Dogs love to eat! Given the chance, some dogs would snack away all day, every day on anything and everything. Labradors, we’re looking at you, wink wink. Some dogs are gulpers.
Dogs should be discouraged from gulping their food as it can lead to potentially harmful issues.
Coughing, choking or gagging are signs your dog needs to slow down when eating. Rapid eating and gulping results in excessive air, fluid and food filling the stomach. This may cause the stomach cavity to swell, commonly referred to as Canine Bloat. In extreme cases, the stomach expands and twists on its axis.
If this occurs the dog can go into shock and die quickly.
Preventing gulping is relatively easy and inexpensive using these simple tips:
- Make feeding time for your dog as relaxed and pleasant as possible.
- Deep-chested, large and giant breeds are best fed in bowls raised off the ground, ensuring their head is aligned with their body whilst eating.
- Use an empty egg carton, muffin or cupcake tin. Fill each individual space with food. Your dog will be forced to eat around the dividers. If you’d rather a store-bought item, look for a slow feeding bowl.
- Scatter your dog’s meal on the floor or outside on the grass so he has to search for his food. This has the added advantage of providing mental stimulation whilst making him chew more slowly.
- Place a smaller bowl upside down in their food dish, alternatively, you could use a large rock. This will create a moat of food and slow the dogs eating.
- If you feed your dog wet food, smear the food around an upturned flower pot. He will have to work at licking the food from the surface.
Puzzle feeders are also effective and available online, at pet stores and vet clinics.
- Layout a towel and scatter your dog’s food across the surface of the towel. Now, roll the towel with the food inside. Your dog will have to figure out how to unroll the towel to receive his food. This will slow him down as small portions of his food are released. The bonus is it’s also great mental stimulation for him. This works best with kibble or drier food options.
In multiple dog households, gulping can be the result of competitive eating behaviour. This can be addressed by:
- Ensuring each dog has its own food bowl.
- Feeding your dogs well away from each other. Either end of the room is fine and will give each dog a chance to eat from his own bowl without feeling the pressure of the other dog. If you have more than one dog who is determined to steal the others’ food, separate them and feed the greedy individuals in separate rooms out of sight of the other dogs.
- Check that you are giving adequate servings as recommended by your vet.