A healthy appetite is a reflection of good health. A dog that doesn’t want to eat is a sick dog. Can wolfing down their food ever be a problem?
A ravenous appetite can be a reflection of a health problem, particularly when your dog is also losing weight or having diarrhea. However natural to dogs, eating too fast can create problems, especially for breeds susceptible to a condition known as bloat.
Eating habits of wolves
Wolves and other wild canines don’t get their food served daily in a bowl. They only get to eat when they acquire food on their own. They don’t always succeed. Because of that, a wolf can eat as much as 22 pounds of meat at a time and then go without food for days. Because competition could always show up, the idea is to eat as much as possible as fast as possible—where did you think the term “wolf food down” comes from?
This instinct is strong in many dogs too. The breeds that are most likely to wolf down their food include
- Labrador Retrievers
- Basset Hounds
- Cocker Spaniels
Even though domestic dogs now enjoy predictable, regular feeding schedule, it doesn’t always make this instinct to go away.
Eat or perish
If your dog didn’t have instinct telling them they need to survive, they would perish. In dogs, the inherited instinct can be further reinforced by competition within the litter and between housemates in multiple dog households.
One way or another, most dogs will wolf down any meal you set in front of them.
Why does it matter how fast your dog eats?
Slowing down your dog’s eating can become essential depending on their diet and breed. If you feed your dog raw meat and meaty bones, they might have to work on that, which can slow them down enough. There is no good research showing whether raw fed dogs get GDV, but I would assume it is rarer than in dogs who eat kibble.
Kibble is specifically easy to “inhale.” Unless the pieces are large and hard, your dog won’t chew it and gobble it down instead.
Eating habits are not the only risk factors but if your dog eats too fast, they will also swallow large amounts of air. Wolfing down food leads to excessive gas and may contribute to a life-threatening condition, gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV).
Gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV)
Apply yourself to slowing down your dog’s eating especially if you own one of the deep-chested breeds that are predisposed to GDV. The affected breeds include:
- Great Danes
- Doberman Pinschers
- Saint Bernards
- German Shepherds
- Irish Setters
- Gordon Setters
- Basset Hounds
Fast eating and drinking is a substantial risk factor. GDV is a life-threatening condition that can kill a dog in matter of hours or even minutes.
More information: Gastric Dilatation And Volvulus (GDV): What Causes It?
How to slow down your dog’s eating?
You can Google it and find a broad range of products to slow your dog’s eating. Amazon alone returns 753 results. If you match the product to your dog’s size, I imagine most of these are effective. My main reservation about these was that they were all made of plastic. Lately, the selection includes stainless steel bowls too.
If you’re gonna do that, the more fun and interesting for your dog would be to go directly to puzzles or treat dispensing toys which offer more interactivity.
I am not going to affiliate-link any of these things; you can pick one you like.
You can use ideas that don’t involve any specific purchases. Some of the ideas as simple as they are genius. For example:
- place a couple of large smooth stones or balls in your dog’s bowl (large enough so your dog won’t swallow them)
- flip your dog’s bowl upside down
- serve your dog’s meal on a cookie sheet
- spread your dog’s portion in a muffin tin (you can further make it more challenging by placing a tennis ball in each cup
What do I recommend to slow your dog’s eating?
I recommend you get involved with your dog’s dinner directly. That way you can have absolutely control over how fast your dog is eating, and even turn it into training, play or bonding session.
I started hand-feeding when Jasmine didn’t want to eat because of her IBD or other health challenges she was going through. When Jasmine got well, we continued to do that because we both enjoyed it.
When we adopted Cookie, I started hand-feeding her as well. I wanted her to bond faster and I wanted to prevent any potential meal-time disagreements with her housemate. I am hand-feeding her still.
Training games and tricks
While you’re at it, why not make meal-time even more valuable? Combine feeding with training or teaching your dog tricks. It will slow down your dog’s eating greatly and go a long way to improving your relationship and enjoyment.
Hide and seek
Engage your dog’s brain and instinct. Allow them to scavange for their food. Hide and seek is a wonderful upgrade. You can hide your dog’s food indoors or outdoors, or play cups.
Gastric Dilatation And Volvulus (GDV): What Causes It?
10 Tricks on How to Slow Down Dog Eating