It’s no secret: Dogs love food. Many hungry dogs will scarf down whatever is in front of them without coming up for air. But although a dog’s speed-eating habits aren’t usually a cause for concern, eating too quickly can cause a variety of problems: choking, gagging, vomiting and even dangerous conditions like bloat, says Carol Osborne, DVM, at Chagrin Falls Veterinary Center and Pet Clinic in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.
So how can you slow your dog’s eating to keep them healthy and happy? Follow these 11 vet-recommended tactics to help your pup savor the flavor a little longer.
The Dangers of Fast Eating
If your dog is eating too fast, it’s likely their food isn’t being chewed properly. Similar to humans, fast eating can pose several risks, some potentially life-threatening.
Risks of eating too fast include:
- Bloat—a potentially deadly condition when a dog’s stomach fills with food, air or liquid and expands, placing pressure on other organs that’s more likely to affect for large, deep chested dogs like Great Danes and Doberman Pinschers.
- Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), another life-threatening condition in which a dog swallows a lot of air, resulting in the stomach enlarging and then twisting on itself. Large dog breeds with deep chests are also more at risk for GDV.
If you suspect your dog is experiencing either bloat or GDV, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Fortunately, bloat and other health issues can be prevented by slowing down your dog’s eating. Here are some tips to try for your dog’s next meal.
How to Slow Your Dog’s Eating
If your furry friend gobbles their kibble, try one of these feeding methods to delay the pace at mealtimes:
1 Use an automatic feeder.
According to Dr. Osborne, hand- feeding your dog small, multiple meals per day is key to slowing your dog’s eating. But if you work outside the home and don’t have time to do this, an automatic feeder can do this for you. Look for a programmable feeder
that dispenses a small amount of food every few hours.
make mealtime safer by concealing or obstructing small amounts of dry food from your dog, making them use their brain to solve the “puzzle” of how to get those tasty morsels! These puzzle toys slow your pooch down by forcing them to pick up the single kibbles from around little obstacles—meaning your fast eater can’t grab whole mouthfuls of food at once. Plus, they’re great for mental stimulation and enrichment
3 Place your dog’s food in muffin tins.
Looking for a DIY approach? Try portioning out your dog food
inside of a muffin pan. The multiple divots filled with food will make your dog slow down as they go from cup to cup.
4 Separate your dogs during mealtimes.
If you have multiple dogs, they may view mealtime as a competition where the winner eats the most food (so the others can’t have it). To prevent them from wolfing down their food as a contest, try feeding your dogs in separate rooms.
Think of a snuffle mat
as a placemat for your dog—except these placemats are made with large strips of fabric to hide your dog’s food, encouraging them to use their nose and forage. Dr. Chyrle Bonk, DVM, veterinarian at Clearwater Valley Veterinary Clinic
in Orofino, Idaho, says that both food puzzles and snuffle mats help keep a dog satiated longer, which can cut down on begging in addition to preventing risky food-hoovering.
6 Get on a feeding schedule.
No matter how often you feed your dog throughout the day (remember: multiple small meals are better), try to feed your dog around the same times every day. This can reduce the pace of their eating, says Jennifer Quammen, DVM, chief veterinary officer for TeleVet in Walton, Kentucky, perhaps because it makes mealtime less of an unexpected surprise.
7 Water down your dog’s food.
If you feed your dog wet food, consider watering it down, Quammen says. Your dog will have to drink the water to get to the food, which could slow down the eating process.
8 Buy a slow feeder bowl.
Unlike regular food bowls, slow feeder dog bowls
have ridges in the bottom of the bowl that the kibble slips between. This helps slow down your dog’s eating since they can only grab one or two pieces at a time, preventing them from scarfing down mouthfuls of food without chewing and decreasing the amount of air they swallow.
9 Place large objects in your dog’s bowl.
Try putting large objects, such as a tennis ball or other dog toys
, inside your dog’s bowl so they have to eat around them. Make sure the objects are large enough that your dog cannot swallow or choke on them.
10 Use treat-dispensing toys.
Consider getting a special toy that your dog has to play with to get their dog food out. Treat-dispensing toys
are often used with dog treats
to provide mental enrichment to dogs—but for a food-motivated dog, kibbles will be just as rewarding. Plus, most treat-dispensing toys dispense those tasty morsels one at a time, meaning no fast and furious chowfest for your pup.
11 Turn mealtime into a training session.
You know your dog is motivated by food—why not use it to your advantage? Make a game out of feeding by having your dog do obedience tricks
to get a few pieces of kibble from your hand. It’ll keep their eating pace safe, and reinforce the training commands they know as a bonus.
How Often Should I Feed My Dog?
Follow these tips from Dr. Osborne to decide how much to feed your dog. As always, bring any concerns or questions to your veterinarian to get recommendations tailored to your unique pup.
- Feed your dog at least twice a day, no matter what size or breed.
- Dogs who are at higher risk for bloat should consume three or more meals per day.
- Let your dog rest for one to two hours after being fed, because exercise after a large meal may cause bloat.
- If you notice a spike in your dog’s appetite, it may be due to an underlying condition like irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, or Cushing’s disease that affects the body’s ability to digest or absorb the vitamins and nutrients in food.
- If your dog eats too fast no matter what you try, consult your veterinarian to rule out any medical reasons for their behavior. If they get a clean bill of health, consider contacting a dog behaviorist who can offer suggestions.
With the above tips and a little luck, your dog will be displaying proper table manners in no time. Considering switching your pup to a new food? Find out how
Expert input for this story provided by: Dr. Chyrle Bonk, DVM, veterinarian at Senior Tail Waggers; Dr. Carol Osborne, DVM, at Chagrin Falls Veterinary Center and Pet Clinic in Chagrin Falls, Ohio; and Jennifer Quammen, DVM, at Grants Lick Veterinary Hospital in Butler, Kentucky.