Whole Dog Journal's Blog May 4, 2016

The Size of the Thing

Posted at 03:59PM - Comments: (26)

I hardly ever talk about Tito, the 10-pound Chihuahua-mix who came to stay with us "for a few weeks" a few years ago. I think of him as being very little trouble, but it's just that his troubles - which are actually sort of numerous - are small-scaled. He is an obnoxious barker when people arrive - even when we arrive home from an errand. He cannot bear to be touched or moved once he's settled on the sofa in the evening, and if you should happen to readjust your own position at the other end of the couch when he's on it, he gives an immediate and loud roar/bark/snarl and leaps off the couch, supremely discomfited. I think he has as-yet-undiagnosed back or shoulder or inner ear pain that contributes to his touchiness, and it causes him to occasionally shriek in pain when he's greeting people; the person will always look surprised and say, "I wasn't even touching him!" but it's not the touch that hurts. I think it's the groveling, wagging, low-headed posture that he assumes when he's greeting people that causes something to pinch in his back. (He's been examined by several veterinarians and one veterinary chiropractor, but nothing significant has been found and no treatment has helped.) And then there is his touchy tummy.

Left to his own devices, Tito eats fast - way too fast. Sometimes, he vomits an hour or two after eating, and if he eats dry food, and you happen to be present before he eats whatever he threw up again (aren't dogs lovely?), you will see that his food is nearly intact, looking like a wetted version of what was poured into his bowl. He doesn't chew! He gulps down kibble (and everything else) whole, and then, an hour later or so, you might see him either vomit, or walk around lifting one hind leg and then the other, clearly experiencing tummy pain. This is why he doesn't get dry kibble anymore.

Soaked Dog Food

I soak his kibble in a bit of warm water until it's mushy, and then feed him. He still snarfs it up too fast, but it doesn't seem to cause any problems after that.

Sometimes, people will warn you about soaking a dog's food, because the increased moisture at room temperature can promote the growth of whatever bacteria may be in the food - Salmonella, for instance. That's why you don't leave wet food out overnight, or even for more than an hour. If a dog doesn't eat it pretty much right away, wet food should be picked up and refrigerated. But not eating the food is not a problem in our house.

Here's the thing: Every time I need more dog food, I buy a different dry dog food.  Yes, I switch with every bag. I switch brands and I switch varieties within brands.

(I know, I know, your vet told you to switch foods slowly. That advice is only relevant to people who have fed one kind of food for months or YEARS, and then wanted to switch. In that case, the dog's digestive biome has been accustomed to dealing with a very simple menu; the population of microorganisms in the gut reflects what's needed to digest that diet. If you suddenly switch what has been an unvaried diet, the dog's system needs a bit of time to switch up the materials needed to break down the new substances. It has to adjust and produce a more appropriate digestive enzyme mix and the gut microflora might need to repopulate different species that can handle the new ingredients. But if you switch all the time, your dog's system gets accustomed to handling everything and anything edible.)

Yes, I switch foods all the time (and not just kibble: raw, dehydrated, canned). And one thing I've noticed from soaking different types and brands of kibble is this: Some soak up warm water more like a sponge  - and some require an hour or more to soften all the way through. It has to do with kibble size, ingredients, how they were extruded... the point is, until I started soaking the food for Tito, I never really thought about the imperviousness of some kibbles compared to others.

When you consider that dogs were never meant to grind grains or grasses for a living - their molars lack the relatively flat surfaces of animals who do grind their food as the first step in digestion - and that many dogs give only a cursory crunch to some percentage of their kibble, the relative slowness of some kibble to absorb moisture may bother many more dogs than just Tito.

Try it yourself! Pour a little handful of kibble in a bowl and cover it with some warm water, and watch how quickly (or slowly) it hydrates. It's something to consider if you feed a dog who bolts his food, and if that seems to cause tummy troubles like Tito's.

Comments (26)

I always did an expansion test with kibble as that is what contributes to BLOAT. Some kibbles swell to twice its original size or bigger. Imagine two cups of dry food expanding in your dog's stomach, and taking up to 15 hours to digest.

I only feed small kibble, regardless of size of dog since it's easier to eat and digest. I, too, switch foods all the time, and kibble is a small part of what is fed. I feed raw, cooked, and quality canned. There are brands of dry that are lightly cooked with no meals or extrusion - like Halo and Life's Abundance.

Noting that the dog only barely chews or chomps down on the kibble prior to swallowing it, is the confirmation that the idea of dry food helping clean teeth is ridiculous. As a matter of fact, it's the ingredients like grains and veggies that force dogs to produce enzymes to break them down that actually contribute to plaque and tartar. The more we know...

