Is your dog hungry all the time?
Has your dog ever refused food? Unlikely, right? Whether your dog is hungry or not, he’s going to eat when you put food in front of him. There are a few (and those are the outliers) who might be content to eat when they are hungry, but the others, they will scarf down everything in sight as soon as they are fed. Looks like your dog is hungry all the time.
Why is my dog hungry all the time?
To be honest, no one knows really. However, there are a few theories. A few experts believe that when wolves domesticated themselves, they began to look at us as a source of food. Those that were curious and non-aggressive began to scavenge leftover scraps and as a reward, they got more food.
And then there is the behavior after a hunt where the wolves know that they need when the alpha lets you and that means gobbling the food down as quickly as possible. When a human offers it, it triggers the same evolutionary conditioning and the dog just gobbles it up. The only issue is that the ‘offer’ can also include food left on the counter, dropped on the floor or found in the trash.
Dogs hunting in a pack also realize that food isn’t available every day so it’s important to ‘get it while you can’. This trait doesn’t leave the dog even when your dog is fed 2-3 times a day. What if there isn’t another meal for a long time?
And of course, there’s the skill that our dogs have bettered over time of manipulating us into giving them handouts.
How to deal with a hungry dog
Normally we wouldn’t worry about a dog that eats everything. But if your dog is overweight then you need to step in as the pack leader. Check with your vet on your dog’s actual daily dietary needs. Then create a regular feeding program for your dog, and stick to it. Stop all human scraps or handouts (instruct your family members on this clearly). Give treats only when your dog has earned them or when it is designated snack time. Then too, the dog has to be calm and submissive before he gets the treat.
Want to slow down your dog from scarfing his food? You can get a special dog bowl with pillars in them that your dog has to eat around. If you aren’t keen on investing in a new bowl, you can simply throw in a tennis ball with the meal and your dog will have to work around it to get to the food. Please note, this only works when you feed dry food, else you’ll be left with a messy tennis ball that requires cleaning every time.
If your dog leaves food in the bowl pick up the bowl and put it away. This will teach him to eat during meal times only and will stop him from coming back for seconds later. This will also reinforce the idea that food will be made available only during meal times.
Is there a sudden change in appetite?
On the flip side is a dog that isn’t a voracious eater and knows when to stop. But if you suddenly notice a change in a dog’s habit, including eating habits, then you need to take notice and do something about it. Did your dog just go from being a picky eater to a glutton? Don’t ignore it; you need to determine the cause so you can take care of any problem quickly.
There are two primary reasons your dog will suddenly change a habit that is as basic and instinctive as appetite – psychology or physiology. Psychological reasons can include anything change in the environment. Have you shifted homes, or has there been a change in the members of the family? Have grown-up children moved out, has a new person moved in, is there a new baby or have you got any new dogs?
The above can act like trigger insecurity or anxiety in your dog and he can turn on a feast or famine response immediately. A person leaving the home could indicate separation anxiety. A new person could be perceived as a threat to resources, especially if it’s a new dog. You need to ensure the new dog does not intimidate your older one around mealtimes. Or vice versa too.
If your dog has always been docile and has suddenly started to show food aggression, then you can be sure the cause is psychological. Find what could be the trigger and look for ways to help him get over the anxiety. If it’s a new person in the house, then let that individual take over feeding duties for a while. If it’s a new baby that’s taking away attention, then put aside dedicated time to be spent with your dog. If it’s a new dog then make sure you place their bowls apart when you feed them and do not let them approach the other while feeding or even later to look for scraps.
But what if it’s not a psychological issue…
If nothing has changed in the household recently then the chances are that your dog’s increased hunger is the result of a physical problem. Some likely conditions that have led to the sudden onset of increased appetite in your dog could be:
- Bacterial overgrowth in the intestines
- Cushing’s disease
- Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency
- Reaction to medication
In all the above cases, the reason for the increase in appetite is the same: your dog’s body is not able to take in all the nutrients in the food and hence the appetite goes up. No matter how much food they eat, they are in fact actually starving. So the body compensates by eating everything in sight.
Your job as a pet parent
As a pet parent, it is your responsibility to provide your dog(s) with protection and direction. If you notice your dog suddenly start to overeat, you need to quickly determine the cause and then take the necessary behavioral or medical steps.
If your dog just has a tendency to overeat
, then you need to take charge and be in control of what he eats
, how much of it, and when.
We love our dogs and resisting those big eyes and cute faces can be tough. But remember, an overweight dog is not a healthy dog. You are doing him a favor by not indulging his always-on appetite
. Your dog may have no idea when he’s full, but you do. And it is you, bot your dog, who opens the packet of food.