Whereas most cats are able to regulate their food intake and may safely be left with a certain amount of food in their dish at all times, most dogs love to eat so much that they will continue eating food that is made available to them. In other words, dogs rarely regulate their food intake, or stop eating when they are full. Furthermore, there are many dogs who will essentially swallow their food as quickly as possible, often without chewing it. Unfortunately, when a dog swallows his food he is usually swallowing more air than is normal and safe, which can lead to a potentially fatal condition known as gastric dilatation and volvulus. So while Fido’s acrobatic eating act may elicit a few laughs, it is vitally important to their health and life to help him learn how to eat more slowly.
Getting Your Dog to Eat Slowly
Just like with any other problem your canine companion may face, the first step to resolving the problem of fast eating is to determine why your dog is eating fast. Here are some tips for helping your dog to eat more slowly:
- Spread out their meals and the way they eat them. Many dog owners choose to feed their dog once a day, but this means that the dog is essentially fasting for twenty-four hours between meals. If your dog just seems to be ravenously hungry, you may need to consider feeding him smaller amounts more frequently throughout the day. You may also consider ways to ensure that he only eats a few pieces of food at a time–for example, scattering his food across the ground necessitates that he eats only a piece or two at a time and move around to get all the food. There are also slow-feeder bowls that are sometimes successful in ensuring that a dog cannot eat more than a few pieces of food at a time. There are even food-dispensing toys that make dogs really work for their food, and allow them to chew, lick and slowly digest individual bites of food in a more drawn-out manner.
- Ensure you are providing a low calorie/high fiber diet. It can be quite tempting to provide you dog with higher quality foods that are very calorie and nutrient dense, but of course this usually means that they are eating very limited volumes of food. The inability to fill up their belly and fully satisfy their hunger can be frustrating to a dog, and cause them to feel constantly hungry, which leads to rapid food consumption whenever it’s provided. In order to resolve this problem, look for a lower calorie, higher fiber diet and provide your dog with a greater volume of food.
- Make sure that your dog does feel like he is in a competition with other pets in order to get his food. Some dogs who may not normally consume their food rapidly will do so when there are other household pets around at feeding time–simply because they feel that these other pets threaten their ability to have all their food. If this is the case, you can try to feed your pets in different rooms of the house, so that they feel comfortable that all their food is theirs alone.
If you have tried the above tricks and your dog continues to eat like he’s starving, you may want to consider having your veterinarian check him out. There are some diseases that can cause a dog to feel perpetually hundred and dissatisfied, and a physical exam and some lab work can help determine whether your dog is suffering from one of these diseases.
However you go about helping your dog to eat more slowly, it is important to ensure that they are still eating the quantity of food that is necessary to maintain his healthy body weight. If he becomes overly frustrated with how he has to eat his food, he may simply give up and stop eating, and this isn’t healthy either. Your goal is simply to help him slow down his eating enough that he benefits most from his food consumption and keeps safe.