Posted by: EllenD'Trainer | May 24, 2016 2:53 PM    Report this comment

Very similar story with our Chihuahua, Annabell. She was our granddaughter's, but when they moved to a new home, her parents weren't as happy with having an inside dog as they were before, so we adopted her a few years ago. While

Thank goodness Annabell doesn't have the eating habits/problems of Tito, but she certainly shares some of his behavior - maybe it's a Chihuahua thing! She's VERY quick to bark and bark and BARK about anything - when I lean over the couch to give my wife a kiss good night, when she hears ANY outside sound, when I take the other dogs out for a log walk (when she detests), or even if I just give her a continued unblinking stare! I think she just loves to bark!

And the shrieking!!! It scares the hell our of many of our family and guests - when they first arrive (or even when we come home for even a short trip), she gives out a ear-piercing screech, causing the unknowing recipients to just KNOW that they stepped on her or they ran over her with their car and she's fatally injured!

As for the disgust at being moved when she's settled in onto the couch with me - she resists any way she can (without biting). Her body and legs go stiff, as if to say - I'm firmly planted here and I'M NOT MOVING!!

We have learned to accept these behaviors that are not seen at all in our other dogs as her way of letting the world know that - I may be small, but I'm HERE!! :-)

Posted by: Red Sanders | May 8, 2016 8:54 AM    Report this comment

I have had only Great Danes since 1970 and German Shepherds before that. My method of feeding has always been some form of Purina dry kibble left out all day long and the dogs have always fed themselves throughout the day. I've never had a fast eater but they often prefer the kibble to human food with a few exceptions. They have always been in excellent shape with well formed stools. I'm not about to fool with success and Purina has been "it" for me. Maybe I've been lucky. I have no quarrel with being "lucky".

Posted by: Pommette | May 6, 2016 8:25 PM    Report this comment

Tito's signs sound similar to Mr. Bill's, my 12-pound Chihuabull's. He had pain that the vet consistently said was in his back but I thought was caused by his pancreas because he vomited frequently after eating, lost his appetite for 2-3 days a month and had mucus in his stool. I finally switched vets and the new doctor ran a Spec-CPL blood test for his pancreas and voila! His pancreas values indicated inflammation. A course of metronidazole -- which I considered hard before assenting -- cleared up the pain. The vomiting and mucus in the stool occur only about every six months now instead of monthly or more. We run a Spec-CPL when signs recur and his values remain improved so we haven't repeated the antimicrobial. His pancreas may have been compromised when he was locked in a basement for 2-3 weeks with nothing to drink but what was in the drip-pan under the oil burner prior to his rescue.

Posted by: Jessie | May 6, 2016 9:43 AM    Report this comment

I've always wondered why so many dog owners think nothing of feeding a 100% dry diet to their pet. My dogs definitely prefer their food moist, and in winter, warmer than room temp.

Posted by: Tenacity73 | May 5, 2016 11:56 PM    Report this comment

Use a "slow feeder bowl"

Posted by: beckys11 | May 5, 2016 7:31 PM    Report this comment

My first thought for poor Tito's sensitivities is to try "Tellington Touch" with him.
It's a soothing therapeutic technique that even works on wild animals. There are a few books on it, and It's easy to learn.
I found it very helpful for my 6 y/o rescue Dorkie, Toby. He was raised in an abusive and neglectful 'home', and was very skittish and fearful of touch, quick movements and loud noises. After a few weeks of doing this technique on him (the closest I could compare it to is a 'type' of massage), he has mellowed into feeling quite comfortable in his world.
I really think it might help him.

Posted by: eribolla1 | May 5, 2016 7:21 PM    Report this comment

I use bowls that slow down the eating process. We cook for our dogs.....beef, chicken, pork, fish, calf liver, chicken liver.....veggies peas, carrot, green beans, kale.....over a measured portion of dry dog food. I also buy a different premium dry dog food every time....different brand and different variety every time. I make a broth of cooked celery and use the broth from cooking the other veggies. So far so good for everyone here....including foster dogs. We are foodies for ourselves and just assume our resident dogs and foster dogs are too!!!

Posted by: Olivia | May 5, 2016 7:11 PM    Report this comment

Get him off ALL processed foods. Feed raw. For a 10 lb'er, it will not be expensive. Look up darwinspet (dot) com. You may also want to try some Bach Flower remedies for pets. They have a list of what remedy works best for every situation. They can be found at (3W) (dot) bachflowerpets (dot) com/ A holistic and/or homepathic vet would also be extremely helpful as it's VERY possible ALL these symptoms are caused by vaccinations. Go to this page, join (Free) and read tons of useful information. vitalanimal (dot) com/ No animal should live in such trauma. I have 3 rescues and 2 of them had a lot of the same symptoms until I changed everything I've told you about. Awesome dogs now. :-)

Posted by: lemonhead54 | May 5, 2016 4:48 PM    Report this comment

I have used a pill cutter and made the kibble bits smaller, soaked it warm water and mixed with can food that i have smashed up. Ever since I did this my dogs were able to eat without throwing up afterwards or have tummy problems.
I have done the patting on the back, like burping a baby, the dog burps and goes off happily. I also put all the food in the slo bowls which helped to slow down the fast eaters. They also know the word chew, chew and the chew the treat, kibble, carrot, etc longer before swallowing.

