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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Showing 21 comments
  • Diana
    Reply

    My dog’s eating behavior has changed significantly over the past 3 years since the passing of my older dog. I do have 2 other dogs so he is not alone. But eating every day is becoming a Big chore. He had a cracked tooth 3 years ago so the Vet thought “that” might be it but now due to a big molar missing.. He has difficulty chewing at times. I feed him separately and sometimes hand feed him. He’s had blood tests and all is fine and he is not losing weight. He circles the plate, or bowl and behaves like it was a danger-as it it was a snake. I’ve tried baked chicken hamburger, cooked turkey, sausage mixed in with some kibble.. or just plain -no kibble.. I urge him and coax him but after a couple of bites that I pick out and put in floor.. He’ll walk away. I need to give him supplements now because he’s got a torn CCL.. I’m at wit’s end.. I’ve tried tough love and that doesn’t make it any better. I need advice

    • janie
      Reply

      Hi Diana:

      I’m sorry to hear about your dog. Are you sure that there are NO OTHER oral problems? Do his gums bleed when you press on them? How is he is breath? It sounds like there’s definitely a problem that is being overlooked, yet, these eating problems can escalate because the owner gets nervous (rightfully so) because the dog isn’t eating.

      Does he eat with the other dogs or by himself?

      Janie

  • Susan
    Reply

    My dog acts like she never gets enough to eat, she eats to fast , and could eat 24 hours a day, ( I think ) she is over weight , but all she thinks about is food. What to do ????

    • janie
      Reply

      Does she have a large pot belly Susan? Does she have bald spots or patches of hair loss? Does she drink a lot of water?

      What do you feed her?

      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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