How to Stop Your Pet from Eating Too Fast
It always seems that the moment you put your dog’s dinner bowl on the ground, seconds later he has already gulped it down. Sometimes this speedy eating—and the resulting swallowed air—can cause vomiting.
What’s even worse is that this intake of air may also contribute to bloat or a very serious issue known as Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus. This condition causes your dog’s stomach to twist. And without skilled veterinary care and usually surgery, your dog could die.
Cats can also eat too fast, which can lead to vomiting. Fortunately, bloat doesn't affect felines, but it's still not fun cleaning up the mess. So, how do you get your beloved pets to slow down?
Regardless of whether it’s your dog or your cat whose fast dining habits are leading to regurgitation, there are some simple ways you can slow down your pet's mealtimes. Here are seven tricks that can stop your pet from eating too fast.
1. Feed Smaller Meals More Frequently
One of the reasons your pet is eating too quickly is that the time between meals is too long for your pet. Higher levels of hunger encourages your pet to gulp the food down quickly. If you feed once or twice a day, try adding one or even two more meals. With less overall volume per meal, you also run less risk of your pet's stomach filling too quickly and causing vomiting.
A word of caution: Unless your pet is underweight, make sure you don't increase the amount of food you are serving over the course of the day. Your goal is to feed the same amount, but in smaller and more easily consumed meals.
2. Keep Pets Apart at Mealtime
Some animals develop bad habits of eating quickly back when they were litter-mates and competing with each other for food. Today, even though your pets may get separate bowls, they still feel the need to ingest what they can before anyone else can challenge them for it. If your pets are wolfing down their food, try feeding pets in separate rooms of your home.
3. Spread Out the Food
No one says you have to feed your pet from a single bowl. Try putting small amounts of food on different plates, and spread them around your feeding area. Your dog or cat will have to find the next plate in between eating, which will naturally slow down their feeding. If you're feeding your pets kibble, you could also make a line around the room so your pet only eats one bite at a time.
Another option to tap into their instinctual side is hiding their food bowl outside. Playful dogs will love sniffing and scavenging for their bowl. Cats, on the other hand, might not take to outside food hunting like many dogs will, but you can give it a try.
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4. Use an Automatic or Slow Feeding Bowl
Slow-feeding bowls, available at most pet stores, have different sections separated by plastic dividers. The bowls come in a range of sizes and with various patterns like concentric circles or mazes that keep your pet from gulping all of the food at one time. Most slow feeder bowls are under $10, so trying one out might be worth it.
If you find success with a slow-feeding bowl, a more permanent and slightly more expensive option is an automatic feeder bowl. Especially useful for feeding dry food to cats, an automatic feeder with four or five compartments has sliding doors that open on a timer. This ensures your pet has regular access to food even when you aren’t around.
5. Add an Obstacle
An alternative to the commercial slow feeder bowl is to add something, like a large ball, to your existing pet dish. The item you add must be large enough that it can't be swallowed, but it prevents your pet from accessing all the food at one time.
6. Puzzles, Mazes, & Interactive Food Dispensers
Designed primarily to feed treats, pet puzzles require your dog or cat to move the feeder in a certain way or solve a maze to access the food. This is a great way to entertain your pet, but you may find that the time to solve the puzzle gets shorter and shorter as your dog or cat becomes more familiar with how it works. Nevertheless, this will slow down eating enough for your purposes—but you might want to consider keeping a variety of these toys on hand.
7. Hand Feed Your Pet
You can incorporate meal time with training time and make your pet perform a trick or obey a command in order to get a food reward. Again, dogs may be more receptive to this technique than cats.
Armed with these tricks and techniques for slowing down your pet's eating speed, you're likely to see some improvements. Remember to stick with what you try for several days as your pet adjusts to a different style of feeding. Your pet will be less stressed around meals and won't vomit after eating nearly as often.
Plus, you'll be reducing the possible risk of bloat from rapid ingestion. Any animal with a stomach can bloat, but cats are much less likely to be affected. Dogs of deep chested breeds, like Great Danes, are predisposed to this serious condition.
Questions about feeding your pet or the best nutrition for your dog or cat? Contact us for an appointment centered around diet and nutrition for your pet.
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About Dr. Natalie Waggener
Dr. Natalie Waggener has 17 years of experience in emergency work and general practice in Rhode Island, Florida and Massachusetts. She has a special interest in dentistry, wellness care and rehabilitation therapy. She is currently licensed in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island.