Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."
How to Slow Down a Dog That's Eating Too Fast
A dog eating fast is not only a bad habit, but also a cause for concern since it may lead to several health problems. If you own a dog that wolfs down its food as soon as you put it down, be assured there are ways to address this problem and calm your dog down. Learn what causes your dog to want to gulp down his food, what health disorder he may be predisposed to and also ways you can finally put an end to this frustrating bad habit.
Why Is My Dog Eating so Fast?
The reasons may be several. First of all, it is a good idea to look a bit back into the dog's ancestry. The dog, ''canis lupus familiaris'', as the name implies, derives from the wolf. If you ever watched a pack of wolves eat, you get the idea where the term ''wolfing down fast'' derives from. Jim and Jamie Dutcher in their wonderful book ''Wolves at Our Door'' explain how they were able to witness wolves eating. The wolves after killing their prey, gorged themselves with food, sometimes even consuming as much as 30 pounds of meat at a time!
3 Reasons Why Your Dog Wolfs Its Food
In the wild, wolves do not get to eat every day, because prey is not always readily available. This means often that they get to eat every 3-4 days, therefore when they do eat, they are hungry and as opportunistic beings, they are eager to gulp down as much they can. Then, the following days are spent lounging and digesting the enormous meal. Now, domestic dogs eat every day, often twice a day, but they still appear to have retained this habit of wanting to gulp down things fast perhaps abiding to their theory ''you never know when your next meal may be.''
If you have a multi-dog home, very likely your dogs gulp down fast to prevent the other dog from having the opportunity to have access to the food. So the safest way to protect their food is to keep it in the belly! This behavior is intensified the closer the dogs are within each other when eating. This is why it is best to keep them out of reach from one another.
3. A History of Starvation
Some dogs, especially those rescued with an unknown history, may devour their food. These dogs may have had a history of starvation and being malnourished, and like the wolves, may have a need to finish the food fast in fear of starvation. Some of these dogs may be so eager to eat that they are also possessive over the food and will growl if anybody approaches .
4 Problems Caused by Eating Too Fast
Dogs eating fast comes with its sets problems. This is another reason why if your dog is eating very fast you have to do something about it. Following are some medical conditions or problems that may arise due to eating too fast.
If you own a large, deep chested dog, then you should be concerned about bloat since this condition prefers dogs of this type. Smaller dogs however can also be affected at times. Bloat may arise when a dog swallows too much air causing the stomach to swell up and put pressure on other organs and even twist upon itself causing its blood flow to be cut off. Bloat can be quickly deadlt and requires emergency treatment.
If a dog eats too much too fast, the stomach many not be able to keep up and to avoid the workload, may send everything back up within a few minutes. If a dog brings food back up before being digested, the dog is actually regurgitating therefore unlike in vomiting, pieces of kibble can be seen, and the food brought up is often of a tubular slimy shape due to having been in the esophagus. A regurgitating dog also does not have stomach contractions, but rather the food comes up easily with the dog remaining passive and not appearing anxious.
Obviously a dog that eats too fast will likely choke if it is not careful. This is something you want to prevent as choking can be life threatening if the dog is unable to cough the food particle back to its right path.
4. Teeth Problems
One of the biggest advantages of feeding kibble to dogs is that its shape and texture helps keep the teeth clean and its scraping action may help remove some plaque located near the top of a dog’s teeth. If the dog swallows the most of its food, this scraping action will not exist, causing tartar and plaque to accumulate in all areas of the teeth.
How To Stop Dogs From Eating Too Fast
Stopping a dog from eating too fast has never been simpler.
- If you own multiple dogs, you best bet is to find a distance in which they feel more comfortable. This should be far enough that both dogs do not appear to tense up and are able to ignore each other. If you are in doubt, simply put them in the farthest opposite sides of your home.
- To stop eating fast all together, today special food bowls are on the market to solve the problem once and for all. These bowls are shaped in such a way that prohibit the dog from eating too fast. If dogs will want to eat with these bowls it will have to be slow. If your dog will try to move the bowl around invest in one with a rubbery base that prevents it from sliding and moving around.
Once your dog calms down in eating, you will notice your dog will be able to digest better and you do not have to worry about cleaning up messes left behind after eating too fast.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on December 09, 2017:
Meryl, how about feeding your dog using a Kong Wobbler?
Meryle on December 01, 2017:
I have a slow bowl and she still eating too fast l also tried a bowl with a huge rock in it it worked fine but now she knows how to move it quick so now she is eating fast ☹️
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on October 30, 2012:
Yes, eating fast does not help your dog's teeth. Also, look for some good dental chews to help scrape away tartar, best wishes!.