Posted by: 3monkeys | May 5, 2016 3:10 PM    Report this comment

Boy can I relate. I have been around the world with this issue with my beagle or vacuum cleaner on four legs. My pom mix, not a problem. The small dog kibble (Wellness) is absolutely fine and he chews every little piece. He is the slowest most comtemplative dog when it comes to eating I have ever seen. THE BEAGLE--yes, when fed reg. size kibble literally inhaled it then blew it out again if not literally then gagged it back up. I tried the smallest kibble. Made it worse and beagle seemed hungry all the time. Vet said use reg kibble then but add water. Helped only a little bit. Vet said to feed him wet food from now on (non-canned, my own recipe) or give him wet dry food in smaller portions. I now feed the two dogs three times a day. Once main meal in the a.m. then two smaller ones. The pom gets wet then dry the other two meals. The beagle gets two wet meals later in the day and evening, both split from reg. portion (smaller). It has made a huge difference. No more distress. The other thing this article brings up is --if your dog is mean or ill-behaved, is it because it's in pain? They are so more complex than we prob appreciate. Thanks for this article.

Posted by: DogisGod | May 5, 2016 1:05 PM    Report this comment

My new Lab puppy also ate so fast that it made him throw up. A Lab website suggested feeding him in a muffin/cupcake pan and it works.Although I don't switch foods frequently, I do mix several different holistic brands with the same meat base, but I'm thrilled to know that switching is okay too!

Posted by: clangfor | May 5, 2016 12:23 PM    Report this comment

I have a Blue Healer that adopted me when I spent a winter in Baja, She was running with a pack of assorted dogs and when she came to my trailer she was so thin she could hardly walk, I started feeding her a little to start and gradually increased it but she almost inhaled the food and 11 years latter she still does, but I bought her a bowl that is made in a spiral configuration and it has really slowed her down, and even more so since I have added a raw organic free range egg, the egg make the kibble slippery and harder to get to. Oh she still does a good job of eating fast and not chewing her food but at least it has slowed her down, She is now healthy and actually a bit over weight, She Weighs 40# and only gets 1/2 cup trice a day, so I guess it's old lady food for GracieMae, the most devoted dog I have ever owned. And I have had at least one dog all my life and have 3 now, If I'm there, so is she.

Posted by: Don Bray | May 5, 2016 11:56 AM    Report this comment

The WDJ is responsible for opening my eyes to an enormous variety of do's and don'ts that have clearly resulted in better health for all the cats and dogs who, through various circumstances, have graced my life . That being said, I have to admit that I cringe at the thought of feeding a dog commercial dry foods for its entire life. As we know more, we should do better. I personally do not consider feeding a dog a variety of brands as doing better--sorry. Too many justify this lazy way of feeding, and they continue feeding dry kibble for convenience. I understand the lack of not enough hours in a day. I jokingly tell others that I am campaigning for more hours in the day. I don't think it is asking too much to, at least, augment commercial foods with whole human-grade foods. We must never forget that these animals, like children, are at our mercy. Thank you WDJ for all you have taught me. Now I pass it on.

Posted by: AnimalVoice | May 5, 2016 11:52 AM    Report this comment

I took glucosamine for years for arthritis and never thought it did much for me, so I hesitated to give it to my dogs. It turns out that it works MUCH better on dogs than people so don't hesitate to try it in yours.

Posted by: VirgoRising | May 5, 2016 11:43 AM    Report this comment

Don't know if this is a Scottie trait, but all my Scotties (4 over time) have chewed thoroughly. My present girl Maggie was started on a raw diet when I got her (rescue) because of her chewing everything. I feed my friend's dog, Annie, also. She's a terrier mix, rescue. Annie doesn't chew anything so I don't give her the raw diet--she gets soaked kibble and/or canned and this works for her. Of course with the raw diet it's all about variety. Annie's commercial food gets changed often. No telling what she got at the shelter where she grew up from new puppy until almost 2 years old! Maggie was in 4 homes before I got her, so it would be interesting to know what she ate in her 3 years of life before she came to me.

I hope Tito's problems can be fixed, poor baby. At least now he owns an attentive and caring person.

Posted by: maisie | May 5, 2016 11:23 AM    Report this comment

I have a 3 yr mini dachshund. This guy eating puppy kibble when younger, would eat SO fast, he would pass out!! He has since stopped passing out but still eats really fast!! Presently, from a vet issue, he is eating a 1/3 can of wet food with water mixed in, like a gruel. This has slowed him way down. Thinking I might continue this.
I really enjoy your articles. I learn so much!!

