All dog owners will be familiar with their dog acting like he’s starving, even after a huge meal. And that’s the thing, dogs do seem to want to eat all the time and are very food driven. Let’s be honest, some of that is down to us, and how we reward them with snacks during training.
But does there even come a point when your dog knows when to stop eating? This question and more related to why dogs can appear to eat non-stop is answered below, including the risks of overeating.
Do dogs know when to stop eating? Most dogs will know when to stop eating, as they will feel sick. However, this point of nausea will often come once the dog is more than full. This can lead to issues, the most obvious one being obesity, but also stress and pain.
Dogs don’t have the “off” or “pause” button where food is involved. It’s not unusual for a dog to eat non-stop to the point of vomiting even when they feel full.
This habit of your dog has of wanting to eat all the time is most likely a survival instinct. Just like when he was a puppy and would eat fast, it’s connected to feeling this could be his last ever meal, and his food is at risk of being eaten by another dog or predator.
As a dog parent, is there anything you might be unknowingly doing to encourage overfeeding tendencies in your canine friend? There are also risks because dogs can overeat and die.
Why do dogs never stop eating?
Before I get more into the detail of dogs not knowing when to stop eating, there’s a serious side to this. Whilst all owners can agree that their dogs probably appear to never stop eating, if you’ve seen a change in appetite, it could be worth getting it checked… see below.
Why do dogs never stop eating? Almost all dogs are food motivated, but if yours suddenly has an increased appetite and won’t stop eating, it could be the sign of a health issue which leads to polyphagia (excessive eating).
Canine illnesses that lead to over-eating include Cushing’s disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal issues, and tumors. Contact a vet if you are the least bit concerned.
Do dogs know when to stop eating?
Here’s something we can all agree on – almost all dogs get super excited when it’s time to eat and will tend to over-eat, and possibly not even stop.
So, what’s the deal with dogs acting like they are starving all the time?
Well, it’s simple. Our canine companions are purely food motivated. It’s in their nature. That’s why your dog may seem like they’re always eager to eat anytime, anywhere.
It’s normal for dogs to act like they haven’t had a meal in ages each time you fill up their empty food bowl. Experts believe our furry friends are naturally food-driven because of their ancestry — they descend from wild wolves known to have a food scarcity mindset.
Back then, wild wolves had no idea where and when they’d get their next meal. So, whenever any food came their way, they’d feast as though their lives depended on it. You often see this with puppies.
Since it’s widely understood that our canine friends are descendants of wolves, there’s no question that they, too, have this mindset. That is, food has and will always be a scarce resource.
Dogs often think they’re setting themselves up for starvation if they don’t eat the meal in front of them as quickly as they can.
Do dogs ever feel full?
That said, most dogs know that feeling full is a sign they should take a step back from the food dish. But other dogs will still act like they want more, and not know when to stop eating despite being well fed.
It’s the same case for us humans. Some people stop eating when they feel satisfied, while others still carry on with eating even when they are already full.
So, if you find your canine friend snooping around the kitchen for something extra, they probably feel there’s space in their tummy for more food. Or they just can’t resist the sight of food before them and think leaving it untouched is “unwise” (again, food scarcity mentality).
Or maybe, just maybe, there’s an underlying cause for the extreme food obsession.
Can dogs overeat and die?
Whilst it would be unusual for a dog to overeat and die, it can happen. There’s a condition called Canine Bloat which can occur when a dog overeats. Gas builds up in their stomach, stretching it, slowly impacting blood flow, and resulting in possible death.
Reasons why dogs want to eat all the time
I’ve already explained the possible health reasons, but here’s more on why dogs want to eat all the time and possibly won’t stop.
1. Free feeding is a notorious culprit
If your dog’s feeding routine involves you leaving out a bowl of food outside so that your dog has the freedom to eat whenever they like, they will be the type to eat non-stop.
