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What is Obsessed With Food?

Your dog has always had a healthy appetite, but lately, she seems more possessive with her food. So much so that she will growl at anyone or anything that comes near her during feeding time. If you have other dogs, she may snap at them or even provoke a fight during feeding time. This behavior wasn’t always the case. Does it seem that your dog is obsessed with her food? Several conditions can cause your dog to have an increase in appetite:

  • Psychological or behavioral issues
  • Poor gastrointestinal absorption of nutrients
  • Cushing’s syndrome
  • Canine diabetes
  • Parasites

Why Obsessed With Food Occurs in Dogs

Psychological or Behavioral Issues

There are lots of factors that can contribute to a psychological or behavioral obsession with food. Adopted dogs may have had a background in which they had to fight for food, and old habits are hard to break. You may have to be patient and give your dog time to understand that she no longer must fight to get enough food. Other dogs, even those raised together, will fight over food. You may have to feed them separately. Another surprising factor is aging – as dogs become older, they naturally become ravenous. 

It should be noted here that free feeding of multiple dogs often leads to this type of behavior. While it is more convenient, many trainers do not recommend it. They feel that dogs will either be too fat or too thin – and, in this case, some dogs develop behavioral problems when there is not an equal amount of food at a scheduled time for dogs. 

Poor Gastrointestinal Absorption of Nutrients

In addition to seeming hungry at all times, your dog may also show signs of chronic diarrhea and weight loss even with the increased appetite. You may also notice pica – your dog eating things that are not food. Your dog may also experience dehydration as a result of poor gastrointestinal absorption. Any breed of dog may experience poor gastrointestinal absorption of nutrients.

Cushing’s Syndrome

In addition to an increased appetite, you may also notice increased drinking and urination in your dog. Cushing’s is normally caused by a tumor in the dog’s pituitary gland. Often, owners mistake Cushing’s as part of the normal aging process, and sometimes vets will miss the disease altogether unless they specifically test for Cushing’s. Your vet will order a series of tests, one of which may be adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) stimulation test. He may also order other blood work to ensure that no other disease is possible. Often, the syndrome may be successfully treated with medication. The Poodle, Dachshund, Boston Terrier, Boxer, and Beagle are most prone to Cushing’s.

Canine Diabetes

Traditionally, diabetes is marked by excessive thirst along with weight loss and increased urination output. Normally, a dog suffering from diabetes will have an increased appetite in response to blood sugar spikes brought on by insufficient insulin production. Most diabetic dogs will put on weight as a result of the increased appetite, although a small number of dogs will lose their appetite for food or water.  You may also notice urinary accidents in the house, vomiting, dehydration, and lethargy. Dogs of any breed may develop diabetes, but Miniature Schnauzers, Standard Schnauzers, Poodles, Australian Terriers, Spitz, Bichon Frise, Samoyeds, and Keeshonds are more likely to acquire diabetes compared with other breeds. In dogs, a genetic predisposition makes a dog more likely to develop diabetes than weight or exposure to certain drugs. 

Parasites

The Center for Disease Control defines the term parasite as “an organism that lives on or in a host organism and gets its food from or at the expense of its host.” Parasites can be fleas or ticks or they can be internal parasites such as hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms, or non-worm parasites such as coccidia, giardia, and spirochetes. Dogs can acquire parasites in a number of ways. Sometimes puppies inherit the parasites from their mother when nursing; sometimes adult dogs inadvertently lick the parasite’s eggs. Hookworms burrow into the skin and head for the intestines. Roundworms, whipworms and tapeworms are most likely to be the reason your dog would have an increased appetite as they cause malnourishment in dogs. A quick trip to the vet, where he will likely take a stool sample, can prove whether or not intestinal parasites are an issue for your dog. Fortunately, most cases can be treated with dewormer or other medication.

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What to do if your Dog is Obsessed With Food

If your dog is obsessed with his food because of a psychological or behavioral problem, it is probably best to separate him from other dogs when he eats. With patience and some conditioning steps, you can help your dog understand that he is not threatened at meal time. If your dog is getting older, you may not be able to easily change his behavior. Your vet may be able to put you in touch with a trainer who can help you and your dog. If you notice your dog eating and drinking excessively, get to the vet where he can do blood work and a urinalysis to diagnose possible diabetes. Regular trips to the vet will help you to prevent parasites in your dog as he will give your dog routine dewormer. Regular trips to the vet can also help to detect Cushing’s syndrome at an early stage. Remember, Cushing’s is often overlooked by owners and vets, so if you suspect Cushing’s, start to keep a behavioral journal to share with your vet.

