Q. Our dog eats so fast it is scary. She doesn’t chew her food and in three or four gulps her whole meal is gone. I know this can’t be good for her. Any ideas on how to get her to slow down and enjoy her food? We have only had her about six months. We think she is a lab mix. Her name is Lola and everything else about her is perfect. Why would a dog eat so fast? She was picked up as a stray, so we really don’t know anything about her past.
A. Lola is a very lucky girl to have a family.
I know exactly how scary watching a dog gulp their food is. I used to have a female who was a gulper. For a treat one day I added some wet food to her kibble. She took a huge bite that got stuck in her throat and she began to choke. I had to do the canine Heimlich maneuver on her. It took three attempts to finally dislodge the food. I really thought I was going to lose her.
So, yes, gulpers are scary and it can be dangerous for the dog. Not only can they choke, it could possibly cause bloat. This is a serious condition that may happen when a dog swallows too much air during a meal. The stomach is like a balloon filling with air that for some unknown reason does not get released. The stomach can turn on itself, cutting off the blood supply to major organs. This is a very serious condition that can kill a dog without veterinary intervention. Some dogs also eat so fast that afterwards they vomit. Not good for the dog or the owner.
There may be a reason for the fast eating. Seeing as Lola was picked up as a stray she may have had to find her own food and wolfed it down before anybody else could get it. Possibly she came from a big litter and had to compete for food.
Do you have another dog? Does she feel like there is competition over the food? If so try feeding her separately so she doesn’t feel threatened. How many times a day do you feed her? Is the food nutritionally sufficient for her?
A trip to the vet to rule out any health issues, like the possibility of parasites, would be a good idea. They can affect the body’s ability to absorb nutrients and can increase a dog’s appetite.
If your canine gets a clean bill of health, consider feeding more frequent, smaller meals. Twice per day is ideal, but some dogs fare even better with three or four. This may help avoid extreme hunger that leads to fast eating and decrease the amount of food Lola can chow down.
A feeding bowl’s design can determine how fast your pooch eats. There are now pet bowls designed with obstructions built inside them. This way the canine has to eat around them, minimizing gulping and excessive air intake. Or try using a cookie sheet so your dog has to pick the kibble one by one, if that’s what you feed. Some folks use muffin trays and put the food into the six individual molds, again slowing down your dog’s rapid food intake. Another option is using a treat ball, such as a Kong, to serve meals in. Or you may choose to hand feed Lola small amounts at a time.
I hope some of my suggestions help slow down Lola’s eating habits.
Sally Salopek is the owner and operator of Attend-A-Pet pet sitting services in northern Door County. She has also worked professionally with animals in health care, pet grooming, training, wildlife rehab and rescue. Send your pet-related questions to her at [email protected].