It’s not something most of us think about, but the problem of dogs with eating disorders is in fact very real and very complex. There are a number of eating disorders in dogs, from overeating to under-eating and just about everything in between, but the hard part is figuring out where the eating disorder came from in the first place.

There may be behavioral issues at play or there may be a serious underlying medical issue. Sometimes an eating disorder can sprout up as a result of a change in dietary habits or eating schedule, while other times things like food allergies can alter the way a dog approaches his or her food.

Sometimes something as seemingly trivial as the weather or temperature can produce a problem.

So what are some of the commonly reported eating disorders in dogs? I’m glad you asked.

Overeating

Overeating can become a habit in dogs with eating disorders. This can come about for a number of reasons, including general boredom and mild stress. Dogs tend to overeat for many of the same reasons we humans do, believe it or not, and a steady and nutritional diet that is portion-controlled can often be the first step out of this valley.

Under-eating

At the opposite end of the spectrum is under-eating. This is marked by a loss of appetite, which can come about for a host of reasons.

Some dogs will go through forms of separation anxiety and refuse to eat, while others will react differently when traveling or going outside the home. Some dogs have been known to under-eat when in a new home or when undergoing stressful events. Dogs who are sick will also show an unwillingness to eat.

Feces Eating

This isn’t overly uncommon, but dogs do eat feces – either their own or that of other animals. When dogs eat feces it’s often related to diet whether the dog isn’t getting enough of what it needs (usually the right protein) or it can even be due to an underlying health issues such as hypothyroidism.  It wasn’t until Jenna’s vet finally figured out that she was hypothyroid and we got her on the right meds and diet and supplements that I was able to curb her eating feces and her pica habits as well.

There is no way to pinpoint exactly how a dog develops this particular habit, but some research seems to point to nervousness and forms of anxiety as paths to feces consumption. Some dogs may also eat feces to get attention from their owners, which can make the act of scolding antithetical to eliminating this problem.

Scoffing

Scoffing is what happens when a dog eats too fast. This problem can lead to bloating and indigestion, among other issues.

In this instance, your dog may need his or her food divided into smaller portion sizes. Households with more than one dog may have dogs with scoffing in the family, as competition sometimes comes into play while pooches try to eat faster or eat more than their “relatives.”

It’s important to give dogs room when they eat.  Designate an area for each dog and close the door or use a baby gate, etc.  I have two dogs and my Lab eats next to the kitchen, while my other little girl eats in the pantry with the door closed.  This allows both dogs to relax knowing the other dog is not going to challenge them for their food.

Solving the problem of dogs with eating disorders requires a multi-pronged approach between you and your holistic vet.  Depending on the eating disorder and the way it impacts your dog, there are a few things you can do. Having a variety of things to eat and ensuring that mealtime is not packed with pressure and volatility is a good start to get in front of the problem of dogs with eating disorders.

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  • wendy
    Reply

    My 7 year old dog eats well, (good kibble) gets good variety, enzymes, kefir etc. and has great energy – except for a day every one or two weeks where she won’t eat anything all day, not even the best treats. She mopes around all day. Then, usually in the evening, she’ll suddenly start eating and be back to normal. Any clues for you here? I’d be very pleased to hear them.

    • janie knetzer
      Reply

      Hey Wendy:
      Actually, it’s not unusual for dogs to “fast” themselves for a short period of time like your girl. Periodic fasting helps to detoxify the body. I can’t say for sure why she’s doing it; but the fact that she’s consistent sounds like she may be doing it for that reason or it’s simply a behavioral/emotional issue.

      What I mean is that maybe there’s something that you used to do every couple of weeks and you no longer do; or maybe she used to visit with another dog every couple of weeks, etc. It’s hard to say Wendy; but it could be either. Fasting for short periods of time shouldn’t concern you too much.

      Janie

  • Jennifer
    Reply

    our dog puke once in a while do we need to be alarmed or is it just normal? We used to feed him twice in a day and gave him treats in between , his puke sometimes is just white or colorless like saliva sometimes it’s yeklowis in Color. We feed him with dry foods but after we find him puking we started mixing warm water with his feeds

    • janie knetzer
      Reply

      Jennifer:

      You should always be alarmed when your dog pukes. It’s his body telling you something isn’t quite right (just like when you puke). Feeding twice a day is good. I DO NOT recommend that you ad warm water to kibble.