Posted by: Karenlappy | May 5, 2016 11:11 AM    Report this comment

Sorry to hear about your Chihuahua's pain issues. Do you know about CM/SM (Syringomyelia)? Sadly this affects Chihuahuas as well as many other toy breeds and many vets are still unaware of the condition. Have a read of the websites, not to scare yourself but just so you are aware of symptoms. Hopefully it's not this horrid condition, but if it is, it can often be managed. Obviously they are mainly Cavalier sites as they are one of the most frequently affected breeds.

WDJ won't let me post website links, but if you search for cavalier matters you should find it. Also search veterinary neurologist, Clare Rusbridge, click on the Syringomyelia links, lots of information, including to print off for your vet. The treatment algorithm is especially helpful.

Posted by: Cavalier Matters | May 5, 2016 11:10 AM    Report this comment

I feed my dogs SoJos grain free dehydrated food. They recommend raw meat. I have a problem with that so cooke eithr chicken, beef or buffalo to mix with the packaged food. I freeze some and rehydrate some of the rest to serve for a few days. Also add a little coconut oil. My oldest girl is 14, youngest 9. Took the middle one for obedience traning. Graduated as a star. On to agility this month.

Posted by: Judy Babcock | May 5, 2016 10:59 AM    Report this comment

I have a dog who also inhales his food, although he rarely vomits after eating. I came across a tip about handling this on another dog website, and it works well with him. I no longer feed him in a bowl, but use a medium-sized cookie sheet (with rims around it), put his kibble and other ingredients on that, wet it down and then spread it all around the sheet, so he has to go from one part of the container to another to get all the food up.

Posted by: Zach's mom | May 5, 2016 10:27 AM    Report this comment

Have you had him x-rayed? I had the same thing happen with my Chin, Yuki, and he has severe stenosis in his neck. We used pain meds for a couple of weeks and then tapered off. As to his food, I would suggest you try Answers Pet Food and see how he does. I think you're doing him a disservice switching foods with every new bag. Check Answers out, online and give them a call. They're lovely to work with and right on the money.

Posted by: Libertina01 | May 5, 2016 10:25 AM    Report this comment

I know you point was about the food itself but I had to share this: At the opposite end of the speed eating spectrum, I once had a dog (Pekingese) that ate his food one piece at a time--he would go to his bowl and get a piece then take it across the room where he would lie down, chew it carefully and swallow. Then he would repeat that process until his meal was gone. I've never seen another dog that ate so carefully. He lived to be almost 15 and was quite healthy until his advanced years when he developed some heart problems.

Posted by: PJKutscher | May 5, 2016 10:17 AM    Report this comment

Thanks to your articles over the years, I switch out foods all the time: dehydrated raw is a daily standby (swapping out different flavors), various home made recipes, and various small breed kibbles used as training treats. At age 6, 4 years with us, my small dog is the picture of health. Healthy weight, shiny coat, bright eyes, clean teeth, plenty of energy. So grateful for your advice and WDJ articles -- I'm convinced it will lead to a long healthy life for her.

Posted by: Carolyn M | May 5, 2016 9:55 AM    Report this comment

I have five small Chihuahuas and I have this problem with two of them. One of them has the eating issue, he gulps everything down and then is sick later. After I bought him a special bowl, he hasn't had that issue again. It's a bowl for dogs that gulp their food down, it's separated by little knobs that stick up, so that he has to nose around to get his food and can't get a huge mouthful at a time.
One of my other dogs has the growling/attacking when you touch her wrong. After a long time of this, I finally had to take her to the vet for another issue and found out that she had hurt her back. After she finished the prescription medication the Vet gave her, I started her on doggie Glucosamine. She has been on it for about three weeks now and she's like a different dog! She's ten years old and had really slowed down, wouldn't get up on her step stool to get on the couch and now she runs everywhere, it's made such a difference in her life, worth every penny!!!

Posted by: tazziesmom51 | May 5, 2016 9:51 AM    Report this comment

This is great info. I remember growing up my mom used to soak one dog's food but not the others. Guess she figured this out too. I am following your advice about changing dog food from previous article. I decided to change to "all stages of life" style from Puppy food for our 10 mos old Eng Springer. The great side effect was he lost weight (he was getting pudgy). He seemed less hungry and even voluntarily skipped a breakfast or two. His coat was getting dry on puppy food and now seems to be less flakey. All great side effects of the change. I will continue to rotate around your list of highly rated quality foods. Thanks for great advice.

Posted by: BusyVP | May 5, 2016 8:46 AM    Report this comment

They have special bowls for dogs who eat to fast

Posted by: Dorecia | May 5, 2016 8:43 AM    Report this comment

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