A majority of dogs are food motivated and will perform a trick with just one look at a treat. Other dogs are grazers and might eat a cup of food throughout the day. And some dogs will devour their food in seconds and lick the bowl clean. If your dog is a fast eater you may not realize the health risks that become apparent with this behavior. But don’t worry, there are many things you can do to slow your dog's eating and ease your worries.
Symptoms of Your Dog Eating Too Fast
Sure, your dog may not chew every piece of kibble, but there are a few warning signs that could potentially be concerning:
If your dog is eating too fast but is not exhibiting any of these symptoms, there may be an issue internally. Parasites may be playing a role in your dog’s increased appetite. Parasites like tapeworms will feed on the nutrients in your dog’s intestine resulting in a very hungry pup. Schedule a trip to the vet so they can take a closer look to determine if this is a factor.
Dangers of Your Dog Eating Too Fast
As puppies, this behavior is sometimes developed if they are around multiple dogs. In this type of environment puppies may become competitive and will consume a lot of food in fear that it may be stolen. This could potentially form a habit that will follow them as adults.
Other times this behavior may be instinctual due to the breed. There are many breeds that you could consider food obsessed including Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, Pugs, Beagles and English Bulldogs. Despite how the dog was conditioned to this behavior, eating too fast can be extremely harmful to dogs, even life threatening.
Bloat, also known as gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), is a medical disorder that if not treated immediately can lead to death. When dogs eat too fast they swallow air which builds up in the stomach. The gas filled stomach then begins to twist and cuts off blood circulation. When this happens their stomach will start to swell, they will start to salivate and become restless. Due to the lack of blood circulation, if not treated in the first 1-2 hours this may become fatal. This disorder requires surgery immediately. If any of these signs are present dog owners should take their dog to the vet or the closest animal hospital. Thankfully, veterinarians are able to prevent bloat from occurring through a procedure called gastropexy. Veterinarians will surgically pin the stomach to the dogs side restricting any movement. This is typically recommended for larger breeds and barrel chested dogs since it is more common. Breeds that can be affected by this are Great Danes, Boxers, Dobermans, St. Bernards, Irish Setters and Mastiffs.
Have you noticed food going missing from your dinner plate? Or maybe an increase in begging? Since your dog is eating all of their food in only a few minutes, they may not realize that their stomachs are full. Just like humans, eating too fast causes dogs to crave more snacks afterwards. Gaining weight can then lead to many other health risks like arthritis, heart disease and high blood pressure.
Bloat is a more severe consequence of swallowing air while eating too fast. However, trapped air can still cause pain and discomfort for your dog. Typically this leads to excessive gas and burping. This may not be life threatening but it can be quite annoying!
Ways to Prevent Fast Eating
Fortunately, there are a number of approaches to consider to help your dog eat in a more relaxed manner.
Frequent Meal Times
If your dog is only eating one large meal a day, this could be a great time to switch up their routine. Just like humans, dogs stomach’s empty within a few hours after they eat. A dog’s hunger response will kick in after 8 hours on an empty stomach. I don’t think we can blame them, if we were fed only one meal a day we would be ravenous as well! After introducing a second or even a third meal your dog will become less worried about getting their food down in seconds.
Switching Your Dog's Food
Your dog may be scarfing their food down because they are not getting enough nutrients in their current dog food. Dog foods labeled with “complete and balanced" contain the key nutrients your dog will need daily. Some dog food brands even cater specifically to fast eating dogs by designing their kibble in a unique shape. Royal Canin created dog food specifically for Cocker Spaniels after recognizing their eating habits. They formed their kibble in a crescent shape to promote chewing.
Please note, if you plan to switch your dog’s food, please do this gradually to avoid an upset stomach!
Slow Feed Bowls
Eating too fast is a very common concern among dogs so there are many types of slow feed bowls to choose from. The Neater Pets Non-Tip Slow Feed Bowl is a great simple design if you prefer to stick with stainless steel. This bowl has a dome in the center that requires dogs to eat around the edge. Since this poses as an obstacle they are forced to slow down. It also has a rubber ring on the bottom that will keep the bowl in place while your dog is eating. The medium size holds up to 1 cup of food and the large holds up to 4 cups.
The Neater Slow Feeder by Neater Pets has a very unique design that resembles an egg crate. This bowl can hold up to 6 cups of food and will portion them into very small servings. Since this bowl is made out of plastic the peaks are very gentle on your dog’s gums. This feeder is recommended for flat faced dogs like Boxers and French Bulldogs since the serving cups are wide and shallow.
Other Slow Feed Alternatives
Looking in another direction for slow feeding? The PAW5 Wooly Snuffle Mat forces your dog to dive nose first into their senses. This mat is a completely new challenge that mimics the hunt for food. Your dog must sniff their way around the mat to find their dinner or treats. No matter the breed, shape or size, the mat is compatible for all.
The Toppl Treat Toy by West Paw is a very interactive treat dispensing dog toy. You can place dog treats or kibble inside the toy to promote slow eating. The toy’s soft inner “teeth” hold the kibble making it hard for your dog to access. Your dog must play with the toy until the kibble eventually falls out the top opening or the side hole. For an even harder challenge the small size can be placed over the opening of the large!
Every dog is different, so one approach may not work as well as the other. You may need to consult your vet for further advice if this behavior continues.
Learning about this behavior and introducing new feeding techniques will lead to a much happier and healthier dog!