Although dogs do not have the same eating disorders as humans, there may still be a psychological reason behind any odd behaviour. Sometimes an eating disorder in a dog may not have anything to do with food, but eating unacceptable things like faeces or coal etc.
Types and Causes
Refusal to eat: Losing his appetite may be a sign that your dog is stressed. Before assuming that this is the case it is essential that you get your dog checked out by a vet to rule out any medical causes. Dogs who are suffering from separation anxiety will often refuse to eat when the significant human isn’t present; also a dog that has recently been rehomed may need gentle persuasion to eat in his new surroundings. Although your dog can go without food for a few days without any significant health issues, it is essential that he gets enough water. If he is reluctant to drink and there are no medical reasons, try a Drinkwell pet fountain to help encourage him to drink.
Gorging: Eating everything in sight regardless of whether your dog is hungry or not is a very common disorder. Sometimes a dog will eat to alleviate boredom. If this is the case, increase the amount of exercise and playtime you give your dog. This will combat gorging in two ways; your dog will be tired so he will be less likely to be bored, and if he eats too much the additional exercise will prevent him from becoming overweight.
Pica is when a dog eats non-food items, such as coal, chalk and other unappetising materials. Although this is common in puppy hood, your dog should outgrow this behaviour, however if your dog is still eating non food stuffs as an adolescent, then there could be a nutritional deficiency that your dog is instinctively trying to correct. It may also be attention seeking behaviour, so when dealing with this situation make sure that you are not rewarding your dog for his poor behaviour by paying more attention to him when he behaves badly.
Eating faeces is probably the most unacceptable of all eating disordersand is not always restricted to the dog eating his own faeces, but that of other animals. Again this can be cause by stress or an attention seeking act. Once this habit has been formed, it is very difficult to break, and you will need a lot of patience and understanding to retrain your dog.
Bolting food/scoffing: this type of disorder is most likely to cause damage to your dog’s health. In extreme cases, your dog may eat so fast, that the food cannot be digested and your dog vomits. It can cause bloating and in larger breeds gastric torsion which can be fatal. A go-slow Dog food bowl may help to educate your dog to eat slowly and feeding little and often may help also. Ensure your dog doesn’t feel his food will be taken away if he doesn’t eat it, fear of famine can be instinctive in some breeds.
After ensuring that there are no medical reasons for your dog’s eating disorder, the solution is nearly always patience, understanding, and positive reinforcement.
If you are concerned that your dog has an eating disorder, it is best that you contact your vet.
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This post was written by guest author, Jason Balchand. Jason writes articles about pet care for his blog at Online Pet Accessories. Check out his blog or follow him on Facebook to read more.