What is Overeating?
Dogs, like their human companions, are prone to overeating for a number of different reasons. In most cases, consuming too many calories over a long period of time will lead to increased weight, digestive difficulties, and depression. In some situations, dogs may bolt their food eating large quantities in a short amount of time. This behavior is also known as scoffing. Dogs that engage in scoffing may develop a serious condition known as bloat; if your dog begins retching and gagging without vomiting soon after eating they should be transported to a veterinarian right away.
- Central nervous system damage
- Extended hunger
- Hormonal imbalances
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Why Overeating Occurs in Dogs
The reasons that dogs overeat are very similar in nature to the reasons that humans overeat. Some of the most common overeating triggers can include:
Dogs are just as prone to boredom as we are, particularly when they are left alone for long periods of time without entertainment; dogs that are free fed may eat to alleviate their boredom rather than to satiate their hunger, and bored dogs that are not alone may pester their owners for additional treats and snacks
Central Nervous System Damage
Damage to the central nervous system can short circuit a dog’s ability to recognize when it is full so that it knows when to stop eating; this kind of damage can occur due to trauma, such as a serious blow to the head, or due to lesions caused by parasites or other illnesses. Overeating that is due to CNS damage may be accompanied by unusual movements, uncontrollable shaking, or seizures.
Dogs that go too long without eating may end up bolting their food in their desperation to alleviate their hunger. Eating too much at one sitting or eating too quickly can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and in some situations a dangerous condition known as bloat.
Imbalances in hormone levels can lead to an overstimulation of appetite, Some of the more common diseases that result in hormonal imbalances that may increase hunger include hypothyroidism and diabetes.
In some cases, the overeating is due to overfeeding. If a dog is constantly fed more than they need, they may start seeing that as the new normal and be unsatisfied with more reasonable amounts of food.
Stress eating is a common cause of weight gain in humans, and can become a problem for our canine companions as well.
What to do if your Dog is Overeating
The proper method for managing overeating will depend largely on the underlying reason for the overeating and the symptoms that are being exhibited. If symptoms of bloat such as abdominal distention and unproductive retching or gagging are seen, the dog should be immediately transported to a veterinary clinic. These symptoms generally occur just a few hours after the dog has finished it’s meal, and are often instigated by eating not just too much, but too quickly. Bloat is a dangerous disorder, and if your dog develops this disorder, they will be admitted into the hospital right away for emergency treatment.
Dogs with an otherwise increased appetite should be checked by a veterinary professional to ensure that no medical problems are triggering the condition. This will most likely include standard diagnostic tests such as a urinalysis, biochemical profile, and a complete blood count to test for hormonal imbalances and if central nervous system involvement is suspected may also include additional evaluations to determine the animal’s mental status. Once any medical issues have been diagnosed and treated, management of this disorder may include reducing the number of calories the animal takes in, increasing the amount of exercise to both burn off excess calories and to alleviate restlessness and boredom, and changing from one or two larger daily meals to several smaller meals per day.
Prevention of Overeating
There are several things you can do to avoid overeating by your canine, depending on the underlying cause of the behavior. If your dog is overeating due to boredom or stress, then providing entertainment in the way of entertaining toys and longer more frequent walks and training session will often mitigate these type of issues. If your dog has a habit of scoffing, or eating their food too quickly, then changing their feeding schedule to include more frequent but smaller meals may help to prevent this behavior by preventing excessive hunger between servings. The bolting of food is common in dogs who have spent time as strays as they have been conditioned to eat their food quickly so that it doesn’t get taken from them. These dogs should be allowed to eat in solitude to avoid nervousness. Hand feeding your dog, or utilizing bowls specially designed to prevent overzealous eating, or employing puzzle feeders or treat-release toys to feed your canine may help to reduce the animal’s rate of consumption.
Cost of Overeating
Preventing overeating is an important part of keeping your dog healthy. If overeating leads to a health issue such as bloat, the expense to treat this very dangerous condition can average at $5000.
Overeating Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My chihuahua is very obese. He asks for food all the time and starts barking at me if I don’t feed him. He gets regular walks and exercise, but still begs for food all the time. He is a diabetic (type 1) but it’s under control. Even before his diagnosis, he still had this problem but it’s become worse as he gets older. How can I stop my dog from overeating?
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