Ask the Vet: Speed Eater
We have had issues with our 7-month old puppy, Philly, and her eating...she always seems nervous when she eats -- tail tucked between her legs and she will consume her food very rapidly. She often eats her breakfast and within 10 minutes will throw it all up. We have taken her to our vet and spent a good chunk of change to find out there is nothing wrong as far as they can see. What do we do?
I wonder if Philly came from a large litter. Her eager appetite and anxious stance while she is eating suggests that she may have had to compete with her littermates for food. In any event she is showing classic guarding behavior by wolfing down her food before anyone else can get to it. This behavior can cause problems such as vomiting when she eats too fast, food aggression and gastric dilatation, or volvulus, which is also known as bloat. Bloat is a serious condition and can occur when a dog swallows too much air during a meal causing distension of the stomach and predisposing it to twist over on itself. Philly is still young so it shouldn’t be too hard to slow her down and to try to make her feel more at ease during meal times.
A good first step is to try feeding small amounts more often. Let’s suppose you currently give Philly two cups twice a day – in that case, try giving her one cup four times a day instead. This will decrease the amount of food she can wolf down at any particular time. The next step is to actually slow down the process of eating by making her work a little harder for the food. You can put a soup can in the middle of the dish or arrange some large rocks in the bowl to slow her down, just make sure the rocks are clean and large enough so that she can’t fit them in her mouth. There is also a special food dish called the “Brake-fast” dog food bowl that has 3 plastic pegs in the bowl that the dog has to eat around. Finally, I’m concerned that her anxious stance during eating may progress to food aggression and it is important to try and prevent that. If there are other animals in the household, consider feeding Philly separately so that she does not feel threatened. Try feeding some of her food by hand and every now and then put a treat in her bowl while she is eating so she understands that someone walking up to her food bowl is not a bad thing and isn’t going to take it away from her. Hopefully, these tips will help slow her down and make meals a little more pleasant.