Is your dog always hungry? Well…of course he is. It’s not that hard to figure out that no matter what or when you feed your furry friend, he will always be back for more… always. Almost everyone with a dog has experienced this situation and so the questions arise: is this normal, is he sick, are you feeding him enough?
Before you start to get too worried, you should know that in most cases, this ultra-common behavior is considered absolutely normal. And although an exact answer has not yet been established, you’ve gathered some of the most important behavioral causes and solutions for you to browse through.
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The Root of the Behavior
The most common explanation for your dog’s insatiable appetite seems to be…biology. If you compare the domestic dog to its nearest wild relative, the grey wolf, you will see that they both have adopted a feast-or-famine diet. This means that whenever there’s food around, they have to get it while they still can…and they have to get it all. Why? Because their natural instincts dictate to "eat it when the alpha wolves let you and before any other wolves can.”
As you see, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your dog is hungry, but rather that he is eating because he’s learned the concept of scarcity and food being a limited resource. This is especially relevant if your dog has suffered significant periods of malnutrition and chronic lack of food in the past. More so, your dog may simply be acting hungry because it’s a habit he’s grown accustomed to.
Imagine having just fed your pooch and instead of a nap, he wiggles his tail and puts on the innocent puppy-eyes trick? What do you do? If you didn’t train him properly, you’ll probably fall for it and give him another bite. Your dog has learned this is exactly what he has to do to get more food, so he repeats the behavior over and over again. Believe or not, your little furry friend is an expert manipulator of human behavior.
So we are down to the final question… is your dog sick or spoiled? The first thing to ask yourself is whether or not the volume of food you are giving him is sufficient. Think about the amount of fatty foods that go into his diet and their calorie intake. Are they enough to supplement his physiological needs? In some cases, it can be a medical condition that causes him to constantly be hungry. This could be the case for diabetes, Cushing’s disease, conditions causing malabsorption, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, or bacterial overgrowth.
Consult your veterinarian if you notice your dog is eating more than usual or if he undergoes an unexpected change in behavior.
Encouraging the Behavior
Before you attempt any behavior modification, you should know for sure that your dog is not suffering from any medical condition. From worms or parasite infestations, diabetes mellitus, or tumors, a physical checkup at the vet will help clarify all his symptoms and treat the issue in the best way possible. He or she might also recommend a therapeutic diet to ease your pet’s condition as well as his caloric intake, a regular feeding ritual, and a schedule for your dog as well as identifying his actual dietary needs per day. Which is why it’s very important that you stick to the schedule you are given, without making any compromises.
Instruct everyone in your home or people you come across while outside not to give him human scraps or handouts. At the same time, refrain yourself from giving your dog food on-demand, as they will most likely repeat the behavior and start to act hungry all the time on purpose to get more food. Consider taking the bowl away the first time your dog walks away from the food. This will reinforce the idea that meal time only happens when the bowl is down, and he won’t be finding more food until the next meal comes around.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Another option is to add low-calorie foods to his regular diet. These will not only help your dog feel fuller but they will also provide him with a healthy alternative to fatty foods such as treats and table scraps. What happens is that many dog foods pack calories into a small amount of food, whereas your home cooked diet has larger volumes of food but the same calorie intake.
What you can do is feed him a higher volume of leaner foods, like courgette or turkey breast. In addition to this, you can also experiment with green vegetables and green beans in an effort to help diversify his dietary routine.
Next time your dog acts as if his stomach is bottomless, consider all the factors we mentioned above and ask your veterinarian if you feel that your pup may be experiencing something other than pure… food joy. Your job is to provide protection and direction, while his is to …enjoy every little bit of his heart-earned meal.