Dogs are very opportunistic when it comes to finding something to eat, and even well-fed dogs that lack nothing will naturally seek out food whenever and wherever they can. This may manifest as begging for treats when you approach the kitchen, hovering by their bowls if you look in the cupboard that contains their food, begging for scraps if you are eating, and picking up food dropped on the floor, and out in the street too!
Being obsessed with food to this level is how dogs behave naturally if they are not trained and restricted from doing so-and such behaviour can of course be dangerous for your dog, as well as apt to lead to obesity, annoyance and a lot of effort needed to stop your dog from eating too much, or things they should not have.
In this article, we will examine why dogs are so food obsessed, and how this drive to eat at every opportunity played a part in canine evolution. Read on to learn more.
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. Another surprising factor is aging – as dogs become older, they naturally become ravenous.
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.
In addition to an increased appetite, you may also notice increased drinking and urination in your dog. Cushing 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 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.
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 in response to blood sugar spikes brought on by insufficient insulin production. Most diabetic dogs will put on weight as a result of the increased appetite, although a small number of dogs will lose their appetite for food or water. 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 than weight or exposure to certain drugs.
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 treated with dewormer or other medication.
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. 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. 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.
Prevention of Obsessed With Food
To prevent parasites, be sure to keep your dog wormed regularly. Also, keep him from infected soil and water – this is more likely to happen when your dog is around dogs that are not vaccinated or wormed regularly. 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