Let's face it: when it comes to eating, dogs are quite fast eaters, often swallowing their kibble whole without chewing as if there's no tomorrow, what gives? The behavior is actually not unusual; indeed, on Puppy Planet, there are likely more dogs eating fast than eating slow if ever some statistics on dog-eating times were ever collected. Slow dining, as to savoring one morsel at a time, is something not popular in the world of canines, but dogs seem to have their own good reasons for wolfing down their chow.
A Look Back
If your dog is swallowing his kibble whole without chewing don't be too fast to label him as greedy, turns out dogs have some good reasons for their behavior and it stems from their evolutionary past.
In the olden days, dogs were not fed bags of kibble from shiny bowls. A dog's ancestors were hunting and scavenging for food and eating fast was necessary for several reasons.
Feast or famine was a real thing, so there were times with little to no food and then there were times after a hunt where there was an abundance of food. After going through lean times, a dog's ancestors were eating fast because they were very hungry. However, eating fast wasn't only because of that.
If in the old days a dog's ancestors were eating slow, this could have meant losing access to their food. Most likely if the food wasn't gobbled up in a timely manner, another canine or some other competitor animal would have gladly finished it up. On top of that, eating slow in the wild is risky business considering that it puts animals in a vulnerable position which can mean becoming dinner to other larger predators!
Curious fact: Statistics show that ravensget to eat more meatfrom a wolf kill, than the wolves themselves, explains Toni Shelbourne in the book "The truth about wolves and dogs." No wonder why wolves are eager to eat fast, hence the term "wolfing your food."
Designed for Fast Eating
Even if we look at dog anatomy, we will notice a body that is designed for fast eating.
Molars are teeth that are used for grinding. In herbivores, like the horse, the canine teeth are small or non-existent, while the molars are broad and flat because they are plant eaters and must grind grains and plant material with their side-to-side jaw movements.
In omnivores, like us humans, since both meat and plants are consumed, teeth include a combination of incisors, canines, pre-molars and molars used for grinding also in a somewhat sideways motion.
Dogs, even though not considered obligate carnivores like the cat, overall have a body designed to eat meat. A dog's teeth are designed for ripping and tearing meat and their jaws mostly move in an up-and-down motion. Dogs also don't have flat molars as herbivores and omnivores do. Dogs are therefore not designed to chew as much as some other animals and that's a main reason why they end up swallowing their kibble whole.
On top of not having molars designed for grinding, dogs do not produce amylase, an enzyme meant to digest starches, in their saliva. This is because food doesn't stay long in their mouth, and therefore the amylase isn't necessary to start digestion, explains veterinarian Ernie Ward in the book "Chow Hounds: Why Our Dogs Are Getting Fatter -A Vet's Plan to Save Their Lives." Instead, dogs produce amylase in their digestive tract so starches can be digested there at their own leisure. This is just one of the many things that differentiate dogs from wolves.
Finally, dogs might not feel much compelled to eating fast because of their taste buds. With only about 2,000 taste buds on their tongues, compared to our 9,000, why would dogs feel motivated to savor their food if the flavor is going to be just bland?
" Human saliva contains an enzyme called amylase, which starts breaking down starches as soon as food hits the mouth. Dog drool doesn't have this advantage, but dogs do excrete amylase from their pancreases, allowing for the digestion of starches in the gut."~Live Science
Did you know? One of the reasons why dogs do not get cavities as humans do, is perhaps because of how their teeth are designed. Since dogs have fewer pits and fissures on the surface of their teeth, cavity causing bacteria and food particles are less likely to stick to them as they would on teeth with many indentations. Source: Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
A Word About Multi-Dog Households
Eating fast is particularly common in households with multiple dogs. The reason being that dogs may feel more competitive when around other dogs and this may cause them to feel more compelled to gobble up and swallow their kibble without chewing as fast as they can.