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Prevention of Obsessed With Food

To prevent parasites, be sure to keep your dog wormed regularly. Also, keep him from infected soil and water – this is more likely to happen when your dog is around dogs that are not vaccinated or wormed regularly. Cushing’s syndrome is most often caused by a non-preventable tumor; however, taking your dog to the vet regularly and having routine blood work done increases the chances that your vet can catch any irregularities sooner. The same can be said with diabetes – the earlier the disease is diagnosed, the higher instance of effectiveness of treatment. 

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Cost of Obsessed With Food

Treating a food obsession in your dog can be expensive depending upon the cause of the problem. Treatment for intestinal parasites can range from $200 to $500 depending on the cost of living and the severity of the infestation. On average, the cost to treat intestinal parasites is $300. Diabetes can cost an average of $3000 to diagnose and treat.

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Obsessed With Food Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Nike

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Lab/Australian cattle dog mix (we think)

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3 Months

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Serious severity

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Diarrhea
Obsessed With Food

Hi! We just adopted our dog, he is a 3ish month old Lab mix (possibly mixed with Australian cattle dog, they’re not too sure). Food obsessed is an understatement!! From the moment we brought him home he got into the dog food for another dog we were watching. He ended up getting diarrhea which I hear is pretty normal when you adopt. We were able to train him to sit and come to us literally in a matter of hours because he is sooooooo food motivated. I thought this was possibly because he came from a shelter and has 6 brothers, so he probably didn’t get too much for himself. He hasn’t shown aggression, (I’ve even moved his food and bowl out from under him) but he scarfs down his food like a maniac and literally goes back to the bowl multiple times to keep checking if he left a bite. He started eating grass almost anxiously and will not stop until I convince him to by giving him another treat!! He started eating his own poop, almost obsessively to where when he poops I have to pick him up and take him inside right away, I read about how to correct that and it’s not good to startle him or scare him, so don’t make it a big deal when he starts eating his poop (mind you this is even before he’s done pooping that he tries to get his mouth to the poop!), but rather teach him I have a tasty treat for him instead when he’s done. I tried that, and it literally caused him to cut off his poop to come to me to grab the treat and as that treat was in his mouth he walked back toward the poop. I grabbed him, so I could clean it up and he kept going back sooooo obsessively!!! I’ve caught him trying to eat rocks (I live in AZ and there are lots of those). Additionally he will jump on me when I’m sitting eating my food because he is so food obsessed. It is really crazy! Now that he has associated me with food he constantly comes up to me to sniff my hand to see if I have food. I have hidden food in his crate which I read is a good way to keep him busy while we are gone, and now he will move everything around in his crate obsessively looking for food! I read it’s great that he’s so food motivated for training purposes but I feel it can really be a problem if not corrected. It kind of seems like he’s not absorbing nutrients from what I read on this post? Or could it be behavioral? I don’t want it to escalate. Thanks so much!!

June 5, 2018

Nike's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

I think that you have had Nike for such a short time that he has not had time to learn that he does not need to worry about where his next meal is coming from all the time. Labs are notoriously food obsessed, and Nike may have other history that is contributing to this. You seem to be doing all of the right things. I think a little more time, and patience, and consistency will work wonders for him. I doubt that he is not absorbing nutrients, and believe this is probably all behavioral. At your next veterinary visit, you can check with your veterinarian and make sure that he is healthy otherwise.

June 5, 2018

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Oakley

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Cockapoo

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3 Years

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Moderate severity

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Eating, Sneaking And Whining

Our dog, 3 years old, is obsessed with food. His dish will be full but he will still beg and even cry for our food. If I have food on the table he will circle the table and then actually cry and whine for the food. He waits for us to leave a room and then will do whatever possible to get to food, even jumping up on the table. He eats the garbage in all the bathrooms. When I wake the kids up in the morning, I will bring him with me to jump on their bed to wake them up and he just goes straight to their garbage cans and sniffs around the room for food. And lately, he has even jumped up to my desk and taken things like my reading glasses and my watch....he has never done that before. I am at a loss of what to do to stop this. Please help

