How are your dog's table manners? Is he a "Gobbling Gus" or a "Dainty Danny"? Some dogs are simply more enthusiastic about food than others. Some dogs are nibblers. They eat a few bites at a time. Then they are off to more exciting activities. Other dogs are gobblers. They devour their meal as soon as the bowl has touched the floor. It makes you wonder if they even taste what they are eating!
Health Problems from Dogs Eating Too Fast
Is eating too fast bad for your dog? The answer is yes. It could cause problems. The first danger is that your dog could choke or gag on his food. If he swallows food whole without chewing, the pieces could get stuck in his throat. 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. The food and air mix together in the stomach and can cause your dog to vomit or regurgitate.
Gulping air while eating could lead to a serious condition called Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus. GDV or "bloat" is life threatening. No one knows for certain what causes bloat. Some think that it can happen when a dog eats too fast and gulps air into their stomach. The stomach expands with food and air. It can then twist (volvulus), and even rupture. This is a medical emergency situation. The dog can go into shock and even die.
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 and Cushings disease. If your dog is on any medication, ask if any of the side effects is increased appetite. Your veterinarian can also test for intestinal parasites. Parasites can rob your dog of essential nutrients, causing increased hunger.
While you are at your veterinarian's office, ask their opinion of the brand of food your dog is eating. Unknowingly feeding a food that is of a lower nutritional value can leave your dog feel unsatisfied. This could cause him to obsess over food.
There are other reasons why 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 Slow Down Fast Eaters
So you've ruled out any 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 everyone separately. Give them their own space. This may help a dog that is anxious about food feel less stressed.
Increasing the number of meals per day could help. If you only feed your dog once a day, try dividing the total amount into 2 or even 3 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 put some kind of obstruction between your dog and the food, he will have no choice but to slow down.
Feeling creative? You can make your own food puzzles. 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 in order 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 kibble!
You can also purchase food puzzle 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. This will also encourage your dog to use his brain to solve a problem.
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. Try different approaches. See which works best for you and your dog. Keep him happy and safe and have a little fun at the same time!