Lorna on October 30, 2012:
I just acquired a 2 yr old dog with vacuum syndrome...no wonder the vet said her teeth weren't so good for her age....no cleaning from the food...!
Love the fact that there is a special bowl - another example of Keep It Simple.....! Thanks for this....hopefully save me $$ for teeth cleaning.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 01, 2012:
Bukarella, happy you do not have this problem! My male was a sort of Hoover vacuum when he was younger. Happy you liked the picture, that's my Petra~!
Lyudmyla Hoffman from United States on June 30, 2012:
Okay, this is not a problem with our dog, but I had to stop by and comment on the picture - I love it!
mybabytia1 on March 03, 2011:
Wow my dog also eats very fast. I never knew it was cause for concern. Thanx for the hub now I know he needs to slow down. He hasn't had any of the problems you listed but better be safe than sorry again thanx for sharing!!!
DogToys from England on March 02, 2011:
Ha ha! my dogs eat so quick.
GetSmart on March 02, 2011:
I have the pacer balls - same concept only the ball isn't attached so you can put it in any bowl. These work great and those prices on amazon are much lower than at the pet stores.
Pamela Lipscomb from Charlotte, North Carolina on February 24, 2011:
Very informative. I did not know they have these types of bowls. Thanks
lindatymensky on February 19, 2011:
Very useful hub! Next time I'm at the pet store I'm going to look for one of these bowls that slow a dog down when gulping food. I need one. I didn't know they existed.
Dallas W Thompson from Bakersfield, CA on February 18, 2011:
Flag up and "useful!"
ocbill from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice on February 18, 2011:
wow! these are so common yet I see solutions nowhere but you always have it. I remember my st bernard moving the bowl around when she ate & she did scarf down the food. I actually think she wanted to eat fast so she could get the other dogs food. we soon moved his bowl into another fenced off location so he can eat in peace. But then it seemed odd, as he'd leave some food for her to get once he's done.
Perpeptua on February 18, 2011:
Stop them from eating fast food? Why, what's the matter with burgers?
Peter Owen from West Hempstead, NY on February 18, 2011:
these actually do work. I use the bowl with the big metal ball in it. doees't slow the dog down from trying to eat fast, but does limit how much he can get in with each bite
SUSIE DUZY from Delray Beach, Florida on February 18, 2011:
Thanks for the tips. I try to get my dog to eat slower too.
What are the dangers of my dog eating too quickly?
It’s an absolute myth that dogs should always run to their bowls to wolf down their food.
Quite honestly, gobbling food isn’t a good thing. Fast eating can actually be a result of feeling threatened that someone else will get at the food, especially if there are other animals nearby. Maybe she’s just too hungry and isn’t getting enough food for her level of activity. Sometimes it can even be a medical problem, such as diabetes.
Whatever the reason, you need to address this matter fast. In fact, preventing your dog from eating too fast is an important aspect of pet care, because gulping can actually pose several grave dangers, including:
• Choking: Food can easily go down the wrong tube, or she’ll end up taking bites that are just too big to swallow, resulting in gagging.
• Vomiting. When she gulps her food, she also gulps air, and that leads to throwing up food that’s usually not chewed or digested. Sometimes there isn’t even vomit, meaning the dog will stop in the middle of eating she’ll just sit there with her nose facing straight towards the ceiling as if she has kibble stuck in her throat and is trying to relax and get it down to her stomach.
• Bloat: The dog’s stomach fills with air, fluid and/or food. Then the enlarged stomach puts pressure on other organs, can cause difficulty breathing, and may eventually decrease blood supply to a dog’s vital organs. In fact, bloat is considered to be the second leading cause of deaths in dogs after cancer. Even with immediate treatment, approximately 25 to 40 percent of dogs die from this medical emergency.
Large breed dogs (although sometimes small ones are also susceptible), dogs that are thin and have an anxious or aggressive nature can also be at risk. Since bloat is such a medical emergency, it’s a good idea to know the symptoms: distended abdomen, unsuccessful attempts to belch or vomit, retching without producing anything, weakness ,excessive salivation, shortness of breath, cold body temperature, pale gums, rapid heartbeat and collapse.
Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV) or Bloat in Dogs: This video provided by: – Dr. Karen Becker, visit her YouTube Channel
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Fast eaters: stopping your dog from eating too fast
Dog owners frequently ask the Action Petz team how can they stop their dog from eating too fast. In most cases, the response will certainly be: ditch the traditional dog bowl and embrace creative feeding!
THE BAD NEWS: EATING TOO FAST CAN BE DANGEROUS
Why is eating too fast dangerous for a dog? Firstly, we need to consider that a dog that’s eating too fast might not be chewing his food properly, making it harder to travel down his digestive tract. In addition, we need to consider that “inhaled” food might cause choking. In some dogs, fast-eating also causes them to vomit their food, which in turn means you’ll need to feed your dog again!
