My dog eats too fast...if you've found yourself thinking this you are hardly alone. It seems that many dogs take an overly aggressive approach to eating and wolf down their meal so fast that you may wonder whether they've even tasted it. This is something that Aussie owners are familiar with and unfortunately it can be quite serious. Eating too fast can be dangerous so if it's a problem for your dog you need to do something about it.
When a dog eats his food quickly, he can swallow some pieces whole, which could then become lodged in his throat and cause him to choke. Even if he avoids choking he could still have a problem if he is swallowing too much air with each bite. The quicker a dog eats, the more likely he is to swallow large amounts of air and this excess air can expand inside the stomach along with food causing him to feel bloated.
Bloating can cause pain and even lead your dog to vomit but that's not the worst thing that can occur when a dog eats too fast. Severe bloating can sometimes lead to a condition called Gastric Dilatation Volvulus, or GDV. In GDV, when the stomach begins to expand due to excess air it also twists and can even rupture, which can be fatal.
There can be many different reasons why your dog tends to eat too fast. Sometimes it is a learned behavior when a pup is part of a large litter and has to fight for food along with his siblings. This can also be true for adult dogs in a multi-dog household. In some cases, there could be an underlying condition that is causing increased hunger, such as Cushing's disease or diabetes. Or your dog may just not be getting enough nutrition from the food you are using.
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The first thing to do when a dog eats too fast is to consult your vet to make sure there isn't a medical reason for it that requires treatment. Once your vet has ruled this out, then you'll need to take steps to solve the problem and help your dog slow down his eating to avoid bloating and choking. Fortunately, there are several relatively easy ways to achieve this; it just may take a little creativity on your part.
If the underlying cause is due to competition from littermates or housemates, then you should try to feed each dog separately, making sure each dog has their own space. If the problem is nutritional, you may need to change dog foods to a formula that works better for your dog. You also may want to try feeding him two or three smaller meals throughout the day rather than just feeding once.
Another thing you can try when a dog eats too fast is making him work for his food by using a product like the Fun Feeder available on Amazon. These are bowls that are made in a series of intricate, maze-like designs that require your dog to take his time to get to each and every bite. You can also try homemade methods including hiding the food and letting your dog hunt for it. This may be particularly effective for breeds like the Australian Shepherd who love to work and respond well to rewards.
No matter how you choose to go about it, it's important that you get your dog to slow down and enjoy his food. That way he'll be eating better and healthier and you can both breathe easier.