May 31, 2018

Oakley's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

This most likely is a behavioural issue and there is a lot going on here, we have some training guides which I have linked below for you to go through to try to curb this behaviour; also at the bottom of each article there is a place where you can ask a certified dog trainer a question. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM https://wagwalking.com/training/not-eat-garbage https://wagwalking.com/training/stay-out-of-the-garbage https://wagwalking.com/training/stay-out-of-the-garbage-1 https://wagwalking.com/training/not-eat-human-food https://wagwalking.com/training/stop-barking-for-food https://wagwalking.com/training/stop-food-aggression https://wagwalking.com/training/wait-for-food

June 1, 2018

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Phoebe

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Labrador Retriever

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Sixteen Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Panting
Thirst

My 16 year old black lab seems obsessed with food and as soon as she can smell food being cooked she starts panting excessively. This panting won't stop for hours until she's convinced there is absolutely no food left on the counters and all possibilities of getting more food has ended. Also, she drinks so much water now too, which means constant trips outdoors and the occasional accident in the house. Is this just old age? are there any herbal or natural treatments we could try?

April 18, 2018

Phoebe's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Phoebe may have systemic problems that are causing her increased appetite, and increased drinking and urinating. It would be best to have her seen by her veterinarian, and probably have some basic bloodwork done, to evaluate her systemic function. If she is having a problem, your veterinarian can guide you into how to best treat her. I hope that she is okay.

April 18, 2018

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Duke

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Australian Shepherd

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10 Years

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Moderate severity

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Panting

My dog is 10 years old, I’ve had him since a puppy. We’ve got another dog and have had her for about 4 years now. They are never aggressive towards each other with food. But over the past year my 10 year old has become obsessed with getting to eat his food. He will refuse to go to the bathroom because he wants to go inside to eat. Generally I let them out at 7AM for pee and poop the when I get home from work around 6PM. He will refuse to poop, holding it for well over 12 hours just to go back inside to eat. When inside he runs in circles panting to get the food, then he inhales it. There’s no aggression at all, I can touch the bowl or pick it up without a problem. We feed both dogs separately, they never go to each other’s bowls to eat or anything. After he eats he pants because he needs to go to the bathroom. I don’t know how to correct the issue.

April 1, 2018

Duke's Owner

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We have a training guide on our site which is linked below on training an older dog to wait for food, also near the bottom of the page there is a section where you can ask a dog trainer a question (similar to how you did here) for further advice if needed. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM https://wagwalking.com/training/wait-for-food-1

April 1, 2018

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Daisey

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Chocolate lab

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8 Years

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Moderate severity

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Obsessed

We have a lab that is so obsessed with food that if we are 30 min late feeding her she will get into the trash while we are home.. she steals food off our kids plate with the child sitting at the plate

March 17, 2018

Daisey's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. Daisy may need a different food, where she feels more satisfied and isn't stealing food. Since I can't examine her, it would be a good idea to have her seen by a veterinarian, to assess her weight and health status, and recommend a food that may make her feel less hungry.

March 17, 2018

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Charlotte

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Boxer

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2 Years

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Food Obsession

We have a 2.5 year old female boxer (spayed). We also have a 1.5 year old male boxer. For the past 6 months our female has become completely food obsessed. She is fed twice a day, she gulps down her food like she is starved and then sits and stares at our male until he finishes so she can go lick out his bowl. Whenever there is any food in sight she starts drooling and bubbling at the mouth to such a degree that there is a puddle on the floor. She is not aggressive towards us or our male if we go near her food. We have put her on a kilojoule controlled diet because she has picked up about 2-3kgs and is struggling to shift it. The other issue we are experiencing is that she will pee on certain areas of the rugs and bedding if we allow them on, my research suggests this is a territorial issue?! Both of them are shown equal love and we never favor one over the other. They get walked everyday at the park and are social with other dogs. We have had her at the vet and they have done blood tests, hormone tests etc. and all levels are normal. We are concerned this is a sign of a serious problem I.e behavioral/phycological or perhaps cushings disease. Any advice would be most appreciated.

