I have a three-year-old Labrador called Rolo who loves his food and gets very excited even when he thinks I’m going near his food cupboard. Since a pup, he has always eaten his meals very quickly and seems to gulp his food down without even chewing. How can I help slow him down?
Anna Cherry advises…
I think it’s fair to say that a lot of Labradors are food-motivated and thoroughly relish every morsel of food that they can get their chops around. So, Rolo is in good company and true to his breed.
However, from what you’ve described, Rolo does sound as if he is eating his food very fast and tending to inhale his food rather than chew it, which can have some serious health repercussions.
Firstly, by not taking the time to chew his food properly, he is making it more difficult for his body to get all the nutrients it needs. Chewing and mixing his food with saliva is an important part of the digestive process, as it not only helps to physically break down the food but also helps to increase the surface area available for digestive enzymes. Secondly, eating rapidly can increase your dog’s risk of choking and gagging, and in some cases, it can even cause vomiting and regurgitation.
Thirdly, by gulping down his food, Rolo is at risk of also taking excessive amounts of air into his stomach. This is believed to be a risk factor for the development of gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV), which is when the stomach swells up and becomes twisted. It’s a life-threatening condition that large, deep-chested breeds of dog are especially vulnerable to.
Thankfully, there are some simple steps that you can take to help slow Rolo’s eating and keep him safe and well:
• If you are able, divide his daily ration into several smaller meals and feed them over the course of the day. Feed him a minimum of twice daily.
• Try feeding him using an activity feeder or one of the slow-feeding bowls that have protruding sections, as this will make it more difficult for Rolo to get all his food in one go. Alternatively, adding a tennis ball to his bowl can have the same effect. These methods will not just slow down Rolo’s eating but will make mealtimes more fun and give his brain a good workout too!
• Instead of feeding all his meals from a bowl, why not use his food to make a doggie scavenger hunt around your home and garden?
Hopefully, these tips will help to slow down Rolo’s eating and make mealtimes even more enjoyable!