Does your dog scarf down their food like there’s no tomorrow?
A lot of dogs eat too fast because they’re simply excited about food. But eating too quickly can lead to health problems down the road, such as indigestion, vomiting, and even bloat.
All of those health problems sound pretty terrible, right? The good news is that there are things you can do to help your pup slow down during mealtimes.
Read on to learn more about why dogs eat fast and how you can help your dog slow down during mealtimes.
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Why do dogs eat fast?
There are a few reasons why your dog might be eating their food too quickly.
They just really like the food
The most common reason is simply that they’re excited about food. Dogs aren’t exactly known for their patience, after all!
Competition from other dogs
If you have multiple dogs, they may scarf down their food so the other dogs can’t steal it from them.
This is especially likely if your dog started eating quickly after bringing home a new dog or puppy.
Another possibility is that your dog isn’t used to regular meals. Some dogs will gobble up their food quickly when they aren’t sure when they will get their next meal.
This is a likely cause for speed eating in rescue dogs. There is no way to know whether or not they got regular meals before coming to your home.
A dog that isn’t getting enough nutrients from their food will eat quickly in an attempt to get as much food as possible. This is usually not a problem with high-quality commercial dog foods, but it can be an issue if you’re feeding your dog a homemade diet.
If you’re concerned that your dog’s diet isn’t providing them with enough nutrition, speak to your veterinarian. They can help you troubleshoot the issue and make sure your dog is getting everything they need.
According to PuppyTip, speed eating can also be a symptom of an underlying illness, such as diabetes, Cushing’s disease, Hyperthyroidism, or intestinal parasites.
If you’re concerned that your dog’s fast eating habits are due to an underlying health problem, speak to your veterinarian. They can run tests to determine if an underlying health issue is causing your dog’s speed eating.
Dangers of eating too fast
As mentioned earlier, there are a few dangers associated with eating too fast.
The first is that your dog could choke on their food. Dogs that eat quickly tend to swallow their food whole instead of chewing it. This can lead to choking and/or gagging.
Luna used to eat so fast that she would cough at every meal. I’m not positive, but I think her coughing was a sign that she was either gagging or choking on her food.
Another issue with eating too fast is that it can cause dogs to vomit. According to PetSafe when dogs eat too fast they swallow air along with their food. The air and food then expand in the stomach causing discomfort. That then can lead to vomiting.
Another reason dogs vomit from eating too fast is because they are choking or gagging and while coughing to clear the blockage, they end up vomiting.
Eating too fast can also lead to a life-threatening condition called bloat, or gastric dilation-volvulus (GDV) complex.
Bloat is a condition where the stomach fills with gas and expands. This is dangerous enough but if untreated can lead to the stomach twisting.
According to the AKC, bloat will cause a dog to die without treatment. Even the rare, mild cases can cause death.
The only thing that can be done for a dog with bloat is to rush them to the vet and hope you got there fast enough to save them.
Because bloat is so bad for dogs, the best thing is prevention. For a dog that eats too fast, slowing them down is the best prevention. And there are multiple things you can try to slow down your dog.
Ways to slow down a dog that eats too fast
There are multiple ways to slow down your speed eater. I’ve tried several of these, some have had more success with Luna than others.
Talk to your vet
The first thing you should do is talk to your vet.
They will be able to diagnose any underlying health issues that may be behind your dog’s fast eating.
They will also be able to verify that the food you are feeding your dog has the proper nutrition for your dog. And they can double-check that you are feeding your dog the right amount. The amounts on the bag aren’t always accurate.
Hand-feeding is one of the best ways to slow down a speed eater.
It works by allowing you to control exactly how fast your dog eats. You control all access to the food, giving it to your dog a little at a time until it’s gone.
This method worked great for Luna, it slowed her down to a reasonable speed, plus it’s free. Nothing to buy, you just use your hands.
Unfortunately, at least for me, I don’t like this method. Luna eats every day at about the same time that I eat. I’m not about to feed her kibble while I eat my own food.
Plus, I can’t stand the way the dog food feels in my hand. Or the amount of slobber that giant tongue of Luna’s leaves on my hand.
Split meals up
Another way to slow down a fast eater is to split their meals into smaller portions and feed them multiple often throughout the day.