Please sir, I want some more
And there is of course Bloat. Also known called gastric dilatation or GDV. According to PetMD “rapid eating and gulping results in excessive air, fluid and food filling the stomach, followed by swelling of the stomach cavity. As the stomach expands, it can twist around on its axis, making it impossible for anything to pass through the stomach to the intestines. If this occurs, the animal can go into shock and die quickly.”
THE GOOD NEWS: YOU CAN SLOW DOWN YOUR DOG FROM EATING TOO FAST
Speed-eating might be not great for your dog’s health. However, there's no need to panic. The good news is that it’s easy to discourage this behaviour! The alternatives are unlimited and suitable for all budgets.
It’s time to ditch the bowl!
First things first: supervision and separation!
If you’re planning to slow down your dog at meal times, it is important to remember you must supervise your dog . An unsupervised and “very willing” dog might try to get to his/her food a little bit too hard, causing a bit of chaos as a result.
In addition, homes with multiple dogs need to exercise caution the recommendation is to always separate the dogs to prevent any issues.
Slow feeding bowls
These bowls are designed to make your pooch work a little harder for his food. The majority of these bowls feature protruding sections, compartments and different types of barriers. As a result, your dog wont be able to take large gulps of food.
Most food puzzles feature a series of compartments where you hide food. Your dog then needs to figure out a way to solve the puzzle to obtain his meal.
Treat release toys
These toys normally consist of plastic balls you can fill with your dog’s dry food. The only way for your dog to get his food is by pushing the toy along the floor, slowly releasing the food. Another great alternative is the Kong Wobbler, a treat release toy is a that sits upright until pushed with a dog’s paw or nose, then dispenses treats as it wobbles, spins and rolls.
Compared to the options above, this one couldn’t be easier! There's no equipment needed. All you need to do is to scatter your dog’s food around the floor or the garden. This encourages your dog to eat smaller quantities while using his super nose to find the last bits of food.
If you’re on a budget, or if you’re not sure which product or technique will work best, then a DIY solution might be what you’re looking for. It's especially relevant to remember that supervision is strongly advised with these options. Here’s a small list of our favourites the ones we have certainly tried and tested with our Doggy Day Care pooches:
- Bottle dispenser: put the food in a dry and empty (ensure you remove labels, caps and cap rings) large water bottle. You can then drill a few holes and let your pooch figure it out.
- Spinning dispenser: if you’re feeling a bit craftier, you can make your own Spin-out dog treat game . We have used this at our day care and the dogs love it!
- Snuffle Mat: the snuffle mat is essentially a rubber mat tied with lots of fabric. The way it works is by scattering your dog’s food between all the bits of fabric. You dog will then have to use his nose to find the food, therefore slowing down the eating process. You can read how to make your own snuffle mat here . Alternatively, you can find online pet shops with ready to buy snuffle mats.
- Cereal boxes: if your dog loves to rip stuff apart, you can use this method. Simply put your dog’s food inside the empty box and close it with masking tape. Now blissfully watch your dog destroy the box!
THE UNEXPECTED EFFECTS OF CREATIVE DOG FEEDING
As we briefly mentioned in one of our older posts , dogs benefit from brain training, certainly as much as they do from physical exercise. In fact, Dr Ian Dunbar (one the best regarded force-free dog trainers in the world) argues that mental exercise is, in fact, more tiring for a dog than physical exercise.
It was hard to work on that lunchtime puzzle
To exemplify the concept above, think about this: would you be happy if your only activities were to eat, sleep and go for a walk every day? For the rest of your life? This means no reading your favourite books, not watching TV, not learning anything new…just eat, walk and sleep. By the end of the week most of us would be rather bored, consequently we will start yelling at the postman, tearing the wallpaper off the walls and trying to eat our own body weight due to boredom! Sounds familiar? That’s right, your dog gets bored as much as you do!
The feeding techniques above also have the effect of making your dog’s brain work, trying him in the process and making him less prone to mischief. With all this in mind, it might be time to retire the old food bowl. You will help your dog not just to eat slowly, but also be smarter!
- The Bark: tips to stop your dog from eating too fast.
- The Modern Dog Trainer: Mental Stimulation Ideas for Dogs.
- Pet MD: Controlling Your Pet’s Eating Behavior.
- Blue Cross: Bloat in Dogs.
How to Keep a Dog From Eating Too Fast
How To Make Homemade Puppy Dog Food
If your dog has a high drive for eating -- common among terriers and some sporting dogs -- mealtime can seem like a scene from a pie-eating contest. Dogs that eat too fast can gag, cough and vomit the food back up in a completely undigested chunk, only to eat it again. Eating too fast also causes a potentially fatal condition called bloat. Incorporating games and other strategies into your dog's mealtime can help slow the dog’s eating while the two of you bond.