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Ash

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terrier

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8 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

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Panting

My boyfriend's dog (we live together and I have my dog here too) is neurotic about food. He will do anything to get at things on the counter or in the pantry, We regularly come home to find that he has gotten into the garbage or into the pantry and eaten things like uncooked rice or pasta, nuts, power bars, you name it. He inhales his food and is restless allllllll the time. Panting and pacing and never ever settled and resting. He steals things out of my purse. I know he will eventually get into something that will make him sick or kill him. His behavior is very unsettling to be around and is causing my older dog stress. This dog is new to me but I feel like it is a psychological issue. He is moved back and forth weekly with my boyfriends 17 year old kid who lives between our house and mom's house. Nobody cares about training or helping this dog but me. They all just act like this is how the dog is and we just live with it. I am losing my mind with this crazy dog. Any helpful suggestions are welcome here. He does not guard food.... he drinks a ton of water.

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henri

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Terrier mix

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1 Year

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Resource Guarding
Food Obsession
Crazy Eyes

We just adopted a dog two weeks ago and he seems to have a serious obsession with food. We feed him twice a day and make him sit and stay for his food bowl for a short amount of time before we set down his bowl. During that short amount of time he has extreme amounts of drool and is shaking. He eats his food extremely fast so we got a puzzle bowl which helps slow him down a little but not much. He is protective of his food and will growl if you try to reach toward his bowl. We have started offering him chicken on the side and sweet talking him while he eats to try and slow him down and let him know we are not a threat. Before, during, and after meal time he seems to become a different animal. I take him on a walk after he eats both meals and it helps to get his mind off of the food. Today he seemed to lose control though. During our walks I have training treats in my pocket that I offer when there is something distracting like unfamiliar people or animals and he gets a reward for sitting, listening, etc. Today he became out of control and was looking at me waiting for those treats. Eventually, after not have given them to him(because I never asked him to sit, listen, etc.) he started jumping at me and all over the place, biting the leash like a wild animal and was completely unmanageable. I was worried I would not even get him home safely without him getting loose. He is usually very good on a leash and we walk with a loose leash. We had barely started the walk before he had a freak out. Any advice on what steps we should take would be much appreciated.

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Patches

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Cocker Spaniel

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14 Years

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Serious severity

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Panting Barking Shaking

Experiences seizures when he doesn’t eat. My 14 yr old cocker spaniel is so obsessed with food he whines barks and shakes nonstop and he works himself up so badly he’ll have a seizure. He is obsessed and just won’t quit. If he goes out he eats dirt so we ended up putting a fence up, in the winter he steps out and face plants himself into the snow just to eat, he’s addicted to baby carrots pumpkin and his food (he eats on a regular schedule 2x day) actually all 3 do and they eat bowls are picked up and put away the only standing bowl through the day is the water bowl. My other two pups do not have any issues (one is 8 the other 2). He gets q6 month vet checks including bloodwork urine and stool for hypothyroidism, pain meds he’s takes for MS issues, and bc he’s on Prozac ....but he is relentless... hour after hour on end just sits their shaking panting and barking at my feet... unless he’s eating ..... or he sits in front of the refrigerator where his baby carrots are doing this. Too be honest I’m exhausted .... I was wondering if maybe he had an ulcer causing him to only feels good when he eats or something?!! He has recently started to eat my rugs, which are now rolled up and anything he can get find like cardboard on a game box) TP paper towel EVERYTHING I will also add that when the time changes and he does not eat ontime well especially when we set our clocks back he gets so upset for the hour that he has to wait until it’s 4pm that this yr he had two seizures over a week period (we even recorded it for the vet) just bc he didn’t to get to eat at his normal his mental time ..... (so of course I believe it to be a psychological issue more so than a physiological one) but we have gotten to the point we have to sedate him just to chill him out... I will mention he is also newly deaf and mostly blind (worsened over the past yr) this all seems like it has gotten worse since he’s lost these two senses... but he’s been obsessed for yrs just a significant nonstop issue when he’s awake now day in and day out... outside of this he’s an active happy fellow... will play with toys the cats the other two dogs (who I think just believe he’s nuts) .... otherwise he’s completely normal ... well minus his chronic issues....

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Ethylene

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Golden Retriever

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6 Months

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Serious severity

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Acts Like She Is Starving.

We have had our 6th month old Golden since she was 10 weeks. She has always been more food driven than any dog I have ever had. I am having trouble training her because all she is focused on is the food. She does not snap if we put our hand into the dish while she eats. She just wants food ALL THE TIME

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