Does your dog seem to have a bottomless stomach? Some of them will gobble down their entire meal and still follow you around the house begging for scraps and snacks, but are they actually hungry? If you are wondering why are dogs always hungry - the top reasons might surprise you.
If your dog is getting regular, well-portioned meals of high-quality dog food, and they still act like they are starving, there are a few different factors to consider. Let’s look at why they seem hungry all of the time and how to determine the correct portion size for your furry friend.
Related: Food Aggression in Dogs
Why Is My Dog Always Hungry?
There are many reasons that can explain why your dog might act like they are always hungry, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t getting enough food. If you’re feeding your dog correct portions of high-quality dog food toppers each day and they still want more, it could be because of your routine with them, their biology, or an underlying health issue.
Force of Habit
According to experts, the domestication of dogs began when wolves developed the exceptional ability to manipulate us into giving them scraps of food. While our pets today have been domesticated for a long time now, they’ve learned some tricks of their own to get food and treats from us.
It’s not easy to deny your companion a snack when they give you “the look,” but when you give in, you’re reinforcing their behavior and teaching them that the hungrier they act, the better their chances are to get a taste of the good stuff.
In a sense, our dogs have trained us to feed them when they ask for food. This doesn’t mean that your dog is necessarily hungry; they may just want a bite of those tasty human snacks.
This study on portions and meal consumption in dogs found that some cases of overeating and obesity in domesticated dogs are related to the feeding practices of their owner. Many dogs have an “eat when food is available” mentality, which possibly stems from their wild ancestry, and they may be eating food simply because it’s offered and not because they are actually hungry.
The grey wolf is a domesticated dog’s closest wild relative and has a feast-or-famine type of diet. They eat large amounts when food is available because it could be days until their next meal. One reason that your dog always seems hungry might be this canine instinct.
Some dogs love food and will always eat when you present them with a snack or meal, but if your dog really is hungry all of the time, it could be due to an underlying health issue. There are a few common conditions that can cause your dog’s appetite to increase:
- Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s Disease)
- Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency
- Intestinal cancer
- Bacterial overgrowth
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
If your dog is suddenly acting hungrier than usual, you should talk to your vet to ensure that their appetite isn’t the result of a serious health concern.
Related: Improve Dog Gut Health and Digestion
Is My Dog Always Being Hungry a Problem?
Some dogs seem to approach each meal as though it’s their last as part of their personality, but most of the time, it’s a learned behavior. If your dog is a rescue, it may have been food deprived in the past, leading to them feeling the need to beg for food and quickly gobble it up before it disappears. Even well-fed, pampered pups can learn that begging for food leads to treats, which can cause them to feign hunger.
If you’re overfeeding your dog, and they happily eat it all at mealtime, is there a problem? Your dog’s happy, so it must be a good thing, right? Well, not necessarily. Overfeeding your pets can lead to a host of health problems while feeding them the correct amount of high-quality food can help them stay healthy.
Many dogs are simply motivated by food, but a sudden increased appetite can be a sign of health issues.
So, how do you conquer your dog’s insatiable appetite?
Handling a Hungry Dog
If your dog is one that will happily gobble up anything you offer them and still want more (especially if your dog is overweight), you’ll have to take control of the problem. Talk to your vet about their dietary needs, create a regular feeding routine and schedule, and stick to it. Make sure that no one in the household is giving them table scraps or handouts, and only offer them healthy treats infrequently for rewarding good behavior.
You can also try implementing a slow-feeding bowl that has pillars that your dog must eat around to slow down their eating. Another easy solution is putting a tennis ball in their food bowl that they have to get around to get to their food.
When you start a new feeding schedule, you should leave the food out for them until they walk away from the bowl. Then, whether they ate everything or not, take the bowl away. Doing this helps reinforce the idea that its mealtime and your pup won’t be getting any more food until it’s time for the next meal.
Now, let’s talk about four ways that you can handle your dog’s insatiable appetite:
Cut Back on Treats
While trimming back the treats for hungry dogs might sound counterintuitive, if they’ve learned to expect treats frequently, it’s a behavior that your dog needs to unlearn. For example, if you use dog treats as a reward, try substituting additional playtime or other positive attention as you slowly decrease the treats you offer them.
That doesn’t mean you can’t give your pup a treat now and then, but it’s important to offer them low-calorie, low-fat treats made with fresh, whole ingredients. Calories count in a dog’s diet just like they do in ours.
Fix Their Portions
Your dog might happily heat several helpings of food, but that doesn’t mean that they should. It’s important to talk to your vet about what your dog needs food-wise and review their food’s nutritional information to figure out the right portions for their size, age, and activity level.
Most vets recommend feeding your pup based on their ideal weight rather than their current weight. However, if your dog is very underweight or overweight, it’s crucial to change portion sizes slowly and with the help of your vet; don’t make sudden drastic increases or decreases to their meal sizes.
