Does your dog wolf down food? Does it seem like he’s absolutely killing the kibble?
Some dogs are nibblers. Many dogs are gobblers. They devour their meal as soon as the bowl hits the floor. It makes you wonder if they even taste what they are eating. Gulping with such gusto can present some problems for your dog, but there are some things you can do to ease your worries and slow the roll to and from the bowl.
Dogs eating too fast can cause health issues
The first danger is that your dog could choke or gag on his food. Dog owners know the “Ack ack” sound well. If he swallows food without chewing, the pieces get stuck in his throat (Ack!). And when dogs gulp their meal too quickly, they swallow air along with their food. Food and air expand in the stomach, causing pain and discomfort. This can cause your dog to vomit or regurgitate and lead to a serious condition called gastric dilatation-volvulus, or bloat. No one knows for certain what causes it. Some veterinarians think that it can happen when a dog eats too fast and gulps air into his stomach, which then expands with food. The stomach can then twist (volvulus), and even rupture. This is a life-threatening medical emergency, and sometimes surgery is the only treatment option.
Why your dog gulps his food
So why is your dog eating so fast? First, you will want to rule out any medical cause. Your veterinarian may want to test your dog for certain diseases like diabetes mellitus or a hormone-related problem such as Cushing's disease. If your dog is on any medication, ask if the side effects include increased appetite. Your veterinarian can also test for intestinal parasites, which can rob your dog of essential nutrients and increase hunger.
Ask your veterinarian about the
There are other reasons a dog may eat too fast. As a puppy, he may have had to compete with littermates for food. He learned to eat quickly before his brothers and sisters beat him to it! This behavior can then become a bad habit. Even as an adult, there may be competition for food among housemates.
How to get your dog to slow down when eating
If there’s no medical reason for your dog's eating habits, what can you do to slow your dog down at meal time? If you have a dog that is eating fast because he is worried about competition from his housemates, try feeding each dog separately. Give them their own space. This may help a dog that is anxious about food feel less stressed.
One option is to reduce the amount of food your dog can access during a single feeding. PetSafe brand timed automatic dog feeders can dispense food on any schedule you’d like. The PetSafe® Smart Feed can be controlled and programmed with your phone to reduce and schedule portion sizes.
Increasing the number of meals per day also could help. If you only feed your dog once a day, try dividing the total amount into two or even three meals a day. Offering smaller amounts more frequently may help your dog feel more satisfied.
There are “slow feeder” bowls that are made to slow down rapid eaters. The bowls come in different shapes and sizes. They can be purchased in stores or online. You can also use a bundt pan or put a tennis ball in a normal bowl, which works on the same principle. If you place an obstruction between your dog and the food, he will have no choice but to slow down.
You can also purchase food-puzzle dog toys. The food is placed inside the toy. Your dog has to figure out how to roll, slide, or otherwise manipulate the toy in order to get the food out. PetSafe® brand dog toys like the Tug-A-Jug will also encourage your dog to use his brain to solve a problem.
Make your own food puzzles for a creative boost for you and your dog. Cupcake or muffin tins filled with morsels of dry food and covered with appropriately sized balls can also be a way to slow down greedy eaters. Your dog must remove the ball to reach the food (Just be sure the balls are too big for your dog to swallow!). These same tins can also be flipped upside down. Place the kibble in between the mounds. Your dog will have fun figuring out how to get to the food.
Make a game out of mealtime. Hide the food in various locations throughout the house or even in the yard. Your dog will have to "hunt" for his food. This will not only provide some playtime, but some exercise too!
Every dog is different, so try different approaches. See what works best for you and your dog. Keep him happy and safe and have a little fun at the same time!
Soon your pup will be a nibbler, not a gobbler.