A dog suddenly eating slower may be a source of concern for dog owners. Most dogs are voracious eaters. When given meals, they wolf down on as much food as possible as there is no tomorrow. And in case you accidentally drop something, they are like vacuum cleaners.
Therefore, it comes as a surprise when dogs suddenly start eating slower than usual. At first, pet owners see this as a positive change – eating slowly is healthier than wolfing food down as it allows better food digestion and poses a lesser choking risk.
However, in some cases, sudden decreases in the eating pace are concerning.
In this article, we will discuss why a dog that goes from eating fast to eating slow should be seen as a red flag. We will go into depth on potential medical conditions that may slow dogs down.
Finally, we will cover the importance of visiting the vet and possible treatments based on the underlying causes.
Why is My Dog Suddenly Eating Slower?
There are several reasons (medical and behavioral) that can make dogs eat slower. Luckily, each reason is manageable with the right approach. Here are the top most common scenarios – reasons and their potential solutions.
1: Stress & Anxiety
In dogs, stress and anxiety are more common than perceived. Both short and long-term exposure to stressors and triggers can impact the dog’s emotional welfare.
Such mood alterations can make it hard for the dog to focus on eating.
Solution: Stress management can be a lengthy process and requires a multi-modal approach – proper techniques and some medical aid (calming meds and supplements).
2: Vaccinations & Medications
Dogs, especially puppies, often feel sluggish after receiving vaccines, which may affect appetite and eating pace.
As for medications, one of the most common side effects is a lack of appetite.
Solution: In the case of vaccines, give your dog a day or two to get back to its usual self. As for meds, talk to your vet whether there are medication alternatives.
3: Tummy Troubles
Despite popular opinion, dogs have a very sensitive stomach and can get irritated by various issues, from food changes to dietary indiscretions.
A dog with an upset stomach is likely to suddenly start eating slower (it may also vomit or have diarrhea).
Solution: Make a vet visit to determine the stomach upset trigger and feed your dog a bland diet (boiled white rice with chicken meat) until the irritation settles.
4: Poor Quality Food
With so many dog food choices on the market, it is not uncommon to make mistakes and get low-quality food. Such foods are not very palatable and can make your dog eat slowly.
Solution: Switch to a different brand. When shopping for dog food, consider the price. Although not always a reliable indicator, in most cases, foods with heftier price tags are of better quality.
5: Food Boredom
Food boredom, or popularly known as food fatigue, is a legit issue in dogs. Nobody wants to eat the same thing every day.
Therefore, if you have been using the same dog food formula for quite some time, chances are the slow eating is due to a lack of menu variety.
Solution: Occasionally add food toppers and canned foods over the kibble. You can also prepare homemade meals from time to time or practice food formula changes after several uses.
A dog served more food than it needs is likely to start eating slower. Overfeeding is not always about portion size. Sometimes, offering too many treats between meals can have the same effect.
Solution: Double-check on the portion size with your vet. Also, consult about the right amount of treats based on the type and brands you are using. 7: Dental Issues
7: Dental Issues
Dental problems in dogs are widespread, and most of them are painful hence can make dogs eat slower.
Common issues include chipped and fractured teeth, gum or periodontal disease, tartar build-up pressuring the soft tissues.
Solution: Take care of your dog's oral hygiene – brush its teeth regularly (no less than three times per week, -ideally daily) and practice two dental appointments per year (either check-ups or, if necessary, for teeth scaling purposes).
8: Canine Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis (painful inflammation of the joints) is an inevitable issue that develops in most dogs at certain points in their lives.
A dog with osteoarthritis will have trouble standing over the food bowl. This can result in slow eating or complete food avoidance.
Solution: Craft an arthritis management plan with your vet (pain medications, joint supplements, CBD oil, physical therapy) and make mealtime more pleasant by providing elevated food bowls.
9: Severe Neck Pain
Neck pain in dogs occurs due to traumatic injuries (usually dog fights) and a cervical disc slipping out and causing pressure on the spinal cord.
In both cases, the pain prevents the dog from taking the necessary eating stance and may result in slow eating.
Solution: Address the neck injury appropriately, and in the meanwhile, use elevated bowls or hand-feed your dog.
10: Age-Related Changes
Puppies and young adults tend to eat faster than adults. Usually, the eating pace decreases once the dog is around two years old.
The subsequent eating pace slowdown occurs when the dog enters its senior years, which can happen anytime between 7 and 9 years of age, depending on the breed.
Solution: Check with your vet to rule out an underlying medical condition. If your dog is healthy and the pace decrease coincides with these age category changes, there is nothing to be worried about.
What's the Normal Eating Pace of Dogs?
This is a legit question, but sadly, it does not have a correct answer. Every dog is different, and every food is different.
Namely, while most dogs are gulpers, some prefer taking more time to enjoy their food.
Age can be a variant, too, as puppies tend to eat faster than adult dogs and way quicker than seniors who do everything in slow motion.
As for the food, extra crunchy kibble can make feeding time longer than creamy chunks in gravy.
However, by the time your puppy becomes an adult, and once the feeding rituals like the type of food, serving size, and timing are set, you will get familiar with your dog's eating pace. Then, any changes in the pace will be easier for you to spot.
How to Get a Dog to Eat Faster?
The hectic modern lifestyle makes us do things in a rush. And sometimes we need our dogs to eat faster – not that they should wolf down on food, but rather avoid playing with it.
Luckily, there are various things you can do to speed up your dog's eating process.
First of all, make sure there is no underlying medical or emotional issue that objectively prevents your dog from eating faster.
This means visiting your trusted veterinarian for a complete physical examination. If the vet gives you the green light and rules out the presence of issues, you can practice some of the following tips.
1: Minimize The Distractions
A dog that is distracted by other pets, kids, or something interesting going on in the other room cannot focus on its food. Make sure everything is quiet and calm (as much as possible) during your dog’s feeding time.
2: Make The Food More Appealing
There are plenty of food topper options available on the market. Find a flavor your dog likes and simply add a scoop over the regular food. Alternatively, you can use a few tablespoons of chicken or beef broth.
3: Take The Food Bowl Away after Mealtime
Start leaving the bowl available for specific timeframes. For example, you can leave the bowl within your dog’s reach for 30 minutes and then pick it up. Do not give your dog food before the next scheduled mealtime.
4: Add Variety to The Menu
Change the dog food formula you are using every once in a while. However, just make sure there are gradual transitions as sudden switches may have an adverse effect – stomach upset.
5: Eat Beside Your Dog
As social animals, dogs are very attuned to us, and some may dislike eating alone. Try to synchronize your mealtime schedules. Eating at the same time as your dog can be beneficial in some cases.
When gulper dogs become slow-eaters, a vet visit is warranted. There is a number of medical conditions and issues that can affect the dog's eating pace, and some are more serious than others.
Sometimes there are even behavioral issues, in which case, the vet will refer you to a licensed board-certified veterinary behaviorist.
If there is nothing physically and emotionally wrong with your dog, but it keeps eating slowly, do not worry.
Slow eating is actually healthier than simply swallowing the entire food bowl’s content.
Finally, if your dog's eating pace becomes a nuisance and your dog is actually playing with the food rather than eating, try some of the above-explained tips to entice its appetite and ensure there is a reasonable period between two meals