It’s no secret that most dogs love food. Many hungry dogs will scarf down whatever is in front of them without coming up for air. Although a dog’s speed-eating habits aren’t usually a cause for concern, eating too quickly can cause a variety of problems that pet owners should know.
Dogs that eat too fast can choke, gag, vomit, and potentially bloat, says Carol Osborne, DVM, at Chagrin Falls Veterinary Center and Pet Clinic in Ohio.
Bloating—when a dog’s stomach fills with food, air or liquid and expands, placing pressure on other organs—can be deadly. When this happens, it can make it harder for your dog to breathe, tear the wall of the stomach, and block blood flow to the heart and stomach lining. According to Osborne, bloating tends to affect large, deep chested dogs, like Great Danes and Dobermans.
Bloat and other problems can be prevented by slowing down your dog’s eating. Here are some tips to try.
How to Slow Your Dog’s Eating
If you believe your dog is eating too quickly, try one of these feeding methods to delay the pace at mealtimes:
Buy a special feeder. According to Osborne, hand feeding your dog small, multiple meals per day is key to slowing your dog’s eating, but if you work outside the home and don’t have time to do this, a feeder can do this for you. Look for a programmable feeder that dispenses a small amount of food every few hours.
You also can consider purchasing a puppy feeder or saucer bowls. These dog bowls have a raised ring in the center that can slow your dog’s eating. You can create a makeshift version at home if you have the right materials. Simply place a smaller bowl upside down in a larger one.
Place your dog’s food in muffin tins. Although this can be noisy, try portioning out your dog food inside of a muffin tin. The multiple divots filled with food will make your dog slow down as he goes from cup to cup.
Separate your dogs during mealtimes. If you have multiple dogs, they may view mealtime as a competition. To prevent them from wolfing down their food as a contest, try feeding your dogs in separate rooms.
Get on a feeding schedule. “Feed your dog on a regular schedule and feed multiple small meals rather than a single large meal—this can reduce the pace of their eating,” says Jennifer Quammen, DVM, at Grants Lick Veterinary Hospital in Butler, Kentucky.
Water down your dog’s food. If you feed your dog wet food, consider watering it down, Quammen says. Your dog will have to drink the water to get to the food, which could slow down the eating process.
Place large objects in your dog’s bowl. Try putting large objects, such as a ball or other dog toys, inside your dog’s bowl so he or she has to eat around them, Osborne says.
Buy special toys. Consider getting a special toy that your dog has to play with to get the dog treats out. This method also stimulates your dog’s brain and helps provide your pup with some needed activity. “You can make meal time as creative as you would like to,” Osborne says.
How Often Should I Feed My Dog?
Osborne recommends feeding your dog at least twice a day, no matter what size or breed. Dogs who are potential bloaters or who have histories that might make them susceptible to bloat should consume multiple meals per day.
She also suggested that dogs be allowed to rest for one to two hours after being fed, as exercise after a large meal may cause bloat.
If you’ve noticed that your dog’s appetite seems to be much higher than before, it may be that his body isn’t able to digest or absorb the vitamins and nutrients in the food due to an underlying condition like irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, or Cushing’s disease.
“If a dog eats too fast it’s either medical or behavioral,” Osborne says. “Rule out the medical issue with your veterinarian. If it’s a behavioral issue that you aren’t able to resolve using the resources available to you, talk to a behaviorist. They can give you more options.”
Image: melis via Shutterstock
Teresa K. Traverse is a Phoenix-based writer, editor, traveler and dog mom to Chihuahuas Autumn and Rocket.