As their food is being prepared, there is a strong build in anticipation as all the dogs eagerly wait for their bowls to be filled. Then when it's time to eat, it's almost sort of like a race against time between the dogs as to who finishes first.
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The dogs in this case are likely concerned about other dogs finishing up first and approaching their bowl. It might have happened in the past that a dog who finished first got near their bowl and these dogs may have "learned their lesson" and sped up their eating.
In these cases, some dog owners find that putting more distance between the dogs or feeding them in completely separate areas where they can't see or hear each other can help slow them down. This makes for a more relaxed feeding.
" If you have other pets in the house, including other dogs, your canine pal may want to insure that he gets his share before someone else helps himself. For other dogs, it may not be the actual presence of a second dog or, say, a cat but a throwback to his days as a puppy — a subconscious reminder of having to compete with his littermates for his mother’s milk."~Tufts University
Underlying Health Problem
If your dog has suddenly started gulping down his food like there's no tomorrow, sometimes this can be indicative of a health problem.
For instance, a dental problem can lead to pain chewing and therefore a dog may decide that's it's less painful to just swallow the kibble whole. Dogs who have misaligned teeth (a malocclusion) may also swallow their kibble whole, but this is generally something that shouldn't happen out of the blue.
If a dog suddenly develops ravenous appetite this is something that should be investigated as well. Conditions that could cause a voracious appetite in dogs include diabetes and Cushing's disease, explains veterinarian Dr. Fiona. Even medications like prednisone may include increased appetite and voracious eating as a side effect.
Did you know? The medical term for increased consumption of food is "polyphagia." The term comes from polys which means "much" andphagein which means "to eat."
Associated Health Risks
While it's natural for dogs to be predisposed to be swallowing their kibble whole, this practice can have several health repercussions.
If you own a large, deep chested dog, eating too fast can predispose him to develop life threatening bloat from swallowing too much air. The excess air causes the stomach to swell up and it risks twisting on itself like a hammock, a condition that's known as gastric dilatation volvulus. While bloat affects mostly large dogs, medium dogs and smaller dogs can also be affected at times.
Another risk associated with dogs swallowing their kibble whole is choking. This is something that can be worrisome obviously as it can turn life threatening.
On a lighter note, dogs who eat quickly and swallow their kibble may develop digestive problems under the form of hiccups, burping, flatulence, vomiting and regurgitation. When the dog eats too fast, the stomach cannot keep up with the workload and may just bring the food back up within a few minutes.
A Few Tips
A lot of dogs swallow their kibble whole and this generally isn't much concerning as most dogs can swallow their kibble whole without getting ill, what is concerning though is eating too fast. Dogs who swallow their kibble whole and eat fast may benefit from learning to slow down a bit. This can be accomplished in several ways. Here are a few tips:
- You can try feeding multiple times a day so that your dog gets to eat a smaller amount at a time.
- You can place some tennis balls in his food bowl so he's forced to eat around them.
- You can try scattering his food on a cookie sheet, which makes it harder for him to grasp much at once.
- You can hide his food inside a Kong or other interactive toy.
- You can place his food in small amounts in several food bowls.
- You can invest in a Brake-Fast bowl or other bowl made for fast eating dogs.
- You can play fun games such as making a path of kibble or hiding his kibble in several areas of the house.
- VCA Animal Hospitals, Fast Eating Can Lead To Serious Problems in Dogs, retrieved from the web on November 15th, 2016
- Tufts Your Dog, Does Your Dog Eat too Fat? retrieved from the web on November 15th, 2016
- Flickr Creative Commons, Georgie Pauwels, Dinner for One, CCBY2.0
- Flickr Creative Commons, PROWonderlaneRose, a puppy, chewing on a bone, south U District near the Montlake Cut, Seattle, Washington, USA CCBY2.0
- Flickr Creative Commons, Antique Dog Photos, Feed the dogs, CCBY2.0
- Flickr Creative Commons, BuzzFarmers Dog played with his food. CCBY2.0