Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Ditching the slow feed bowl and incorporating more fun and healthy options can keep your dog from eating too fast

Let's face it: some dogs are more "enthusiastic" than others when it comes to mealtime.

Seldom do I ever hear that people have a difficult time getting their dogs to eat. In my line of work, I see that is a very good thing because it helps me gauge how a pet is doing in the absence of their humans. A good appetite means that they're feeling comfortable with what's happening.

For some dogs, nothing slows them down when it comes to eating their meals. Surely many of you can relate — you know, the dog that gobbles up their food like they've not eaten in days.

For this reason, mealtime can pose a real problem for some families, especially if it involves having multiple dogs in the house.

This was the case in my own household for years, and having tried different approaches to help mitigate the issues associated with my dog's habit of inhaling their food – with the risk of a life-threatening condition called bloat being one – I realized some things.

Not all approaches and products are created equal when it comes to addressing this vexing problem, and understanding why each dog engages in gulping down their meals is key.

The natural inclination for us humans is to seek a product to help when we (think) that we see an issue with behavior or health arise, and while there are some good ones out there, I feel that others simply complicate the problem. The latter is especially true if one isn't looking at the big picture.

Understanding the reasons why dogs eat too quickly can help mitigate the incidence of it happening, and avoiding what commonly results: gagging, choking and/or vomiting up everything they've eaten.

In looking at a pet's overall situation, it's helpful for pet owners to ask themselves:

  • Does my dog feel like there's competition over food? Are there other pets in the home?
  • How often does my pet get fed?
  • Is the nutritional value of the food sufficient for the animal?

A trip to the vet is the first rule of order to pinpoint any health issues, like the possibility of your pet being infected by parasites (parasites can affect the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food, increasing a dog's appetite).

If your pooch has clean bill of health, consider feeding your dog more frequent, smaller meals. Twice per day is ideal, but some dogs fare even better with three or four. Feeding a diet that's nutritionally adequate for the pet's needs can help bridge the gap that they physically feel if their diet is lacking.

If there's competition amongst the animal members of the family, consider feeding your gang on opposite sides of the room — or even in separate rooms if possible.

It seems important to note that some breeds are predisposed to acting like a canine vacuum cleaner; Labradors, beagles, pugs, basset hounds, dachshunds, among others.

With so many products on the market to help address the issue of pets wolfing down their food, I find that the ones like slow feed bowls only compound the problem. These bowls can range from having a spoke-like design to a dome in the middle to slow down the amount of food that goes down the hatch at a given time. However, in an even greater effort to ingest the food, I find that most dogs end up get more worked up about their meal than usual, even swallowing a lot more air. These issues are not only leading causes of bloat (something these products were meant to help avoid!), but they typically result in gassiness, as well.

To slow down your dog's pace a few notches, consider adding some canned food to their dry diet, or do something as simple as scatter your dog's kibble in the grass or on the floor so that they can graze. For added enjoyment and to (hopefully) provide some distraction from competition, feed your pet from a foraging toy, like a Kong.

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

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