By: Abby Marshall | Reviewed by Dr. Clayton Greenway, B.Sc., DVM | Jun 6, 2019
It’s rarely a problem to get a dog to eat its food; in fact, it can be more of an issue to convince a dog to slow down while eating. Cats can be a bit pickier, but even some felines gulp down their meals.
Eating quickly can be a problem in both species, as it can cause vomiting (more common in cats) and choking if food is inhaled. In certain dog breeds, bloat is a concern as well. Bloat occurs when an animal’s stomach fills with liquid, gas, or food. The stomach can twist, trapping blood inside it, which can be life-threatening. However, there are certain things you can do stop your dog or cat from gulping food.
Instead of simply putting your pet’s food into a bowl, turn this part of the day into training time. Ask your pet to perform tricks, such as sit, stay, or come, and reward the behavior with a piece of food. (And yes, cats can be trained too!) This works well if you feed dry food, but those who feed canned or raw might want to either use a spoon or consider some other methods of slowing down the pet’s intake.
Turn feeding time into fun time by making it an adventure. Out of sight of your dog, place small amounts of food into various dishes and hide them in safe places in your home or yard. Let Fido sniff out his meal as he searches. Not only will this slow down his food intake, it will keep him mentally engaged. An especially active cat might enjoy this game as well.
Both cats and dogs can benefit from puzzle toys. Many different brands and types are available, but the basic premise is the same. Small bits of food are hidden inside the various compartments of the toy, and Fluffy or Rover has to figure out how to get them. Many pets really enjoy this intellectual stimulation, and you’re likely to have fun watching as your furry friend solves the puzzles.
A simple solution to get your pet to stop gulping its food is to hand-feed. With this method, you are fully in control of how much and how quickly your pet gets to eat. While this can take a while depending on how much food your pup or kitty is allowed at each feeding, you can also use this time to bond with your friend. If you have a fearful pet or one that is new to the family, this bonding time can be invaluable.
If you are regularly at home during the day, another solution for a pet that eats too quickly can be to feed mini-meals instead of one or two large meals. Divide each regular meal into smaller portions and offer these throughout the day.
There are many bowls on the market that can interfere with your pet’s ability to gulp food. These devices usually have some sort of barrier system inside that prevents the animal from grabbing large mouthfuls. This method can work well, but do your research on any product you buy, and make sure you are purchasing the appropriate sized bowl for your pet.
If you have a cat or dog that seems to be determined to break all speed-eating records, it’s a good idea to slow him or her down. Avoid the life-threatening complications of this behavior by hand-feeding, dividing meals, using a special dish, or turning mealtime into a game. Doing so will not only help your pet to stay healthy, but can provide you with peace of mind.