Some dogs are true food connoisseurs, savouring each mouthful and enjoying the whole process of mealtimes. More common, however, are the guzzlers: the dog eating too fast and throwing up, the dog eating too fast not chewing, the dog eats too fast and chokes.
Sound familiar? Dogs eating too fast is a common worry for owners, so in this article we’ll go through how fast is too fast for a dog to eat, the signs and symptoms of a dog eating too fast and how to help. Read on for more!
Is my dog eating too fast?
Well, this is the question, isn’t it? How fast should a dog eat? There is no absolute answer to this, no set measurable time that we can use to check whether our dog’s eating habits are acceptable or not. For a general rule, if your pup’s food disappears in under a minute, that may be too fast, especially if you can’t see or hear any chewing or any movement of food around the bowl. If dogs inhale food without chewing, you can generally tell due to a distinct lack of chewing motions and noise, which are replaced by constant gulping.
The dangers of fast eating
Let’s have a look at the dog eating too fast symptoms, as there are some hidden dangers of this common habit.
1. Digestive problems
The digestive tract starts right up in the mouth, and chewing is an important first stage of digestion. The teeth break the food into manageable pieces, and mix it with saliva, which contains digestive enzymes. When my dog eats too fast and doesn’t chew, the food bypasses this first stage which can lead to digestive consequences such as vomiting and diarrhoea.
If your dog is fed on kibble, especially larger pieces, there is a real risk of choking if these biscuits are gulped down whole. This can cause gagging, retching, and vomiting and is unpleasant both to experience and to witness!
Gulping food down quickly often results in a lot of air being swallowed. The digestive tract can cope with small amounts of gas, but too much can cause bloating and discomfort. Puppies often develop hiccups if they eat quickly, but excess gas can cause dogs to be unsettled and very uncomfortable.
Eating a large meal quickly, and taking in too much air whilst eating can also be risk factors for gastric dilation and volvulus (GDV), a highly serious disease where the stomach bloats and then twists around on itself. Symptoms include a distended belly, retching without anything coming up and markedly unsettled behaviour. If you are concerned that your dog may have bloat, contact your vet immediately as this is an emergency and dogs can rapidly deteriorate.
Why do dogs eat so fast?
Our modern-day domestic dogs are provided with ample food and everything that they might possibly need. So why do they gulp down their meals as if they will never receive food again? There are a few common reasons for this behaviour.
Puppies are often born in large litters, and this fuels competition for food from a young age, a behaviour which then becomes deeply ingrained. This innate need to eat quickly can persist through life, and can be exacerbated if the dog lives in a busy home environment with other pets.
2. Irregular meals
Dogs don’t wear watches, although we’re pretty sure they’d look ace if they did! However, they do have a pretty good grasp of timings, as any pet owner who owns a pooch who waits carefully by their bowl ten minutes before breakfast time can tell you. Dogs also thrive on routine, and irregular meals can cause anxiety around feeding. Pups who are unsure when their next meal will come are more likely to bolt the food when it is given.
3. Poor nutrition
A complete, balanced diet is so important for our precious pups. Nutrition is the foundation of good health and wellbeing. If a dog’s food is not nutritionally balanced, or contains poorly digestible components, your dog may feel constantly hungry even though they are provided with food, which can lead to frantically fast eating.
Has your dog’s appetite suddenly changed? Do they seem ravenously hungry all the time, constantly pestering for food and bolting their meals down ravenously? Some medical conditions can cause changes to appetite, so it is always a good idea to get your pup checked over by a vet if you are concerned.
How to stop a dog eating too fast
We’ve established why your pooch may be a guzzler, and why this may be bad for them, so what can we do about it? How do we slow down dog eating when we can’t sit them down and have a quiet word about their table manners?
Here’s our top tips.
1. Quiet mealtimes
If competition may be playing a role in your pup’s approach to food, even a historic role, it can be worth setting the scene for a calmer meal. Keep mealtimes consistent and feed your pooch in a quiet room away from the hustle and bustle of our busy lives.
2. Spread it out
If you feed your dog on biscuits, a quick and easy trick to slow them down when eating is to use a tray (or similar) to put their food in rather than a bowl. Having the kibble spread over a larger area physically prevents them from inhaling large amounts of food quickly and naturally forces the meal to be eaten more slowly.
3. Slow feeder bowls
There are now super clever bowls which are designed specifically to slow down dog eating! Make sure you choose one that is well designed so it doesn’t just cause frustration, and instead turn mealtimes into a form of enrichment and pleasure.
4. Puzzle feeders
On a similar note, there are a range of puzzle feeders available, where your dog must put some effort into getting their food. These are great for slowing down eating, and also for those dogs on the chubby side who could do with working harder for their food!
5. Smaller meals
Eating a large amount of food very quickly is bound to make your dog feel uncomfortable and bloated, and can cause a variety of digestive symptoms. Whilst you are working on ways to slow down dog eating, try feeding smaller meals, more frequently. Keeping your dog feeling full and satisfied for more of the day can help reduce their need to guzzle food down, and smaller meals will sit easier in the stomach even if eaten too quickly.
Eating too fast is a common problem in dogs, and can result in digestive problems, from mild discomfort to life-threatening bloat. Feeding small meals at consistent times in a quiet environment can help, and these dogs often benefit from using a slow feeder bowl or similar to prevent problems.