Just as with humans, a dog’s appetite can change dramatically day to day.
Sometimes, they are simply off their food. Hot weather, a funny tummy or tiredness can mean they just don’t feel like eating. Likewise, some days they are simply starving and could eat an entire box of their favourite dog biscuits! You’d be lying if you said you don’t have fridge-raider days, too…
A lot of dogs are also food motivated, so can learn that good behaviour (or simply whining for a treat) will see them rewarded. We often can’t resist puppy-dog eyes.
Certain breeds are renowned for greed. These include:
- Cocker Spaniels
- Basset Hounds
Dogs in multi-pet households can also seem greedier, as they could be used to finishing off whatever is left by their sibling. This behaviour isn’t often a concern, however, it is vital that you control their food intake so they don’t become greedy or used to having too much food.
Something like a slow-feeder bowl could mean that they have time to digest the food they are given. This means they could feel fuller before the end of the meal, reducing the likelihood that they will want more for dessert.
But if your dog’s hunger is starting to concern you, it is a good idea to look more into why they are so hungry. After all, overfeeding can be dangerous. You may think you’re helping them to feel full and satisfied, but if they’re getting more calories than necessary, it can lead to obesity, digestion issues and pressure on their internal organs.
While some dogs are just sometimes ravenous on particular days, overeating and hunger could also be a sign of:
- gastrointestinal issues
- Cushing’s disease (when the adrenal glands overproduce cortisol)
What to do if you notice a change in appetite with your dog
As mentioned, a random day of never-ending hunger shouldn’t result in too much worry, especially if everything goes back to normal the next day.
But if it becomes the norm, you may want to look out for other signs of ill health too.
Being withdrawn, or extra clingy, are two behavioural signs something may be wrong. A change in energy levels could point towards diabetes, and a change in toilet habits may be a sign of issues with digestion.
If you are ever worried at all, it is worth informing your vet. If they are concerned, they may ask you to take your dog in for a checkup. They can assess your dog for any health issues, and also inform you of how best to treat the issue.
It is times like this when an online vet can come in handy. They can talk you through any advice, and refer you to your vet if they are concerned.
Check that you are feeding them the correct amount
It may sound silly, but are you feeding your dog the correct amount of food for their weight and activity levels?
Many people could simply think that filling their dog’s bowl with a layer of food is about right. However, the size of their bowl, the food used and your dog can all mean that no two dogs are fed the same amount of food.
There will be advice on every food package on how much to give your dog. If your dog’s food changes, either between flavours of the same brand or to a different brand, it is vital that you reassess how much to give your dog. No two brands are the same. The size of the biscuits or the meat density/type of wet food can all have an impact.
Also, take into account their treats. If they get training treats or night-time biscuits, you may have to adjust their meal intake slightly. Likewise, if they are very active, you may need to boost the amount they are fed.
Some dogs don’t have an ‘off’ button, so will eat all the food you give them and any treats or tidbits off your own plate. This can mean that their appetites fluctuate from day to day, and they may feel ‘hungry’ if they didn’t get a bit of your toast that morning. This is why it is vital your dog gets the correct amount every day, and that you keep this consistent and regular.
Change their food
Is your dog highly active? You may need to change to a higher calorie food, such as one for a working dog. Simply giving them more of the food that they are currently on could mean they are missing out on vital nutrients.
You also have to realise that some foods are simply just better than others. Do you pick up a bag of the cheapest supermarket own-brand when you’re in the shops? Unfortunately, it isn’t going to be as good as a quality brand like Harrington’s, Purina or Royal Canin.
Mass-manufactured foods can be filled with extras such as rice, pasta and other grains. These don’t always benefit your dog. Switching to a quality brand, or even to a raw diet, could mean your dog gets the nutrients they need with every meal (and feel more satisfied at the end of the meal).
High fibre could also be key. It will help them to feel fuller, potentially making extras seem less appetising.
Understand their past
Do you have a rescue dog? They may have been abused and underfed in their past life. Dogs like this can often be a lot greedier, as they aren’t used to getting the food and nutrients they need. They feel the need to ‘stock up’ when they can.
Don’t overfeed them at the start. Take it slowly. It can be tempting to give them what they want, but again it can lead to greed in the long term as they won’t know how to manage their food intake.
Deflect their attention from food
Have you ever eaten purely out of boredom? Your dog may be doing the exact same.
A treat that keeps them occupied could be replaced by a toy. Likewise, if you take them on a walk as soon as they start whining for a treat, they can start to associate their behaviour with getting that reward instead of getting a Bonio biscuit.
You could play with them, using their favourite toys, or even brush them. They will soon forget that they want a treat.
Or you could even give them something like a Kong to keep them occupied and make them work for the treats they are owed. Factor the treats into their overall diet intake, though.
The above suggestions are all the first steps to take if your dog is always hungry. If there are any other concerns, or you have tried changing their diet, always contact your vet for advice and to rule out anything more serious.