’s a good idea to create some space between the dogs and ensure that each of them has his own food bowl. Many pet parents have had success feeding their multiple pets in separate rooms, or inside their crates, so you might want to try it out too. Providing separate spaces during meal times greatly helps to stop aggression and competition among speedy eaters.
Use a Slow Feeder Bowl
If your pet is still eating quickly despite taking the above steps, try using a slow feeder bowl to make it impossible for him to gobble down his meals. These bowls come in different shapes, sizes, designs, materials, and colors, so getting the perfect fit for your pooch shouldn’t be a problem.
They have built-in obstacles on their insides (raised pegs, ridges, or several food compartments) that allow only small amounts of food to be grabbed and eaten at a time. This helps to slow down your dog’s eating speed significantly.
If you’re not ready to invest in such a bowl now, you can still turn that regular food bowl into a slow feeder bowl. To do so, simply take a smaller bowl, put it upside down at the center of the regular food bowl, and fill the gap between the two bowls with dog food. Your dog will be forced to eat slowly around the obstruction until he finishes his food.
It’s important to point out that some clever dogs can quickly figure out what you’ve done and remove the smaller bowl obstructing them from eating quickly. If you have such a dog, be smarter than him, and use non-toxic hot glue to stick the bowl permanently at the center. You can also use a large rock or tennis ball as an obstruction instead of a small bowl.
Use a Muffin Pan or Cookie Sheet
You can also try using a muffin pan to control your pet’s eating speed. By dividing your dog’s food into several, small muffin cups, you’re forcing him to go from one cup to another to get his food.
The same concept applies when you’re using a cookie sheet. When you spread his food across a cookie sheet, you’re making it difficult for him to gulp large quantities of the meal at one go.
Eating something like kibble on a cookie sheet, for instance, forces your dog to take small bites and use his tongue to pick up lots of pieces. Doing all that takes quite some time, so your pooch will have no choice but to slow down.
Use a Food-Dispensing Dog Toy or a Puzzle Feeder
Lastly, you can make mealtimes fun for your dog by using either a food-dispensing dog toy or a puzzle feeder to give him his food. Your furry friend has to do some work first before getting his food. This can be anything from rolling the toy around, opening drawers, flipping open different compartments, or removing blocks. It’s entertaining, mentally-stimulating, and most of all helps to slow down your dog’s eating.
Overall, fast eating remains an unhealthy dog habit with many associated dangers. But, with the above tips, you can teach your beloved pet to eat more slowly and enjoy his food.