Meet Your Dog’s Needs
Many dog owners believe in a common misconception: older dogs need to have the same amount of food, just with reduced calories. However, as dogs age, their metabolism slows down and becomes less efficient at processing some foods.
A lot of senior formulas on the market use fillers to bulk up their food, but those fillers can be challenging for your senior pup to digest. Then, those foods pass through their system undigested, enabling them to eat more while forcing their digestive systems to do more work in the process. With the right food, older dogs can get the nutrition they need while eating slightly less but still absorbing all of the nutrients they need.
Pack in the Nutrition
Senior dogs aren’t the only ones that need good nutrition. Every dog needs various quality nutrients for its health, growth, and energy. Highly processed dog foods use high heat that can damage nutrients and synthetic ingredients that are more challenging for your pet to digest. Lightly cooked food with fresh ingredients offer better nutrition and is easier for your pup to digest.
Feeding them nutritious food means that they can get more of the things they need, more easily and without feeling the need to overeat.
How Much Should My Dog Eat?
Feeding your dog the correct portion of food is crucial to their health and well-being; too little food can cause nutritional deficiencies, and too much can lead to obesity and the health issues that stem from it.
Some important factors in determining your dog’s correct meal size are:
- Metabolic rate
- The type of food
- Number of meals per day
- The amount of exercise
To find the appropriate amount that your dog should be eating, look at:
The Dog Food You Are Using
All dog foods are different and not created equal; the type of dog food you are feeding your furry friend plays a huge role in how much you should feed them. Different foods come with various caloric counts, protein and fat contents, etc. It’s a good idea to refer to the feeding instructions that come with the food to get a starting place for how much they should eat daily.
Typically, you should provide your dog with a meal two times per day and space them out by about 12 hours.
Your Dog’s Lifestyle
Your dog’s activity level also plays an important role in deciding how much food they need each day. Two dogs of the same breed and weight will have different feeding requirements based on how much exercise they get each day; more active dogs will generally require a larger diet than ones who like to lounge around most of the time.
You can use a calorie calculator for dogs to get a decent idea of their needs but don’t expect to get an exact answer from this alone. Dogs are as unique as people, and a calculator can’t determine the precise amount of calories that your dog needs.
Your Dog’s Body Condition
Evaluating your dog’s body condition is an excellent way to fine-tune how much food you offer to them. Your vet can help you determine their body condition score and find the appropriate amount of calories for your dog specifically. Typical signs of dogs that have a healthy weight are:
- Their abdomen is narrower than their chest and hips. When looking at them from above, their figure looks like an hourglass.
- Their chest comes closer to the ground than their stomach when standing up.
- Their ribs should not be visible but easily felt with light pressure.
What If My Dog Has a Sudden Change in Appetite?
Maybe your dog knows when to stop eating, and there are no problems with mealtime. Well, a dog’s habits can easily change, and when they do, it’s a sign that something is going on with them. If your dog suddenly can’t get enough food, you’ll need to determine the cause quickly.
There are two reasons this habit might change: psychological or physical changes. Psychological changes also include environmental changes, like recent moves or a change in people or animals in the house.
These events can lead to anxiety and insecurity in your dog’s mind, which in turn can trigger a feast or famine mentality. They could be worried about a threat to their resources or trying to intimidate a new member of the pack.
If a dog that was formerly docile begins to show food aggression, the cause of their appetite is definitely psychological, and you’ll need to work with them to ease their anxiety.
However, if there haven’t been any obvious changes, it’s likely a physical problem. A sudden increase in your dog’s appetite can be a sign of health issues like the ones mentioned above. Typically, what happens with these conditions is that your dog becomes unable to absorb all of the nutrients in their food, causing their appetites to go into overdrive. If this is the case, you’ll want to see your vet ASAP.
How Often Should I Monitor My Dog’s Weight?
Monitoring your dog’s weight often is the best way to keep track of how they are doing, and see if their portion sizes need adjusting. Check their weight every 2-4 weeks and keep a record of the results to determine if your dog is gaining or losing weight in an unhealthy manner.
If you see large fluctuations, their portions may need to get changed, but it’s good to discuss this with your vet to ensure there isn’t an underlying condition causing the weight or appetite changes.
How Do I Ensure My Dog Is Satisfied?
If your dog has always acted like they’re hungry all the time, and your vet has determined that they are being fed the correct amount and do not have any health concerns, it’s likely due to their canine biology or a force of habit.
If it happens suddenly, and your dog begins to overeat out of the blue, it’s time to determine the cause. They could not be getting the nutrients they need, or they may be beginning to develop a health problem and should be seen by your vet.
What’s one of the best things you can do for your dog’s health, appetite, and weight? Make sure their diet contains the nutrition they need!