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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

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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.

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.

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. 

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.

Obsessed With Food Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Kallee
Pomeranian
5 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Wants to eat everything

We just resucued a Pom that was a breeder surrender. She had a full vet check in Dec. They estmate her age to be 5 to 6 years old, weight 9 lbs. She is obsessed with food. She wants to eat all the time. We are feeding 1/4 cup 2 X day. I dont want to over feed her but do not want her to over feed her. Am I doing the right thing. She also wants all food we are eating.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1604 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Given her unknown history, Kallee may well be obsessed with food, and in her mind, may not know when her next meal is coming. If her body condition is being maintained well on that amount of food a day, you can be assured that she is not starving - if you aren't sure, you can have your veterinarian look at her to assess whether she needs to eat more or less. She may have been fed people food in her previous home, and it can take some time to get over that behavior of always wanting your food. Hopefully, this behavior will become less intense as she is with you longer.

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Phoebe
Labrador Retriever
Sixteen Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Thirst
Panting

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?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1604 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.

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Oakley
Cockapoo
3 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

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

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3314 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

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Ruby
du baux
14 Months
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

nil

we have a dog du baux and she is 14 months old and she has been food obsessed since we have had her, she does not beg but she will stare at you while we eat and she will follow us to the kitchen, she eats anything,if you undo a wrapper she is there just staring, what are we doing wrong if anything, she is fed once a day with the right amount of food and giving a treat first thing in the morning thank you

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1604 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Some dogs really are just more interested in food than others, and if Ruby gets the occasional snack as a reward for her staring behavior, she will be even more motivated to watch the next time. To stop that behavior, it is important that she never get rewarded for it, not even a little, and not even occasionally. If she learns that she never gets anything by staring at you, she should stop staring at you eventually, although this behavior can become more intense before it finally improves. Some dogs do respond better to twice daily feedings, so you might want to split her food into two helpings and give one in the morning and one at night. I'm not sure what her physical condition is, it would be a good idea to have her examined by your veterinarian to make sure that she is a good body weight and appears healthy. She may benefit from a change in dog food that makes her feel more full, as well - your veterinarian can talk to you about that if needed.

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Jasper
German shepherd mix
8 Years
Moderate condition
1 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

obsessed with food

My dog has always been obsessed with food. He always eats everything in his bowl right away. Unfortunately, he developed a bad habit of begging for food and is often fed by other family members from the table. However, lately his obsession has gone to a new level. All he wants is food. If you are sitting on the couch and he is looking at you and you make a sudden movement, he runs to his bowl. Also he has started just barking and whining at me until I get up to feed him. It’s hard to enjoy spending time with him because all he cares about is food. I don’t know if this is related but he has started to paw at us more. We will be on the couch and he’ll paw at us, one time he turned off my computer.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1604 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Unfortunately, giving in occasionally to his demands will reinforce his behavior, and may amplify it since he knows that he will be rewarded occasionally. Since some of your family members do feed him from the table, he has probably learned that he will get a reward if he is persistent enough. Without seeing him, I'm not sure if he is at a healthy weight, or underweight, but he may benefit from a good quality senior diet at this time in his life, if he is missing calories or nutrients. It would be worth an exam by your veterinarian to determine if he is missing anything is his diet, or is just learning behavior. They should be able to suggest to a good quality senior diet that you might transition him to if he is otherwise healthy, that might make him feel more full.

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Nike
Lab/Australian cattle dog mix (we think)
3 Months
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

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!!

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1604 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.

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Daisey
Chocolate lab
8 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Obsessed

Medication Used

none

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

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1604 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.

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Rey
Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler)
2 Years
Serious condition
1 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Constipation
Diarrhea
Aggression
Vomiting

My dog, Rey, is a year and a half old (his birthday is in May). We got him when he was only 12 weeks old from a shelter, so we are not quite sure what his breed is but he does look like he has pit in him. The shelter told us "Australian Cattle dog mix." Once he turned about 8 months he started having aggression issues toward other dogs, only regarding resources. He would snap and try to attack dogs that shared water with him, ate or even smelled food around him, or played with his toys. He was fine with us, though. About a month after his first birthday, he bit a puppy and held onto her face. He broke her cheekbone. We kept him completely away from other dogs at that point, but he was still okay with us. We were able to put our hands in his food bowl and take things away from him. About two months ago he bit my fiance in the face while they were sharing food (something we have done with him millions of times before). A day or two after that our friend was petting Rey while Rey was chewing on his bone. Rey whipped around and tried to bite our friend, but luckily bit his phone instead. We sent him away to training because obviously what we were doing with him was not working. He was only supposed to be gone three weeks and the trainer has not given him back yet. She said he is the most food obsessed dog she has ever seen. With her, he refuses to go outside to the bathroom, just so he can eat sooner and started going to the bathroom in the house (he has been potty trained since day two when we got him). We took Rey everywhere with us from the minute we got him. He would go to dog friendly stores with us, on walks, to the beach, on vacation, etc. I'm sure it's probably a behavioral problem but it just seems so extreme that I'm wondering if maybe there is something else going on. I read about parasites that can cause aggression or something else. He has always had stomach problems starting around 6 months old. He would go days without eating and we would have to put him on chicken and rice. He would have diarrhea with blood in it. He would throw up all the time. The vet could not figure out what it was. He tried antibiotics, probiotics, changing his food, etc. Is there something that could be causing this aggression, relating perhaps to his stomach?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3314 Recommendations
This is a difficult question, but on the surface it still looks like a behavioural problem; behaviour can sometimes be changed due to parasites, head injury, poisoning and other factors but the behaviour is a general change not just with food which is making me lean more towards the food aggression than anything else. Parasite control (worms, fleas, ticks etc…) should be part of your disease prevention plan along with vaccination an healthy lifestyle. A certified Trainer would be more knowledgeable on the behavioural side than myself, but it may be worth visiting another Veterinarian for a once over to be on the safe side. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Duke
Australian Shepherd
10 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

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.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3314 Recommendations
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

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