Are you among the many dog owners who can’t seem to satisfy their dog’s insatiable appetite? If you are, you’re probably asking – Why is my dog always hungry? Is there something wrong with my pup?
While it's true that many dogs simply love food, and their constant hunger can be dismissed as something ordinary, it is good to bear in mind that a dog’s increased appetite can also be considered a red flag. So how can one tell if a dog’s hunger level is already beyond normal or excessive?
Keep reading and expect all your questions answered and more. Besides giving you the whys behind your dog’s increased hunger, Dog Food Guide is also here to tell you when your dog’s endless need for food warrants a visit to the vet and what you can do to help your hungry dog out.
Polyphagia: Excessive Hunger In Dogs
Is your dog hungry all the time and begs for more food even after having a decent meal? If he is, then your dog might have polyphagia, aka “hyperphagia.”
Polyphagia is a medical term that refers to a person or an animal that is constantly hungry or has an abnormal desire to eat. Although this alone is not considered an illness or a disorder, polyphagia is usually a symptom of an existing medical issue.
Why Is My Dog Always Hungry?
So what makes a hungry dog crave more food despite having a full tummy?
Truth be told, pinpointing the underlying cause behind your dog’s increased appetite can be tricky. But one thing is for sure, the sudden change in your dog’s habits can be physical or psychological in nature.
Below you’ll find 8 possible reasons that could explain your dog’s quenchless hunger:
One thing to look into is your dog’s diet. If your dog is used to eating food made of synthetic ingredients and lacking in quality nutrients then your dog might end up feeling unsatisfied every after meal time.
If your dog doesn’t have health concerns and is emotionally fit, then the insatiable appetite of your dog can be blamed on its wild ancestry. A close relative of the grey wolf, domesticated dogs may have inherited their ancestors’ famine mentality.
So what does this mean? When presented with food, the canine biology of dogs tells them that they should not stop eating. Given the limited resources, dogs tend to treat every meal as if it's their last since they’re not sure when they will get their next meal.
That’s right. Your dog’s constant hunger can also be a learned behavior. Many dogs that are food-deprived have learned to beg for food and scarf down on their food once they’re offered some. The same goes for dogs that get what they want when they start whimpering for table scraps and treats.
Stress & Other Psychological Issues
Humans are not the only ones who binge eat when they feel anxious or stressed. Dogs do this too. And like people, this serves as a coping mechanism. Unfortunately, it does not help resolve the actual problem and only leads to weight gain.
Sign Of Aging
Although rare, some older dogs start craving more food. This might be a side effect of their medication or a result of cognitive dysfunction, wrong diet, or various health issues.
Besides their hormones acting up, pregnant dogs also require extra nutrition. As such, you can expect a pregnant dog to show increased appetite. In fact, the food intake of an expecting dog is expected to increase to up to 10% (max) during the first 5 or 6 weeks of her pregnancy.
The presence of a significant number of parasites in the gut of your dog can result in poor absorption of nutrients. This, in turn, can lead to your dog feeling constantly hungry.
Other Underlying Health Issues
Last but not the least, the hunger pangs your dog is feeling may also be a sign of a physical problem or a symptom of an underlying health issue. Some of the health problems that show an increase in appetite include, but are not limited to metabolic and gastrointestinal issues like:
- Diabetes mellitus
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI)
- Cushing’s disease
When To Get Your Dog Checked By A Vet
A sudden increase in appetite that is not accompanied by any unusual symptom will not require immediate veterinary care. However, you might want to get your dog checked by a vet within 1 to 2 weeks to be safe.
On the other hand, a change in your dog’s appetite partnered with other symptoms should NEVER be brushed aside. If your dog exhibits any of the following symptoms, bring your dog to the vet ASAP.
- Weight loss or gain
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Muscle shrinkage and/or weakness
- Lethargy or depression
To find out what’s making your dog always hungry, your vet will run a couple of tests – starting with the least invasive ones. Tests will vary depending on the symptoms your dog is experiencing. This may include the following:
Once your vet finds out the cause behind your dog’s insatiable hunger, your vet will recommend a treatment plan. If your dogs eat without control out of force of habit, your vet will mostly suggest portion control or giving your dog small, frequent meals.
On the one hand, treatment will vary for polyphagia caused by an underlying health concern. To give you an idea, here’s a list of conditions and their equivalent treatments.
- Cushing’s disease – medication
- Diabetes mellitus – diet change and insulin injections
- Parasites – deworming and/or medication
- EPI – medication and diet change
- Cancer – surgery and chemotherapy
What To Do To Help Prevent Overeating In Dogs
Make Sure Your Pup Is Eating Right
If your dog is not suffering from any health issues, then one thing you need to make sure is that your dog is getting all the nutrients it needs. And where else can they get that from other than their food?
Here are four things you need to remember when feeding your dog.
Choose High-Quality, Nutrient-Rich Dog Food
Sometimes, it all boils down on what your dog eats. Processed foods made of synthetic ingredients are harder to digest. Besides that, these are usually prepared in high heat, which can damage nutrients.
Fresh foods, on the one hand, are a better option since these provide quality nutrients and more health benefits.
Pick the Right Type Of Diet For Your Dog
You have probably heard that older dogs need to eat the same amount of food as every other dog. Well, that is NOT TRUE.
As dogs age and mature, their dietary needs also change. Their metabolism tends to slow down, making easy-to-digest, nutrient-dense food a must. As such, giving older dogs the right diet can give them the nutrients they need to stay healthy while eating slightly less.
Offer The Right Amount Of Food
So how much food should your dog eat during meal times? This will depend on your dog’s breed, age, and current weight.
When feeding your dog, your goal is to feed your dog enough food to reach its ideal weight. To do this, checking the serving suggestion on the back of the food pouch is not enough. You will need to seek the expert advice of your vet. Note, as well, that any changes in portion or diet should be done slowly and not abruptly.
Cut Back On Treats
Yes, calories count even in the doggie realm. Despite their ability to munch on everything they get their paws on, their body has its limits. And when it comes to treats, this should not exceed 10% of your dog’s recommended daily caloric intake.
Opting for healthier treats is also suggested. Instead of giving your dog whatever scraps of food you have on your dinner table, pick something healthier – like a boiled sweet potato or a slice of carrots.
Give Them Some TLC
Since overeating can also be a result of boredom, stress, and anxiety, attending to your dog's needs and letting your dog feel that they are loved and cared for can help keep your dog’s appetite in check.
Consider Using Interactive Feeders
Using puzzle feeders can help teach hungry dogs to slow down when eating. Alternatively, you can put a clean tennis ball on their food bowl while they eat. This way, they have to eat around the ball instead of eating their food like there is no tomorrow.
Food For Thought
Is your dog always hungry? If your answer is yes, make sure to get your pup checked. Hunger may seem like a natural response of the body when it is in need of food, but it’s different when this becomes excessive.
Whether your dog is gaining or losing weight or looking healthy as usual, you’ll find visiting the local vet a trip worth taking. Because one thing is for sure, when your dog is always hungry, it needs something- and it’s not always food.