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Does Your Pet Eat Too Fast? Here's 5 Tips for Slowing Them Down

Does Your Pet Eat Too Fast?

Eating food fast can have its advantages for our pets, say for example when they are hungry and just want to chow down so they can get back to playing. But many pets regularly eat their food too fast, not just when they want to get back to playing. The most notorious chowzer dog breed is the Labrador, but really any kind of pup could be labeled a chowhound. For cats, any and all shapes and sizes of kitties can chow down with the best of any dog. But, chowing down too rapidly could actually be a serious problem for some pets.  

The Risks?

  • Choking. When the proper time to chew is not taken, the risk of choking and getting kibble lodged in their throat increases for both dogs and cats.
  • Vomiting. When food is inhaled quickly, assuming the risk of choking was averted, the kibble enters the stomach in an unbroken down form. This increases the likelihood that the stomach will reject the food, and it will end up being vomited on your floor. And let’s face it….rarely does the vomit end up on an easily cleaned up surface, it usually ends up on the carpet or an expensive rug. One of my cats was actually notorious for vomiting in my shoes. 
  • Gastric Dilation Volvulus (aka GDV). This is hands down the most serious risk to eating too fast, and really only affects dogs. GDV, better known as “bloat”, happens when a dog ingests air as they eat too rapidly, and then the stomach expands and twists causing an obstruction. This condition is life-threatening. Dogs that are at most risk for “bloat” are the large breed dogs such as Great Danes, and bigger dogs with deep chests. This would include our Lab’s, Boxer’s, Vizsla’s, Weimaraner’s, etc. It is also a known fact based upon research that dogs which eat fast are 5 times more likely to “bloat” compared to dogs who do not eat fast.

So How Do We Slow Them Down?

Below are some things you can try with your pup or kitty to slow down the eating time and lower the risk of issues mentioned above:

1. A Slow-Feeder Bowl

Slow-feeder bowls are made for the purpose of forcing dogs and cats to slow down when they eat. There are many different kinds, but the general idea is the same. Instead of being a regular bowl with a smooth interior surface, slow-feeders look more like a 3-D maze. These types of bowls can be purchased online (Amazon carries many) and at most pet stores. Most are hard plastic and have the benefit of being able to be placed in the dishwasher to be cleaned frequently.

2. Make Your Own Slow-Feeder Bowl

If you are a DIYer, it is pretty easy to make your own slow-feeder bowl. In your pets regular bowl you could add in balls such as tennis balls, golf balls, or large rocks. The key is to use a large enough object that is not a choking hazard to your dog or cat. You may need to get a larger food bowl to be able to accommodate adding in these objects. I tend to like the idea of using objects that you can toss in the dishwasher to clean every so often. Another cool DIY idea that can work is to use cookie sheets or muffin tins. By spreading out the surface area your pet eats from, it can help to slow down the ingestion time for some pets. This idea could be something you try first since you may already have this item, the cost is minimal if you don’t, and they can be easily cleaned.

3. Use Puzzle Toys

Puzzle toys and treat-dispensing toys can also slow your dog or cat down. They also have the added benefit of providing some brain enrichment activity. Probably won’t turn them into Einstein, but smarter none the less. There are a variety of options available, and online (Amazon) will give you the most diversity of product to choose from. These puzzle toys can be used for meal times or just during snack or treat times.

4. Feed Smaller More Frequent Meals

Eating fast isn’t as much of an issue for the risks mentioned above when only small amounts are eaten, even if they are eaten fast. So, instead of feeding meals once or twice per day, try feeding your dog or cat three or four meals throughout the day. Don’t increase the overall amount you were feeding though (that would create another problem in obesity), but instead feed the same amount, just spreading that same amount out over more total meal times in the day. If you are like most people, it can be a problem due to work schedule to make this happen. An easy way around this is to purchase an automatic feeder. You can program the feeder to deliver multiple meals at set times throughout the day.

5. Use a Snuffle Mat

A what? A snuffle mat! You mean you haven’t heard of a snuffle mat? Lol. A snuffle mat is a feeding mat made of fabric or synthetic strips that mimic foraging instincts, and it causes pets to work and search around for their food, ultimately slowing down their ingestion time. All that is required is for you to sprinkle their food around the mat before allowing them to start foraging for their food. Every so often, the mat can be easily cleaned by tossing it into the washer.

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