How many of us have heard "My dog ate my homework!" Some dogs have an appetite that involves eating everything in sight (yes, even homework.)
Where does this constant hunger come from? Is it genetic? Or does your dog have behavioral problems? Let's delve deeper into both myth and fact and get to the bottom of it. Why do so many of our furry friends seem to be hungry all the time?
Although there's no concrete scientific proof, experts believe that domesticated dogs come from wolves who domesticated themselves. They were curious and non-aggressive and came into human settlements to scavenge for food.
As humans got used to the wolves, they began feeding them. People and wolves became used to one another, and so a friendship that would continue for centuries began. But, are all dogs as hungry as wolves?
What do your dog's eating habits mean?
While some dogs will eat like there is no tomorrow, other dogs will eat just the right amount and even walk from food. Do you own a gluttonous German Shepherd or a ravenous Rottweiler? Now, let's dig into the reasons why this could be happening.
Has your dog started to devour more food than they have in the past? An increased appetite could be because of newly added stress to the household. It could be a new household pet, a guest seen as a threat, or a family member's absence.
Stress will create a "fight or flight" mode in the dog, and as a way to feel comforted, they'll experience an increase in appetite, and if they have access to food, they'll attempt to eat their stress away!
#2 Your dog is genetically gluttonous
Certain dog breeds are just hungrier than others, for example, Bulldogs, Bassets, Beagles, and Pugs. This may be linked to genetics when a particular breed had to eat more because of environmental factors like food supplies and climate.
You may be thinking, "My dog isn't living in the year 200BC with its ancestors! So why does he still eat as he does?". Instinct is still very much alive in Butch, and he may even believe that food is scarce, and just like his great, great, granddog, he has to fight to find it!
#3 Spike is spoilt
If you find yourself saying, "My dog won't eat his food but will eat treats," you could be dealing with some behavioral conditioning. In other words, you've spoilt your dog with too many treats, and now that's all they want.
This means it's time to assume your role as pack leader. Don't give in to those sad puppy dog eyes and hand over a snack every time your dog gets cute.
Cut down or remove treats altogether for a while so you can recondition your furry friend to enjoy their nutritious dinners once again instead of filling up on processed, less healthy meaty treats.
An always hungry dog could have this dreaded disease. Humans and dogs both are predisposed to developing Type I and Type II diabetes, both known to increase the amount of glucose in the blood system.
If your dog is constantly hungry and thirsty, it could be a sign that they may have diabetes. Don't panic! Make an appointment with the vet instead.
#5 Cancer and tumors
Sometimes an increased appetite may result from gastrointestinal tumors linked to a particular type of stomach cancer. A dog suffering from these types of cancers will develop an inability to absorb the food's nutrients, increasing appetite.
#6 Your dog's age
As a dog gets older, it may lose the ability to digest food as effectively as it did when it was a pup. If you have an old dog and suddenly lose its appetite, it could be due to old age. However, it could be a health problem, so it's best to take old Caesar for a checkup.
#7 Gastrointestinal issues
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is not just a human problem. It is a serious disease that could hinder your pet's ability to properly digest food and absorb the nutrients necessary for optimal health, even when eating more than usual.
Certain breeds such as French Bulldogs, Basenjis, and Irish Setters are more prone to IBD. Thankfully, IBD is manageable, even though it can't be cured. Talk to your vet about dietary changes and a treatment plan.
#8 Thyroid problems
Hyperthyroidism is a condition that happens when the thyroid is overproducing a hormone called thyroxine. A dog that is suffering from hyperthyroidism will have increased hunger and metabolic rate. This is a rare condition but one that a vet should still check.
#9 Cushing's Disease
When a dog produces too much cortisol, it could lead to some very serious health risks and disrupt your dog's blood sugar levels. As a side effect, the dog will be hungry more often.
How to know when appetite changes are serious
An increase in appetite could mean many different things in a dog. Complications can arise, and sometimes it's necessary to take them to the vet. Watch out for some of the following symptoms of hunger in dogs, which may mean your dog needs medical care:
- Losing, or even gaining weight suddenly.
- Unusually excessive thirst.
- Frequent urination
- Behaving in a way that indicates constant hunger.
If an underlying disease or issue is present, the following symptoms may occur:
- Depression and lethargy.
- Neurological symptoms like blindness, circling or pacing.
- Panting or trembling.
- Muscle weakness.
- Unusually soft or loose bowel movements.
- Vomiting or regurgitating food.
How to treat an increased appetite in your dog
Just like a loss of appetite in dogs is cause for concern, so is an increased appetite. Your best bet is to take your furry friend to the vet for a professional diagnosis. The vet will help tell you what dietary changes to make and prescribe medications if necessary.
If the excessive hunger is because of stress or conditioning, your vet will refer you to a specialist who will help you deal with your dog's issues or recondition them to behave better.
If your dog suffers from a more serious condition, the road to recovery may be a lengthy one. It would require follow up tests and working together with the vet until your dog has a clear bill of health.
Final food for thought
If your dog is still hungry after eating, the reason behind it may be something simple, like the breed of dog it is, or that you've been giving it too many treats. However, this may be a sign of a more serious underlying health condition.
Whatever it is that is causing your furry friend to be hungry all the time; you need to pay attention to their eating habits. If Fluffy is overdoing her dinner portions, instead take her to the vet. After all, it could be something serious.