      When a dog vomits (or tries to vomit) and the color is frothy white, or just saliva, you need to be concerned about bloat. I don’t know how big your dog is, but this deadly condition usually affects large breed dogs; learn more here. When vomit is yellowish, this is bile. This can also happen when there’s no food in his stomach and the bile that’s being released into the small intestine is irritating.

      I also don’t know what type of food you are feeding, but because it’s kibble and he’s having these issues, I highly recommend that you look into a better food. A good meaty food. Dogs are carnivores. They are not meant to live on dry kibble and adding warm water to it, isn’t the answer. I also don’t know how old your dog is; you supplied little information. If he’s a young dog, I highly recommend a good, raw diet. If he’s older, I recommend feeding either a dehydrated or freeze dried food (you simply add warm water and it’s like a home made meal). You can also supplement it with either Wellness Ninety Five Percent (which is not balanced).

      If you have to feed a kibble due to your financial status, then you need to look into a better one and forget grocery store brands, Walmart, etc. Look into Fromms Four Star Nutritionals and supplement that dry food with more meat such as the Wellness Ninety Five Percent or Merrick’s 96% Grain Free canned meats. Rotate with the chicken and beef.

      By all means, give your dog a good daily multivitamin like this one and organic coconut oil as well.

      Janie

  • Ron
    Reply

    Our Morkie has stopped eating. She would always stop eating during her heat cycle(MAYBE 2 WEEKS). This heat cycle she stopped as usual but 4 weeks later still on a treat diet. Won’t eat her food. Sometimes in this 4 weeks time period she will eat all her food and than not eat for 1 or 2 weeks and only take treats. We have tried steak, chicken, her normal food that she loved but she only want her treats. She is a bit heavy but not eating scares us. Ron

    • janie knetzer
      Reply

      Hi Ron:
      I’m not sure what kind of routine, or if you follow one; but dogs need routine. With that said, I would make sure that you feed her at the same time daily. If she’s on the heavy side, that could be due to the treats. I would make sure she gets a lot of exercise which will help to build her appetite. You should exercise her daily any way.

      Feed her in the morning and at dinner. She gets one treat when she comes back from a walk and that it. I would also change the treats at this point. Stop the association pattern she has going on with the current treats she’s eating. I hope this makes sense.

      Janie

    • Jane
      Reply

      Our little Jack Russell has a luxated lens, which moved into glaucoma. The Dr.’S at the Small Animal Hospital say her eye will have to be removed. Meanwhile, she is home, and even though they gave us pain medication (which she promptly spits back to me!) we are trying to build her up a bit. She plays, and sleeps and for the most part, seems fairly normal. But the eatting habits are turned all upside down for some reason, and she won’t eat her usual hard food. Maybe it hurts to chew it, maybe the taste is different because of medication, I don’t know, but I am afraid of running out of brilliant cooked combinations that she Will eat. I sure never thought I’d have a dog who would be so picky. Do you have any suggestions other than to keep cooking chicken, and give her and occasional leftover 1/2 cooked hamburger?

      • janie
        Reply

        Hi Jane:
        I’m sorry to hear about your little girl.

        When you say “build her up a bit”, do you mean with weight? Also, please share with me exactly what you’re feeding her with regards to food and supplements. Be exact please….

        Janie

  • Ron
    Reply

    Thanks very much. She gets about 20 treats a day. Always had a good appetite except when in heat. I guess she has got us trained. Tonight she ate but we hand feed her chicken. Going nuts trying to see what to give her. Wondered if she is sick, spoiled, a brat, a snot of what. She is coming out of heat still. Seemed like a very long heat. Thanks Ron

    • janie knetzer
      Reply

      Hi Ron:
      Many females do change their eating habits while in heat, as do the male dogs who know that theirs a female in heat near by. While it’s normal for strange eating patterns during the heat cycle, it’s not good if she continues this pattern once the cycle has ended. If she continues to not show any desire to eat after her cycle ends, you need to have her checked for Pyometra, which is a uterine infection and do that ASAP!

