We know all about the speedy eater! We have one in our house – actually we have two – Salem and Frankie set land speed records at meal times.
The Dog & Cat Hunter
Dogs have evolved over thousands of years. Dogs needed to rely on their hunting and foraging skills in order to feed their families and themselves. This helped to exercise not only their bodies but their brains as well. Much of their time was spent foraging for food or plotting out the hunt. Not lounging around the family room like many of today’s dogs. The hunting and foraging had many benefits including better digestion as well as a very natural species-appropriate diet.
Where’s the Thrill of the Hunt today?
Our family dogs today typically eat twice a day and their food is not hard to locate in their bowl and many dogs are fed at approximately the same time every day. Consequently the “hunt” is quite short and is often over in about 30 seconds or so. This can cause a number of issues including digestive upset, diarrhea, regurgitation or even bloat, a dangerous situation where the stomach swells and twists causing a life-threatening condition. The alternative is to leave their food out 24/7 and so their is no sense of urgency in eating, often creating a dog (or cat) that is not especially excited about meal time because it’s always there and there’s certainly no excitement generated in the anticipation of a meal.
Switch it up! Meal times that is!
Here’s an alternative strategy for meal time. Vary the schedule a little bit and don’t feed exactly at the same time morning and night. This can cause your pet to have an upset stomach if you miss a mealtime. Their bodies are tuned into eating at a certain time of day so their bodies prepare for the anticipated meal by gearing up their digestive system to eat. If they don’t eat within that period of time the excess acid in their stomach causes an upset stomach and they’ll often regurgitate greenish/yellow bile. This can be avoided.
Try this at the next mealtime…have your pet watch as you prepare your pet’s dinner and then put it on the counter and wait for about 20 minutes or so. Your dog or cat will anticipate the dinner just like they would when they’re hunting and they will get their digestive system all geared up to eat. Once they do eat they will be able to better digest their meal because their system was all geared up to do so. This process doesn’t happen if you free feed at will.
Another great option is to switch your dog or cat to a species appropriate fresh raw food diet. Check out our Nutrition information on feeding a raw diet to your pet! Our dog and cat nutrition experts at our Lafayette Square-Saint Louis and Edwardsville shops can help you find the best raw food options for your dog and cat.
The Thinking Dogs Dinner!
Slow-feeding puzzle toys and bowls are a great option for dogs that eat their kibble too quickly. They are also perfect for mental stimulation as well. Using dog puzzle toys in place of a food bowl is a great strategy to both make meal time fun and to help slow down their eating time too. Plus they’re perfect for puppies! They’ll see meal time as another great playtime and will be ready for a nap after they’ve worked for their dinner.
Slow-feeding bowls and puzzles come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. What’s great about them is that they all require a little different technique in getting their dinner. Some require a little nose work while some require a little paw work. More advanced puzzles will require a couple of steps before they can find their food. Finding the right puzzle dog toy style for your dog is very important. The goal is to match the challenge with your dog’s capability. You want to stimulate your dog’s brain and not frustrate so much that they give up! They might require a little help at first and most slow feeders and puzzle toys have easy to more challenging options.
Check out this video of the latest slow feeder – it’s really challenging and fun for your dog!
This is a great option for all dogs from young puppies to our older seniors and from Chihuahua’s to Great Danes. All dogs need and crave the mental engagement of the “hunt” and using a slow interactive feeder at mealtime can make a real difference.