Speed Eating: Why It’s Dangerous For Dogs To Eat Too Quickly
When it comes to mealtime, there are two types of dogs. 1. The dog who leisurely nibbles and licks his way to a clean bowl. 2. The dog who quickly attacks his food the moment it’s in reach, as if he hasn’t eaten in days and has no idea when he’ll eat again.
Which one describes your dog?
While most dogs are food motivated, scarfing down meals too quickly can be quite dangerous. Read on to find out the potential problems associated with speed eating, the common reasons why dogs eat quickly, and tips to slow down your dog.
The Dangers of Eating Too Quickly
Choking & Gagging – When dogs eat too quickly, they don’t always chew their food thoroughly, which can lead to inhaled pieces getting stuck in their throat. Some common warning signs of choking include:
- Opening his/her mouth and lunging the body forward in an attempt to dislodge the object
- Inability to breath
- Pawing at the face
Anything stuck in a dog’s throat is a medical emergency and can quickly escalate to breathlessness and death. Find out what to do if your dog is choking HERE.
Vomiting – When your dog eats too quickly, there is an increased risk he’ll vomit immediately after his meal.
Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (AKA Bloating) – When a dog eats too fast, along with the food, he also gulps down an excessive amount of air. This causes his stomach to expand. Not only is bloat uncomfortable, but it can be life-threatening. As the stomach expands, it can twist (volvulus), making it impossible for anything to pass through the stomach to the intestines. If this occurs, the animal can go into shock and die. According to Dr. Karen Becker,
“Without immediate treatment, other abdominal organs will also be compromised, along with blood flow to the heart. Ultimately, the stomach will rupture and peritonitis, a fatal abdominal infection, will result.”
- Distended stomach
- Trying to vomit with no luck (or just getting up saliva)
- Shallow, rapid breathing
- Pale gums
What Causes This Eating Behavior?
A Behavior Learned From Puppyhood – From the time our fur kids are just puppies, mealtime is a competition. When nursing, newborn puppies have to compete with their littermates for their mom’s milk. When they transition into food, they still have to compete against their littermates to gobble down enough food before it’s all gone. This eating behavior may carry over into their new home. This behavior may be more pronounced if there are multiple animals in your home, but can still happen if your pooch is an only fur-child.
Not Eating The Right Food – If your dog isn’t eating high-quality food, he may be starving for nutrients. So, he may be more likely to scarf down meals in an attempt to satisfy his nutritional needs. I’m a huge advocate for a real-food diet.
Medical Condition – You’ll want to talk to your veterinarian to rule out any medical causes. Intestinal parasites can rob your dog of essential nutrients and ultimately increase hunger. There are certain diseases and hormone-related problems that your vet may also want to check for. Plus, if your dog is on any medications, check to see if increased appetite is a side effect.
Tips To Slow Down Your Dog
Use A Slow Feeder Bowl – There are dog food bowls that feature various prong and maze patterns. By spooning your pup’s food between these protrusions, your dog won’t be able to grab and gobble large bites at once. These bowls come in stainless steel and plastic. I personally prefer stainless steel, but I’m linking to both versions below!
Make Your Own Puzzle Feeder With A Muffin Tin – If you don’t want to buy a slow feeder then you can replicate the same basic idea with a muffin tin! Grab your muffin tin, spoon a little bit of your dog’s food into each individual cup, and then give it to your pooch. The need to move from cup to cup will help your pooch slow down.
Feed Out of a Kong – The classic Kong toy isn’t just great for stuffing with treats. Spoon your dog’s meal into the Kong’s hole and let your dog work it out.
Put a Portion Pacer In Your Dog’s Bowl – If you feed kibble, you can put a Portion Pacer or large ball inside your dog’s bowl. It forces your dog to slow down and eat around the object. Note: If using a ball or other round object, make sure it’s big enough so your dog can’t swallow it. This may be better suited for small dogs with small mouths!
Turn Mealtime into a Training Session – Instead of just filling your dog’s bowl and placing it on the ground for them to gobble up, use mealtime to practice basic commands. Sit, stay, down, paw! Then instead of an extra treat as the reward, let your dog have a few bites of their meal.
Feed Several Small Meals Per Day – If your work schedule allows it, try dividing your dog’s meals into smaller serving sizes and then feeding several times throughout the day. Offering smaller amounts more frequently may help your dog feel more satisfied.
Keep a Consistent Feeding Schedule – Dogs thrive on consistency and security. So, create a feeding schedule and stick to it! In my house, the dogs eat breakfast around 7 am and dinner around 6 pm.
Do you have any tips you want to share? Leave a comment below!