Some dogs are aggressive chewers. Give them a dog chew, and they will devour it in no time. Other dogs don’t seem to chew at all. They will swallow anything that will fit into their mouth whole.
Dogs who are fast eaters or gulpers are at risk for health issues. These include bloat, stomach upset, and a higher risk of choking. Given these concerns, it’s important to understand why your pooch doesn’t chew their food, and what you can do about it.
Why doesn’t my dog chew his food?
Dogs are not known for their table manners. If you’ve ever sat back and watched your dog eat, it can be a bit disconcerting. Particularly if they don’t chew their food.
Many dog behaviors that we struggle to understand go back to their evolution and survival instincts. Dogs are pack animals. In the wild, dogs must eat quickly. If they don’t another dog may steal their meal.
Why worry about defending your food when you can just gulp it down instead? Some children will do this as well, particularly if they have pesky siblings. However, humans have an understanding of why it’s important to chew their food.
Dogs lack this cognitive ability. Instead, they rely on their instincts. Their instincts tell them to consume their food quickly, before they lose it.
In the wild, dogs don’t only have to contend with other dogs. They also have to compete with other predators. This also leads them to eat quickly, before their meal draws completion from other animals.
Dogs are biologically designed to eat differently than humans. We have lots of flat teeth. These are perfect for grinding food into small easily digestible pieces. Dogs also have some flat teeth.
However, the majority of their teeth are sharp or pointy. These are great for cutting and tearing away pieces of food, which are then swallowed whole.
In addition to a dog’s teeth being designed for this type of eating, their esophagus is different as well. Unlike ours, their esophagus stretches to accommodate larger pieces of food.
This means that a piece of food that would cause us to choke, getting stuck in our esophagus, can be swallowed by your canine companion.
A dog that is very hungry is more likely to gulp their food. Humans don’t usually do this with food. It is more common for us to gulp water or other liquids. Have you ever been thirsty? Perhaps you drank down an entire glass of water very quickly.
This is essentially what dogs do when they are hungry. They will get their food down as quickly as possible, because they are hungry.
If you have several dogs, feeding them close to each other can cause them to gulp their food. They may worry that the other dogs will try to steal their food, so they will eat it as quickly as they can.
This can occur even if the other dogs aren’t trying to steal the food. It’s a natural instinct that can be triggered simply by being near other dogs when eating.
Some dogs will quickly eat foods that they love. They may nibble on kibble, but toss them a piece of chicken and they will seemingly swallow it whole.
Other dogs will gulp down food that they don’t like. This is their version of “getting it over with”. They know they have to eat, so they force themselves to get it done as quickly as possible, without bothering to really taste the food.
In some cases, there’s a medical reason for your dog not chewing their food. This is typically because a condition or disease causes an increase in their appetite. Parasites can steal valuable nutrition, leading to an increased appetite.
In this case, increased hunger is what causes your dog to eat too fast. However, instead of being typical hunger, it’s fueled by a problem in your dog’s system. The typical amount of food isn’t enough to sustain them or keep them full.
Other diseases like Cushing’s disease, also increase your pooch’s appetite. Other symptoms that there’s a medial reason behind your canine companion’s eagerness include digestive upset, lethargy, fever, fatigue, and unexplained weight loss.
Dangers of Not Chewing Food
The most obvious danger of your pooch not chewing their food is choking. Just like us, it’s possible for your dog to choke on a piece of food that is too large for them to swallow. You may have heard your dog coughing or making a choking sound while eating. This means they are choking on the food.
In most cases, your canine companion is able to cough the food back up. This can look like vomiting. However, it’s actually known as regurgitation. Vomitting occurs when the food comes back up after entering the stomach. Regurgitation is when it comes back up before reaching the stomach, usually completely undigested and in tact.
Of course, choking can be dangerous for your dog. Choking occurs in dogs every year, and can be fatal if the food isn’t removed quickly.
Bloat is another concern. Bloat occurs when gas isn’t able to be released from the stomach. The pressure builds, and can cause the stomach to twist. This requires surgical treatment, and can be fatal.
The cause of bloat is still poorly understood. However, we do know that fast eaters are at a higher risk of bloat. This may be because they consume air along with their food.
Lastly, not chewing food can result in stomach upset. When your pooch doesn’t chew their food, it’s harder for them to digest. They may vomit up their meal because it irritates their sensitive stomach.
Dental problems can also affect how your dog eats. Dental problems or mouth pain will usually make your dog a reluctant eater. They may eat slower than usual, and have less of an appetite.
However, other dogs may eat without chewing to avoid the pain associated with chewing. Some may gulp their food down quickly. Some will eat carefully and slowly, but won’t chew before swallowing.
How do I make my dog chew his food?
Given the dangers of your dog not chewing their food, it’s important to stop the behavior. There are several methods you can try to get your pooch to chew.
Keep in mind that if one method doesn’t do the trick, you may need to keep trying. If you don’t have success, speak to your vet or an animal behavioralist. It’s not something that should go unchecked, due to the risks to your dog.
Change the Environment
Is your dog eating near other dogs? You’ll need to begin feeding them in different areas of the home. Stress can also cause your pooch to eat quickly to protect their food. If they are the only dog in the home, be sure that other pets and people are kept away while they are eating.
Allowing them some privacy may remedy the behavior. Of course, you’ll want ot supervise them. Gulpers should be monitored while eating in case they choke, and you’ll need to know if they are still not chewing their food. However, watch them from a distance, rather than being very nearby.
Moisten Dry Food
Moistening dry food makes it softer, which can slow down gulpers. It also reduces the risk of choking, because the pieces are malleable. It may help with digestive issues caused by fast eating as well.
Feed Wet Food
You can also switch them to wet food. This won’t necessarily stop them from eating fast. However, it does greatly reduce the risk of choking. Wet food is also easier to digest, and doesn’t really require chewing.
Change Their Food
It’s possible that your pooch really loves or hates their food. You’ll need to go with your instinct on this. If you suspect that they dislike their food, you can switch food or top their food with a topper. A topper can make the food more appealing to your pooch, encouraging them to slow down and enjoy the meal.
Sweet potato, chicken broth, and gravy are all great choices. They make food more attractive, and add a little extra nutrition.
If your pooch enjoys their food too much, you may need to change their food as well. Instead of getting rid of it completely, consider mixing it with another food that your pooch doesn’t enjoy quite as much.
Feed Smaller More Frequent Meals
If hunger seems to be what is triggering your hoovering pooch, try feeding them smaller meals more often. This will keep them from being excessively hungry.
They may relax knowing that meal time will be coming soon, rather than being several hours away.
Get a Slow Feeder Bowl or Puzzle Feeder
Slow feeder bowls are designed to slow your pooch down when they are eating. They look like a maze, typically in fun shapes. The dividers in the bowl prevent your dog from gulping down their food too quickly.
Puzzle feeders require the dog to manipulate them in certain ways to get the kibble. This is great for mental stimulation. It may be too labor intensive for some dogs to use for meals, but it’s a great way to provide treats or snacks.
Get a Checkup
Since there are diseases and health conditions that can cause an increased appetite, it’s important to consult your vet if you have a fast eater.
This is particularly important if the above suggestions don’t work, or you notice other symptoms of illness. These include vomiting, diarrhea, unexplained weight loss, changes in thirst or changes in urination.
Remember dental problems can also affect how your pooch eats. This is another reason to visit the vet if they continue not chewing their food.