      Janie
      Janie

  • Ron
    Reply

    I do get her to eat every other day but can’t get her to eat good daily. She does eat treats daily but very touchy. I am trying different foods each day. Her attitude is very normal and seems as usual. Very tight on cash flow at this time as both out of work. Hope she gets better soon. Thanks Ron

  • Ron
    Reply

    Some more info to help with her problem.
    She weighs about 8 pounds. She is just 6 years old. Today she wouldn’t eat but has had 4 milk bone beef soft chewy treats, 2 inch , a good n fun triple flavor kabob which has a piece of dried chicken,liver and duck the size of a quarter. She also had a piece of dried chicken jerky. Tonight she will get about 1 or 2 beef milk bones again and these are about 2 inches long cut in pieces. She eats this in small portions as I break milk bones up in 3 pieces as treats. Does this stuff have nutritional value??? About the same as dog food? Is real chicken better??? She comes to get food but turns her head. She does go to her box like clockwork to get treats that she knows she will get and takes them. Whats the deal? SPOILED? Out of work and a Vet in New Jersey will hit me for at lease 100 dollars for an office visit without doing anything. Thinking about that Pyometra mentioned earlier. Very Confused! Thanks so much Ron

    • janie knetzer
      Reply

      Hi Ron:
      Milk Bones have ZERO nutritional value and the ingredients are complete junk! If milk bones are on the menu, then I’m sure that her typical dog food (if she has one) most likely isn’t nutritious either. I don’t mean to offend Ron; I’m saying this so that you understand that dog foods you purchase at the grocery store, Walmart and many large pet food chains (like Petsmart) carry very low grade foods. I’m not sure if you heard how many pet owners believe their dog’s died or became very sick due to Beneful? I urge you to get her off of the Milk Bone and grocery store products. I recommend small pet stores which are expensive; but Petco carries some decent brands. They carry Fresh Pet which I often use as treats. So, you may be able to trick her into replacing the milk bones with Fresh Pet. It’s refrigerated and comes in a roll. I cut it up into treat sizes for my large dogs and it’s a nice meaty, balanced treat. It’s worth a shot.

      Yes, real chicken is better, even scrambled eggs are full of protein. Canned sardines in water (drain the water) are good, as are canned salmon which we can get here for about $3.89 for a large can. If you can’t afford a high grade dog food, then you’re better off home cooking and providing a good multivitamin formula daily. The multivitamin formula is critical for home feeding, because this is how your dog gets the bulk of much needed vitamins and minerals missing from the diet. You can’t go without feeding her a vitamin formula when home cooking Ron. Only Natural Pet sells a decent one.

      I would STOP all the treats NOW, forcing her to eat her food. Dogs react to our own anxiety over them not eating. They are very, very smart and pick up on our emotions. Is there a reason why you never had her spayed?

      Janie

  • Cynthia
    Reply

    If an Italian greyhound stopped eating and all tests show nothing other than a healthy dog what could cause this behavior? There is no interest in food or water. We feed a grain free Acana kibble with raw Stella and Chewy patties. He loved eating! Now we are syringe feeding him chicjen with dissolved kibble. Any ideas?

    • janie knetzer
      Reply

      How old is he Cynthia? Was he recently vaccinated? Is he urinating normally?

      Janie

  • Lauren Nagel
    Reply

    Hi
    I just want to say that the average dog owner actually believes that the average dog food sold today is adequate and nutritious.

    In fact, it is not. It bothers me so much to see how we are led to believe that these products, including treats are healthy and safe. But then too there are also generic and or store brands which are certainly less expensive, as well far less than what any dog ought to have. Dog food industry makes billions of dollars each year because the average person is duped into the concept.

    They research exactly what is the least costly to them that a dog can be fed regularly and survive. Corn meal, chicken beaks and claws, also known as chicken by products, meat by products meaning hooves and or meat rendered from the remains of dead dogs and cats are included in that category as well. Dogs fed as cheaply as possible is their business.

    I urge dog owners to please add meat, eggs, some protein daily to your dogs diet regardless of the brand of dog food.

    • janie
      Reply

      You’re absolutely right Lauren. Thanks for sharing.

      Janie

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