Most dogs love food. Some dogs love their food so much that they eat it faster than we can blink—or so it seems! Dogs who eat too fast can become ill, especially if they also ingest a great deal of air and get a potentially fatal condition known as bloat. Anyone who has experienced this condition with their dog knows how important it is to get a dog to slow down eating.
Some dogs eat at such a fast pace that their bodies can’t keep up—the food never even gets to the point of being digested. The result is the regurgitation of food, which occurs when the food that is swallowed comes right back out the mouth due to backward contraction of the muscles of the esophagus. The food never even made it to the stomach. In these cases, the recommendation is to slow down the dog’s ingestion of food.
For those who just want to get a dog or puppy to eat slower, there are several good techniques you can try:
- Feed smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. The food can be metered out by an owner or a timed automatic food dispenser
- Slow feeding bowls are designed with upward protrusions in the bottom of the dish to prevent a dog from scooping up large mouthfuls of food all at once. These special dishes only allow a smaller amount of kibble to be picked up at a time. A similar technique to slow eating can be to separate the kibble in a larger dish like a cafeteria tray or place the food in the openings in a muffin pan. You can add water to the kibble so it floats or place clean, large—too large to swallow or even put in his mouth—objects in the food dish, like tennis balls or rocks, that he has to work around to get his food.
- There are many food-dispensing toys on the market, and most can be used with the kibble you’d normally feed in a meal. The added benefit of these devices is that they will burn through some energy at the same time. Some food dispensing toys can accommodate kibble, wet food, or both. Keep them clean, of course.
- If your dog eats canned food, consider a lick mat. These are silicone mats with a raised pattern of nubs or ridges. The moist food can be smeared into the nooks and crannies of the mat, and your dog will have to lick the food out, instead of gulping mouthfuls at a time.
- A wet-food-laden food-dispensing toy or lick mat can be frozen to prolong meal time even further.
If you’ve tried these techniques, and your dog is still bringing food up (regurgitation or vomiting), consult with your dog’s veterinarian to rule out a more serious issue.