For example, if your dog normally gets one cup of food per meal, twice a day, you would instead give them 1/2 cup four times a day.
This can be difficult to do if you work, or have school, during the day.
Slow Feeder Bowl
An easier way to slow down a fast eater is with a slow feeder bowls. These are special dog bowls that have obstacles in them, making it difficult for your dog to eat their food too quickly.
This is my favorite method of slowing down Luna because it’s easy and doesn’t require any work on my part.
I simply put her food in the slow feeder bowl and she has to eat around the obstacles. I’ve tried multiple different slow feeder bowls but found three that I like (two of them are pictured above), all made from the same company and available on Amazon. Petco and Chewy also have slow feeder bowls you can try.
For Luna, I periodically switch out which bowl I’m using. If I let her use the same one for too long she gets the hang of what she has to do and speeds up again. Swapping them out keeps her challenged.
The Kong wobbler works by having a heavy base and a small hole on the side for the food to fall out. Your dog has to knock the wobbler over just right for it to spill some food out onto the floor.
This one worked really well for slowing Luna down, but it does have some disadvantages. The largest size only holds 1 cup of food.
Luna, being a large dog, eats more than 1 cup of food per meal, so I have to put at least part of Luna’s meal in another bowl or fill the wobbler a second time.
The other disadvantage is if you have multiple dogs. Since the food spills out on the floor, if all your dogs are loose at feeding time, it’s hard to ensure that all the dogs eat the proper amount of food.
A snuffle mat is a mat you can make that has a bunch of fabric strips sticking out of it. You put your dog’s food in the mat and they have to use their nose to find all the food.
It seemed to work alright for Luna, but the one I made was just too small for her meals. She gets so much food per meal that the dish mat size I made would get too full of food to really slow her down.
There are options for this method though. You can make a larger mat, a second mat, or just put part of the meal in the mat and feed the rest with a different method.
The dish mat size would work great for smaller dogs, but not for dogs Luna’s size.
Licking mats are similar to a snuffle mat, but instead of having fabric strips sticking out, it has raised silicone bumps. The food goes in the bumps and your dog has to lick the food off.
I haven’t tried this method with Luna for meals, she gets dry kibble, but I have used it for an occasional treat.
While I don’t think it would work with kibble, I do think it would work well for those that feed wet food.
Using a muffin pan is similar to using a slow feeder bowl. You can use it either right side up or upside down.
Right side up you split the food between all the muffin cups. Your dog then has to get their tongue into each muffin cup to get the food.
Upside down you spread the food around the muffin cups and they act as obstacles for your dog. They then have to get their tongue between the muffin cups to get the food.
I haven’t tried this one, but it could be a good option to use instead of a slow feeder bowl. Or use it until you are able to get a slow feeder bowl.
Spread Food on the Floor
This is the easiest method to slow your dog down. All you do is spread the food out on the floor.
The more spread out it is the slower your dog eats as they have to walk around to get all the food.
Though this is a very easy, and cheap, method, I haven’t used it with Luna. The main reason is that it would be very difficult to make sure Morgan doesn’t eat any of Luna’s food.
Another reason is that I just don’t want to throw that much dog food all over my floor and hope that Luna finds it all to eat. I really don’t want to step on a random piece of kibble that was missed.
Put something in the bowl with their food
Putting something in the bowl with your dog’s food is another way to slow them down. Your dog has to eat around the thing, or move it out of the way, to get to all their food.
I haven’t tried this method with Luna. The original one I saw was to use a ball, but I feel Luna would just pick the ball up and drop it out of the way. Once the ball is out of the bowl, it wouldn’t do any good.
Another option would be to put a smaller bowl, upside down, in a larger bowl. This would be similar to a slow feeder bowl as all the kibble would be around the smaller, upside-down bowl.
I think using the two bowls would work well as long as your dog gets a small enough amount to not fill the bowl to the top.
Dogs that eat too fast need to be slowed down. Thankfully, there are many ways to slow them down.
My favorite way is the slow feeder bowl, but it doesn’t work for all dogs. Whether you decide to use a slow feeder bowl or one of the many other methods, I hope you are able to find something that works for your dog!
Hopefully, soon your dog will be eating slower and no longer gulping down their food.