Does your dog finish its dinner and expect a treat? Is it always on the hunt for snacks? Does it treat every morsel of food as though it hasn’t seen food in ages?
If so, you may have a food-obsessed dog. In this post, you’ll find out why some pups get so fixated on eating and how to make your dog less food-obsessed.
Why Is Your Dog Food-Obsessed?
Many factors can contribute to a psychological obsession with food. Adopted dogs may have a troubled background where they had to fight for food, and old habits are hard to break. You may have to be patient and train your dog not to fight for more food.
Feeding multiple dogs can also lead to this type of behavior. While it’s more convenient, many trainers recommend feedings dogs separately. They think some dogs develop psychological problems when there isn’t an equal amount of food available.
Poor Nutrient Absorption
Poor gastrointestinal absorption causes many problems. When your dog isn’t getting enough nutrients, it’ll want more food to feel full. In addition to seeming hungry, your dog may show signs of diarrhea and weight loss even with increased appetite. You may also notice your dog eating things that aren’t food – a condition known as pica.
Hypothyroidism is where underactive thyroid glands don’t release enough hormones and slow a dog’s metabolism.
Symptoms include increased appetite, weight gain, depression, low tolerance for cold weather, infections, and weight gain. Hypothyroidism is common in medium to large dog breeds. Some breeds like Irish setters, Greyhounds, Dobermans, and Greyhounds are genetically predisposed.
If your dog is experiencing these symptoms, consult with your veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment options.
In addition to an obvious food obsession, you may also notice a bloated abdomen and excessive urination in your dog. A tumor causes this disease in the dog’s pituitary gland. Often, owners mistake Cushing’s disease as part of the normal aging process, and sometimes vets will misdiagnose unless they test for Cushing’s. Your vet will take a series of tests, including blood work, to ensure that no other disease is possible.
Medications exist to treat Cushing’s, allowing your food-obsessed dog to get healthy and feel less hungry after proper treatment.
Diabetic dogs are food-obsessed because their cells don’t properly absorb sugar. That’s also why most diabetic dogs lose weight despite increased food intake. You may notice other symptoms such as urinary accidents in the house, dehydration, vomiting, and lethargy. Dogs of any breed can develop diabetes, but Miniature Schnauzers, Schnauzers, Poodles, Australian Terriers, Spitz, Bichon Frise, Samoyeds, and Keeshonds are more prone to diabetes.
Parasites can be fleas, or they can also be hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms, coccidia, giardia, and spirochetes. Dogs can get parasites in several ways. Sometimes puppies acquire the parasites from their mother when nursing; sometimes, adult dogs may lick the parasite’s eggs.
Roundworm: This can be transmitted by small rodents or contaminated food or water. Other symptoms of roundworm are abdominal pain and diarrhea. Roundworm disease is treatable with medication, but it has to be correctly diagnosed first.
Hookworm: These parasites “hook” into your dog’s intestines and feed on its blood, leading to low iron levels in the blood.
Tapeworm: These parasites spread by fleas and feed on blood and other nutrients in your dog’s body. They cause blockages, intestinal problems, and bloating. They can also reproduce asexually, meaning they can continue to multiply inside your dog’s gut indefinitely.
Whipworms: These parasites burrow into the skin and head for the intestines. Roundworms, tapeworms, and whipworms are most likely to be the reason dogs have increased appetite as they cause malnourishment. A quick trip to the vet can prove whether or not intestinal parasites are good for your dog. Fortunately, most cases can be treated with dewormer or other medication.
Most Food Obsessed Dogs
How to Make Your Dog Less Food-obsessed
Cut Back On The Treats
Cutting back on treats and snacks for a hungry dog sounds counterintuitive, but if your dog has learned to expect frequent treats, it needs to unlearn that behavior. If you use treats as training rewards, try substituting play, cuddles, or other positive attention lavished on your dog as you reduce the treats offered.
If you still want to offer treats, make sure they contain whole fresh ingredients and are very low in fat.
Don’t Give in to Begging.
Know that giving food-obsessed dogs too many treats will make the problem worse. Never give in to the temptation to overfeed because it makes dogs hungrier. Overfeeding also leads to obesity, which decreases hormones that control appetite.
Offer the Right Amount of Food
Just because your dog wants several helpings doesn’t mean he should. Talk to your vet about your dog’s dietary needs and determine the right amount of food for your dog’s breed, size, and age.
Some experts recommend feeding amounts based on the ideal weight for your dog and not the weight it would like to be.
Meet Senior Dogs’ Needs
There is a misconception that senior dogs need the same food as pups. In reality, dogs’ metabolism goes down as they age. At the same time, their digestive systems become less efficient at processing foods.
Many senior formulations use hard-to-digest fillers to bulk up the food. When these undigested fillers pass through the senior dog’s system, they enable it to eat more and force its system to work harder. Feed your food-obsessed senior dog high-quality, easily digestible dog food. It helps them get optimal nutrition by eating less while absorbing more nutrients.
Pack in Nutrition
Senior dogs aren’t the only ones who need good nutrition. All dogs need various nutrients for growth, energy, and health. The high heat in processed foods can damage nutrients. Synthetic ingredients are harder to digest than organic ingredients.
Fresh, lightly-cooked food offers real nutrition in an easily digestible form. When your dog gets more of what it needs, it will feel less hungry and stop being food-obsessed.
As a dog parent, you have to make healthy choices for your pets. That means talking to your vet about health issues and creating a treatment plan. It also means making healthier dog food choices.
You have to give your dog what he needs, not what he wants, even if he looks really sweet when asking for one more bite!
Distract Your Dog
Try to get your dog’s mind off the hunger. Rather than giving it a treat, take it for a walk or go for a ride in the car. Also, this is a great time for training exercises.
If you can distract your dog with exercise and interaction, you can reduce his cravings and spend quality time together. Plus, getting exercise is a bonus for a dog that likes to eat.
Schedule a Vet Visit
Some medical conditions can cause a dog to feel extra hungry so take your dog to the vet to rule out possible conditions like hypothyroidism, diabetes, and Cushing’s disease.
Cancer can also make dogs extra hungry, so if your dog is eating more than normal while not gaining weight, take it to a veterinarian to make sure nothing serious is going on.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the cost of treating food obsessions in dogs?
Treating a food obsession in dogs can be expensive, depending on the cause of the problem. Treatment for intestinal parasites ranges from $20 to $100, depending on the severity of the infestation. Diabetes can cost an average of $2500 to diagnose and treat.
Which dog breeds are food-obsessed?
Labrador Retrievers are popular for being particularly food-obsessed. These dogs carry the POMC gene mutation, causing an insatiable appetite.
Did you know? Food obsession can also lead to food aggression. If your pup seems possessive of food, use these techniques to address the issue early.
Though not subject to the POMC variant, several other breeds are infamous for their affinity for eating. These include:
- Basset Hound
- Pembroke Welsh Corgi
- French Bulldog
- Golden Retriever
Dogs view food as a prize to an extent. Some people think this is because our modern pups descend from wolves, and the mindset of food scarcity may simply be programmed into their genetic memory.