My Dog Is Obsessed With Food
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A voracious appetite is often considered a universal characteristic of all dogs. It is represented in popular culture and anyone with experience caring for a dog will know they can get quite animated when they sense something tasty in the air. However, this does not mean that all dogs are naturally obsessed with food. For some, their obsession can be due to either physical or psychological issues which lead them to an increased appetite. This is especially the case when they are also obsessed with human food.
This AnimalWised article on why my dog is obsessed with food helps explain why some dogs seem particularly greedy. We also show you what we can do to change their attitude to food.
The domestication of dogs
Better understanding the domestication of dogs can help us to know why our dog is obsessed with food. Food is an essential element of the domestication process. If humans were unable to provide it for the domestic dog's wild ancestors, they would not have been able to live together as they do now.
Dogs have a common ancestor in wolves, although there is some debate over the genetic ancestry of dogs. Humans were able to coax them into their settlements, supplying them with food, shelter and other factors necessary for survival. In return, the dogs would eventually be used as both working and companion animals, both of which were of great importance in various types of settlement.
Despite the millennia of domestication, dogs still retain characteristics of their wild ancestors. For example, although individuals can vary, many dogs still desire to live in a pack. This is one of the reasons they can be so amenable to living in large families. In the wild, food competition is a common factor in their survival. The hierarchy of the pack generally dictates which dog eats when.
For our dog, a residual sense of food competition can remain. This is especially with dogs living with one or more other dogs. They can still feel like food is scarce and will be anxious around it. They may seek out food all the time because of it too, even human food.
Although dogs should be confident they will be supplied with food by their guardian, many develop insecurities. Some reasons for this are due to their practical needs not being met. When we buy food for our dog, we need to carefully consider their needs.
Dogs will need a certain amount of food per day, but this will vary not only by size. but also age, health status and other factors. The type of food we provide is also important. Some dogs may have certain nutritional deficiencies or food intolerances which require them to eat different food formulae. Others may need to eat less to reduce obesity or other health issues.
Dogs can become obsessed with our human food because the food we provide them is insufficient for their needs. If we suspect this might be the case, we need to take the animal to a veterinarian. They can determine whether they need a special diet, more food or if there is anything they need to avoid.
In general, we should buy quality dog food which meets the needs of the individual. Our article on what to look for in dog food can help you know what to expect.
Medical reasons a dog is obsessed with food
We have already touched on how nutritional deficiency and intolerance can lead to dogs becoming obsessed with human food. However, there are certain pathologies which will also cause such obsession.
When a dog has gastrointestinal problems, it can often relate in losing their appetite. However, an increased appetite is also a symptom of various digestive disorders. Often this is the case because the disorder prevents the dog from absorbing all the nutrients they require, so they need to find it in human food or other places. This is known as intestinal malabsorption syndrome.
With other diseases, the dog is unable to synthesize the nutrients correctly due to a lack of hormones. This is the case with diabetes in dogs, as well as other hormone related conditions. With diabetes, specifically, a lack of insulin prevents their body from converting glucose eaten in food.
Some parasites, particularly intestinal parasites in dogs, can cause their gastrointestinal system to malfunction. This results in increased appetite and they look to other sources to find food. In fact, if a dog is missing certain nutrients, they may try to ingest inorganic objects. This is the case if we see the dog licking metal, although it could also be due to pica syndrome.
Homemade dog food
Many dog guardians choose to make homemade dog food for their animals. This can be a great way to ensure your dog has all the right vitamins and nutrients they need. However, it can also be dangerous if we get their nutritional balance wrong.
Dogs need protein, but they can have a diet supplemented with vegetables and carbohydrates. This is does not mean they should make up the main part of their diet. Additionally, they need certain amino acids such as taurine to help synthesize certain nutrients. Homemade dog food can often be lacking in these ingredients. Although they might not seem as fresh, commercial dog food of good quality is specially formulated to ensure all these needs are met. If they are not met, the dog can try to eat our food as a way to make up for it.
What to do if my dog is obsessed by food
1. Address any health problems
The first thing we need to do if we see our dog is obsessed with human food or has an increased appetite, is to take them to a veterinarian. As we have stated above, there are certain diseases and nutritional deficiencies which can result in a dog wanting to eat all the time. Our veterinarian can look at their medical history, perform an examination and order any necessary tests to determine if a health problem is affecting their appetite.
Once the underlying cause of this behavior has been determined, the vet can then administer the right course of treatment. For some, this may require them to have a change in their diet, whether homemade or commercially bought. Others may need medicine to treat their condition, as is the case with insulin injections for diabetic dogs. Others still may need a combination of both, as well as provide symptom management for the disorder.
2. Control their food intake
Once the veterinarian has determined if there is a nutritional problem, they will be able to advise on what food is needed. But there are some things we can do to help reduce their obsession.
Often dogs with an increased appetite will eat too fast, usually due to insecurity that it is the only food they will receive. In doing so, they often vomit afterwards because they have caused indigestion. This only negatively impacts their food obsession further.
To help relieve their food insecurity, we can break their total food intake up into smaller portions. This way, we can give the dog food in more frequent meals. We will also need to stop giving them our own human food. Not only is this often bad for the dog nutritionally, but it can help fuel food obsession. They might think pestering you is healthy behavior, but it can cause them emotional damage.
We can also give them anti-voracity food dishes. These are special food bowls which make it difficult for the dog to reach their food. Since it takes some effort, it helps reduce their food obsession, slows their eating and also provide cognitive stimulation.
3. Be careful with homemade food
If you notice your dog is obsessed with human food all of a sudden after changing to homemade food, we need to check its nutritional value. Even with the best intentions, we may be doing our dog a disservice by preparing their food on our own.
We should also be careful if the dog starts to eat food off the street. This can be dangerous for many reasons, especially if the food is spoiled. Use positive reinforcement to ensure they eat properly and generally help them to feel more secure. This way, we can best ensure they eat in a healthy way and don't become obsessed with their food. Our video on how many times a day our dog should eat can help us to better understand how this is done.
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