My Dog Is Hungry All the Time
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If a dog is hungry all the time, many people will simply think they are being a dog. The voracity of canines is well known to anyone who shares their life with one, especially when there is something they consider particularly tasty around. This won't be the case with all dogs and no dog is likely to maintain the same appetite levels throughout their entire life. This doesn't mean that a dog being hungry all the time is normal. This is especially the case if a dog is eating anxiously or shows any other symptoms of distress.
A dog's relationship with their food can tell us a lot about their overall health and wellbeing. For this reason, AnimalWised understands the various reasons why my dog is hungry all the time. We find out whether it is normal for a dog to always be hungry and what we should do if it is not.
Eating habits in dogs
In the wild, dogs have a varied diet. Studies have shown that stray dogs will have a preference for animal protein, but their roaming diet has been changed considerably due to the long history of domestication with humans. Not only will they want to eat a more varied diet, but domestic dog's digestive system has adapted in such a way they are able to process foods wild dogs may have difficulty digesting.
In the domestic environment, dogs have a diet which is largely determined by their guardians. This is commonly in the form of a dry feed which is formulated to cover all of their nutritional needs. It should be adapted to their specific needs. This means it needs to consider factors such as size, age and health status. Some guardians will provide a wet-food diet, although it is more common to supplement the former with the latter.
Other guardians may even created a homemade diet for their dog, using various ingredients. This includes both raw and cooked food. The BARF diet is a raw food diet for dogs which should only be given after consultation with a veterinarian as some dogs do not fare well with this type of feed.
Generally speaking, dogs will enjoy a wide range of foods. They are particularly attracted to wet food since it is more appetizing and better represents their wild diet. Dogs will also enjoy eating their guardian's food, even if it includes food they may find difficult to digest. Some dogs may get bored of certain foods and try to eat other options where available.
Learn more about dietary habits of dogs with our article on why dogs eat grass.
Leptin hormone in dogs
Leptin is a hormone present in many groups of animals, including humans and dogs. This hormone is responsible for inhibiting appetite and is released mainly by adipocytes, i.e. cells that form adipose tissue or fat. They are also produced by the hypothalamus, ovaries and placenta.
In a healthy animal with a correct weight and sufficient fat reserves, adipocytes begin to release leptin. The hormone travels through the blood to the brain, warning that the body already has enough stored energy. It is this signal which tells the dog's organism that it can stop eating.
The problem appears when the animal is overweight. Although it releases a lot of leptin, the body becomes resistant and does not understand that it already has enough energy. Something similar happens when the dog suffers from diabetes mellitus. For this reason, an overweight dog is more inclined to be hungry.
Is it normal for a dog to be hungry all the time?
It is normal for a dog to love to eat. Just as with humans, there are certain foods which we can eat more of than others. These tend to be foods that have ingredients which we find particularly satisfying such as tender meat, sugar or salty snacks. This will depend on the individual.
The same applies to dogs. If we have just given them a meal, it doesn't mean they won't be interested if we open a bag of treats afterwards. If there is something particularly appetizing, the dog will be more inclined to make room. Some dogs also have larger mouths and tend to eat faster than others.
While having a healthy appetite and a preference for treats are normal traits, being hungry all the time is not. A dog anxious for food or any other object is very serious. Obsessions such as the dog being hungry all the time should be treated by a professional, as they often stem from underlying issues. Some of these reasons why a dog is always hungry include:
- Poor education
- Inadequate nutrition
- Hormonal imbalance
- Pathological disease
- Poor exercise to food ratio
- Nutritional deficiencies
The condition of a dog that does not stop eating and appears to be continually hungry is known as polyphagia. Polyphagia often occurs along with other symptoms such as obesity, weight gain, weight loss, polydipsia (increased water intake), polyuria (increased urination) and the inability to properly absorb nutrients.
One important symptom is when a dog eats a lot, but remains skinny. This is often due to a hormonal imbalance caused by an underlying health condition, but can also be due to parasites, pathologies or issues relating to their care.
Polyphagia can appear in the dog's aging process, either because they develop difficulty in absorbing certain nutrients or because they take certain medications that may have increased appetite as a side effect. One of the symptoms of diabetes is also increased food intake. Tumors or inflammatory processes at the gastrointestinal level also cause polyphagia.
How do I know if my dog is hungry?
The first reason that makes us think that our dog is hungry is their excessive eating or constantly asking for food. They may do this by petitioning you via barking, staring at you or even going to their empty bowl and licking it.
The irrefutable evidence that our dog is starving is weight loss. In an obese dog, weight loss is necessary to bring them back to a healthy weight, but it must always be done under strict veterinary supervision. If your dog doesn't need to lose weight, but it is happening, it's time to make a visit to the vet for a complete checkup. This will include blood analysis, urine analysis and potentially hormone testing.
How to help a dog that is obsessed with food
The first thing we will need to do is to determine the cause of the polyphagia by a veterinarian. If the reason for the polyphagia is due to a gastrointestinal problem, it may be due to a change in diet or the consumption of a medication. If it is due to diabetes, it will be necessary to medicate it.
If the problem stems from behavioral reasons, steps should be taken to help the dog change their behavior. Gradually changing the feed to another with a higher fiber content can be an option or changing to a more satiating diet such as the BARF diet for dogs. As stated before, this must only be carried out under veterinary supervision.
We can also ration the food in smaller amounts several times a day and not large amounts once or twice. It is very important to have a daily eating routine. Many studies have revealed that if an animal knows when it is going to eat and its expectations are met, stress levels decrease enormously.
Learn more about why a dog may be stressed out a lot and what to do about it.
If you want to read similar articles to My Dog Is Hungry All the Time, we recommend you visit our Diet problems category.
1. Dănilă, G., Simioniuc, V., & Duduman, M. L. (2023). Research on the Ethology and Diet of the Stray Dog Population in the Areas Bordering the Municipality of Suceava, Romania. Veterinary sciences, 10(3), 188. https://doi.org/10.3390/vetsci10030188