You’ve given them unrestricted access to food, so looking away when there’s food right before them is the hardest thing ever! And just so you know, free-feeding is a leading cause of weight-related illness in dogs.
Handy Hint: Some say you should leave food out all day so a puppy can graze. I don’t recommend this feeding approach, and here’s why.
2. Food grazing leads to boredom eating
Your dog is bored, and eating is their way of dealing with boredom. This is another major problem with free feeding. If you make food always available to your canine friend, they’ll turn to it anytime they are bored.
Your dog will just eat their boredom away, even when they aren’t starving.
3. You’re constantly feeding your dog your leftovers
Most of our unhealthy foods are super tasty, probably tastier than anything your dog has ever feasted on. If your leftovers are often full of delicious carbs, your dog will always feel hungry most of the time.
Carbs digest faster — even in dogs.
As a result, your dog will have frequent hunger episodes. They’ll always crave food and beg for more even when you serve them enough during their usual mealtime.
4. Your dog’s diet doesn’t provide the correct amount of nutrition
If your dog always acts like he’s starving hungry, their diet may be lacking the right balance of essential nutrients like fiber — which keeps dogs feeling full. For this reason, they’ll want to eat more and more at any chance they get.
5. Your dog is hungry, for real
Different dog breeds have different food requirements. Are you feeding your canine buddy the exact portion size they need?
If not, you might be keeping your dog hungry for more hours than you thought. So, they’ll eat up everything when it’s mealtime and still hang around the dining area for food scraps.
This will give the impression that your dog does not know when to stop eating, when in fact it’s hungry and not full.
5. Your dog is sick
Did you know medical conditions such as diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and parasitic infections can take a dog’s appetite to a whole new level?
If you’re concerned that your dog’s food obsession isn’t close to what you were used to before, chances are, they’re sick. Take them to the vet so you’d rule out the possibility of an illness.
How to stop a dog from overeating
We know that dogs like to eat all the time and will overeat given the chance. If your dog doesn’t have an underlying medical issue yet overfeeds, here are a few effective tips to help you curb their unhealthy food obsession:
- Switch from free-feeding to scheduled mealtime, and not too late at night. This will help you control how much your dog eats and stop them from eating out of boredom.
- Talk to your vet to confirm whether you’re feeding your dog the right portion and if their current diet is nutritious enough.
- If you’ve fed them the appropriate amount and they are still asking for more, find ways to divert their attention away from the cravings. You can take them for a walk or have a play session.
- As hard as this may sound, don’t tolerate begging — especially if you’ve fed them enough. Begging is the quickest route to them gaining extra pounds. You don’t want that.
- Keep your kitchen off-limits. This will ensure your canine friend doesn’t have the opportunity to snack on the leftovers on your counter or in the trash bin.
- Ensure they have enough water to drink after meals. Water will keep them full much longer.
Why do dogs eat non-stop?
There are several reasons that dogs eat non-stop, among them: If you allow them to graze rather than put them on a scheduled feeding, they have an underlying health problem, you don’t feed them the right portions, their diet isn’t nutritious enough, and they’re used to eating unhealthy human food leftovers.
Can a dog spend a day without eating?
Yes, a dog can survive a day without eating, provided they have enough water to drink.
Handy Hint: How long do you need to wait after a dog has eaten to take them for a walk?
Dogs go bananas when it’s mealtime. As soon as you fill up their dish with a generous amount of food, they can clear up everything in minutes and even start begging for more. If you can’t help but wonder whether dogs know when enough is enough, you’re not alone.
Once that food appears to be coming they’ll do their signature happy dance, clutch your arms, and a bunch of other antics as they wait for you to pour food into their bowl and step aside so they can dig in.
And when they do, oh boy! They’ll bury their head in that bowl like there’s no tomorrow, leaving it sparkling in one sitting.
To your surprise, you might even catch them in the kitchen 30 minutes later, eyeing the leftover pork on your counter.
Dogs don’t really know when to stop eating, so as a responsible owner, we need to limit that.
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