When the kibble hits the bowl or the can opens, your dog comes running from the opposite side of the house. He is at your side with his tail wagging, barking, or even jumping. You put down the bowl and he devours everything and looks at you like you didn’t give him enough.
If you’ve ever had a party with your dog around, guests will slip him all sorts of goodies, from broccoli to piggies in a blanket, and your dog will not stop eating. You fed your dog before the party, so you’re concerned about how much he is wolfing down. You know there will be a pup with a tummy ache later and possibly a mess to clean up. So why does your dog keep eating? Does he know when he is full? If he knows, why does he eat until he is sick?
The Root of the Behavior
Dogs overeat for a few reasons, some emotional and some physical. If your dog is not exercised regularly or is not given enough attention, he might be bored. He’ll eat his food, and then bother you for more out of sheer boredom. Another emotional reason could be stress. If you’ve ever experienced stress eating, you know it is not helpful for you. It is not helpful for your dog, either. If you’ve fed your dog too much food and the vet told you to cut back, your dog might think that the original amount you were feeding him was normal. He’ll beg for extra food because he thinks he is deprived now.
Your dog could also be experiencing physical problems if he overeats. He might have diabetes, which is where his body doesn’t produce enough insulin. In addition to overeating, another common symptom of diabetes is drinking more water. Another possibility is your dog might not be absorbing nutrients properly and have some gastrointestinal problems. This type of problem is seen more in middle-aged and older dogs and is seen more often in French Bulldogs, Irish Setters, and Basenjis, to name a few.
Your hungry pup might be hungry because he has a problem with his central nervous system. If he suffered a hit to the head or had serious problems with parasites in his gastrointestinal system, it could cause a problem with his central nervous system. This type of problem can lead your dog to not knowing when he is full and as a result, he will overeat. Other symptoms to keep an eye out for with this is seizures or uncontrolled movements.
You may have forgotten to fill the food bowl the previous night and when you wake up in the morning, your dog gobbles his breakfast and begs for more. The reason for his overeating here is simple-he missed a meal. If you’ve ever missed a meal, you can sympathize with your dog. He can get hangry and end up eating the entire box, too.
Encouraging the Behavior
Dogs, like humans, should not overeat. If you notice this behavior in your dog, you should check for the emotional stressors first. If you’ve alleviated his boredom or the source of his stress and he still overeats, you should visit the vet to rule out a physical problem.
Overeating can lead to a myriad of short term and long term problems varying in severity. In the short term, your dog will most likely vomit and feel lethargic. Keep an eye on your dog for a few hours to make sure he doesn’t get worse. If your dog experiences bloat a few hours after overeating, he needs to go to the vet immediately. Bloat is a serious digestive disorder characterized by your dog gagging, trying to throw up but can’t, or having a distended stomach.
Long-term problems are weight gain. Like humans, a dog being overweight can lead to serious health problems. An overweight dog is at an increased risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, heat intolerance, liver problems, reproductive problems, irritable bowel syndrome, problems breathing, lethargy, cancer, bacterial or viral infections, and can also damage his joints.
Overeating for dogs is dangerous, so it’s important you find the cause. At your visit to the vet, you’ll learn what kind of food to feed your dog and how much. You can also ask if table scraps are okay for your dog’s digestive system and if so, which ones and how much? Your vet can also rule out the conditions leading to overeating as well as assess your dog for conditions related to being overweight, if that’s a concern.
Other Solutions and Considerations
A dog who overeats occasionally is not too concerning, but constantly overeating is not healthy. If you can’t get to the vet right away, you can try alternative ways to feed your dog other than measuring his food. There are interactive toys, balls, or mazes for your dog to play with at dinner time. This will keep him occupied and make dinner a little more fun. If you have a dog who begs for food constantly, you can take your dog to a trainer. The trainer can teach you how to work with your dog so he knows when mealtime is and that it’s not okay to beg for table scraps or harass your party guests with those cute “feed me” eyes.