Whoa, Rover! Get your dog to eat more slowly
by Jessi Larson
What is it about some dogs? You give them food, and they gobble it down like they’ll never eat again. Sometimes it’s funny or cute, other times it’s annoying. The scary part, however, is that is can be downright dangerous for your dog’s health.
When a dog scarfs down food too quickly, this causes excessive air gets in their system. Irritating problems from this include upset stomach, vomiting and excessive gas.
Even more seriously, eating too quickly increases the risk of choking, digestive problems, obesity and gastric dilatation volvulus, also known as bloat. Bloat occurs when gas builds up in a canine’s stomach and has no place to go, causing the stomach to swell and twist. Sadly, this condition is sometimes fatal. Symptoms include restlessness, increased heart rate, dry heaving and excessive salvation. If you think your dog is suffering from bloat, take them to the vet right away!
To prevent any harm from fast eating, though, try these tricks to get your pup to slooooooow down.
What’s the root of the problem?
Before you start solving the problem, the best thing to do is first find out what is causing it. Some dogs are just naturally chow hounds, like Labradors, Basset Hounds and Pugs. But for other dogs, the issue runs deeper. For example, a rescue dog that spent months wandering around scavenging for something to eat may instinctually wolf down the food at his new forever home out of habit, not realizing he will be fed regularly from here on out. Or it could be an issue with other animals in the house. Your other dog may try to eat his food, so he feels he has to eat super quickly or it will go away.
By identifying what’s wrong, you can find a solution that properly addresses the issue.
Give them small portions
If your dog has a giant bowl of food and chows down without coming up for air, they will just keep eating and eating and eating until they get sick. Instead, only give your pup small portions at a time. Say your dog gets a cup of food at mealtime. First give them a third of a cup. Once they’re done with that, fill the dish with another third, and so on. They will have to naturally take breaks between servings.
Add an obstacle
You can also make it tougher for your dog to wolf down food by adding an obstacle! This is so easy, yet so effective. Take an object that isn’t big enough that it completely blocks your dog’s food but is also large enough that they won’t swallow it while eating. A tennis ball or can of soup will work perfectly. You can also buy a smaller dog bowl and place it upside down in the larger one. Having these objects in the way naturally forces your dog to slow down and savor the food.
Get a slow feed dog bowl
Many pet companies now manufacturer food bowls specifically designed to help your dog eat more slowly. How freakin’ cool is that? The designs of these slow feed bowls will challenge your dog and discourage gluttonous habits.
A new use for a muffin tin
Or if you don’t feel like buying a fancy new bowl, a standard muffin tin will do. Put tiny portions of food in each slot. Your dog can only get to a few bites before lifting up and coming up for air between bites.
Use multiple bowls
Instead of one food bowl, take 2-4 bowls and fill with portions of your dog’s meal. Place them several feet apart so your dog has to take a break and head over to the next. Again, it’s a way to get your pup to take natural breaks and relax their stomach between servings.
Raise the bowl
Another solution is to raise the height of the bowl. Grab a low table or chair and put your dog’s bowls on top. This forces your dog to put their paws on the surface and lean upward, decreasing the air swallowed. This is also easier on their stomach and makes burping less painful.
Give them space
If you’ve found your dog’s issues have more to do with the environment, say a fellow dog in the home that promotes aggressive eating or a lot of frenzied activity going on around them, you may find the right thing to do is sequester your dog away in a quiet room alone. For some dogs, the calm atmosphere will help them relax and enjoy their food more slowly.
Stick with it
Changes take time. It may take a week or two to introduce a new eating method and see results. Have patience. The result: your dog will eat in a much safer and healthier way!