Obsessed With Food in Dogs

Veterinary reviewed by: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

Why is my dog obsessed with food?

Veterinary reviewed by: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

Why is my dog obsessed with food?

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. Your dog is always hungry and is searching for food at all times. They've started to raid the bin and are constantly begging and perhaps even stealing food from your plate. 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.

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 and causes can include SIBO, EPI, IBD and intestinal lymphoma.

Cushing’s Syndrome

In addition to an increased appetite, you may also notice increased panting, a bloated abdomen and excessive 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 an 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 as the sugar cannot be transported into the cells. Most diabetic dogs will lose weight despite this increased appetite as they cannot utilise the food as they should.  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.

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 promptly treated with dewormer or other medication.

arrow-up-icon

Top

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. Ensure meal times are always at the same time and your dog is getting adequate calories.  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 or Cushing's. 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.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Prevention of Obsessed With Food

To prevent parasites, be sure to keep your dog wormed regularly. Also, keep him away from infested soil and water as well as from other dog's stool. 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. 

arrow-up-icon

Top

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 $20 to $50 depending on the severity of the infestation. Diabetes can cost an average of $3000 to diagnose and treat, though this depends on the age of diagnosis as treatment will continue for the duration of a dog's life.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Worried about the cost of treating your pet's symptoms?

Pet Insurance covers the cost of many common pet health conditions. Prepare for the unexpected by getting a quote from top pet insurance providers.

Obsessed With Food Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

dog-name-icon

Nike

dog-breed-icon

Lab/Australian cattle dog mix (we think)

dog-age-icon

3 Months

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Obsessed With Food
Diarrhea

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

answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

0 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

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

Oakley

dog-breed-icon

Cockapoo

dog-age-icon

3 Years

thumbs-up-icon

2 found helpful

thumbs-up-icon

2 found helpful

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

May 31, 2018

Oakley's Owner

answer-icon

recommendation-ribbon

2 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

Was this experience helpful?

Need vet advice?
Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

2,708 satisfied customers

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews

Install


© 2022 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.