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What are Ravenous?

It can seem typical for a dog to want more food when it has finished its regular meal. However, as a responsible and aware pet parent, you will be aware of when your dog’s appetite has crossed the line from normal enjoyment of food to ravenous behavior. A ravenous dog is a dog that seems to desperately desire food much or all of the time, even when recently fed. This is more than begging for a treat. This condition is also known as polyphagia, and is often accompanied by fluctuation in weight, increased thirst and frequency of urination, and obesity. It can have several different medical causes.

  • Stress
  • Nutritional deficiency
  • Diabetes
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Cushing’s disease

While stress can be managed by some extra attention to your dog’s emotional well-being and environment, each of the other causes are dangerous for your dog’s physical health, and require a veterinary assessment and prescribed course of treatment.

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Why Ravenous Occurs in Dogs

Dogs become ravenous because their systems somehow become imbalanced. The imbalance can originate in emotional or physical causes; the latter are more immediately and dramatically dangerous for your dog’s health.


When a dog is stressed, his emotions are overburdened, producing abnormal levels of fear, anxiety, or other difficult emotions. Your dog may be experiencing some kind of emotional disturbance, such as that caused by moving to a new household, the death of another family pet, a new pet in the household, a new human in the household, or some other disruption in its normal living situation. Some dogs respond to stress or anxiety by neurotically overeating. Dogs of any breed, age, or sex can experience stress. 

Nutritional Deficiency

A dog needs the proper type and amount of nutrients in its daily meals to stay healthy. If he is not receiving enough nutrients in his regular meals, he may try to eat more food to get enough. If the dog experiences vitamin and mineral deficiencies, even if he is eating a lot of food, starvation can occur, causing anemia. Iron deficiency is fairly common in dogs; Giant Schnauzers can have a hard time absorbing cobalamin, a B vitamin. 


A dog’s body needs enough insulin to utilize the sugars, fats, and proteins consumed in his meals. If the dog’s pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, he can develop diabetes, which can lead to organ failure, blindness, coma, and death. Diabetes most commonly strikes dogs who are middle-aged, female, and overweight.


When a dog’s thyroid gland does not produce the proper amount of hormones, the dog’s hormones can go out of balance, making him vulnerable to hypothyroidism. The dog’s metabolism then slows down, leading him to develop symptoms typically connected with old age, such as weight gain and lethargy. Hypothyroidism is most likely to be experienced by medium to large dogs between 4-10 years old.

Cushing’s Disease

Cushing’s disease, also known as hyperadrenocorticism, can develop when a dog’s endocrine glands fail to maintain hormonal balance, leading to overproduction of the hormone cortisol. When the dog’s system contains too much cortisol, he can develop an enlarged liver, hair loss and skin irritations, obesity, and recurrent urinary tract infections. It is more likely to occur in older dogs, and is often mistaken for the normal aging process.

What to do if your Dog is Ravenous

Your response to your dog’s ravenous demand for food will depend on the cause. The first line of response is a careful assessment of the situation. If there has been a recent change in your dog’s emotional, social, or physical environment, do your best to comfort and reassure your dog. This can go a long way to alleviate stress; observe your dog carefully to see if his ravenous behavior subsides after a couple of days of your emotional support. You may need to consult an animal behaviorist. Consult your veterinarian to make sure your dog’s diet is complete, healthy, and provides all the necessary vitamins and minerals. 

If diabetes, hypothyroidism, or Cushing’s disease are suspected, your veterinarian will have to perform various tests to properly diagnose your dog. Treatment for diabetes will probably continue for your dog’s entire life, but it can be successfully managed. Diabetes treatment typically includes daily insulin injections, multiple daily blood glucose monitoring sessions, timed feedings, and a carefully planned diet and exercise regime. Similarly, while hypothyroidism can not be cured, it can be successfully treated. Your dog will require oral thyroxine hormone replacement for the rest of its life, given once or twice daily, along with regular testing of its hormone levels. Cushing’s disease is treated with either medication, surgery, or radiation, depending on the cause of the disease. Cushing’s caused by problems with the pituitary gland will be treated with mitotane for life, possibly accompanied by radiation therapy if there is a pituitary cancer or tumor. Cushing’s caused by an adrenal tumor will be treated by surgery to remove the tumor, possibly accompanied by corticosteroids, but never by mitotane. Cushing’s can also be caused by steroids, in which case the steroid should be changed.

Prevention of Ravenous

While stress-inducing situations may not always be avoidable, such situations can be anticipated, and you can take care to reassure your dog through the rough patch. With your comfort and support, your dog may be buffered from the roughest emotional blow. Nutritional deficiency can be avoided if you take care to provide your dog with a nutritionally balanced and complete diet, with proper amounts of all of the necessary vitamins and minerals.

Diabetes is often unpreventable, but keeping your dog at a healthy weight could help prevent diabetes, and is always best for your dog’s general health. Cushing’s disease caused by pituitary or adrenal tumors is not preventable; Cushing’s caused by excessive steroid treatment could possibly be prevented by very careful initial use of steroids. Hypothyroidism is not preventable.

Cost of Ravenous

The national average cost of treating hypothyroidism $1300, while the average treatment cost of Cushing’s disease is $2000. Diabetes treatment costs an average of $3000.