Most dogs act hungry all the time. Many scientists believe that wolves basically domesticated themselves by learning how to beg for scraps of food from humans. But what if your dog’s eating habits change and he suddenly acts much hungrier than usual? If your normally picky eater suddenly starts eating every last bite, or if your well-behaved dog starts begging for table scraps, what does that mean? Do you need to be concerned? A change in your dog’s appetite could be either physical or psychological. Let’s look at both causes and discuss other clues for you to decide whether or not it’s time for a trip to the vet.
Dogs tend not to handle stress very well, so any changes to the environment can cause a dog to react by overeating. If your dog’s favorite person has moved out, like a grown child headed for college, try leaving something with that person’s scent on it near your dog’s food bowl to help reassure them. If a new person has moved into the house, have them feed your dog. That should help them bond and ease your dog’s stress. If you’ve added a new dog to your family, feed the dogs separately and don’t allow them to approach each other’s bowls, even if the other dog has finished.
If nothing in your household has changed in a way that may be causing your dog stress, it’s time to start looking at possible physical causes.
1 – Diabetes
According to Your Old Dog:
“[Having diabetes] means that the dog can’t use carbohydrates properly, either because the pancreas isn’t producing enough insulin or because the cells aren’t processing the insulin appropriately. Either way, the sugars that would normally feed the body’s cells are unable to get where they need to go. This leaves them in the bloodstream and the body, as a result, starves.
Because the body is starving from not using nutrients properly, some dogs may overeat considerably. They’ll likely even lose weight while overeating because the food isn’t being used correctly as energy.”
According to a report from Banfield Pet Hospitals based on 2.5 million dogs seen in 900 veterinary hospitals across the United States, there has been a 79.7% increase in the amount of dogs diagnosed with diabetes between 2006 and 2015, with 23.6 cases for every 10,000 dogs. If your dog is eating more than usual but still losing weight, diabetes may be the culprit. It’s important to take your dog to the vet for a proper diagnosis, as regular insulin injections are required to get and keep your diabetic dog healthy.
2 – Parasites
With more than a dozen possible parasites that can make your dog seriously ill, intestinal parasites are one of the leading causes of trips to the vet for dogs. Some of the top culprits include:
–Roundworm – Roundworm can be transmitted by small rodents or polluted food or water. Other symptoms of roundworm include abdominal pain and diarrhea. Roundworm is treatable with medication, but it needs to be diagnosed in order to be treated.
–Hookworm – Hookworms “hook” into your dog’s intestines and feed on his blood, leading to anemia, or low iron levels in the blood. Symptoms are similar to those of other parasites.
–Tapeworm – Usually spread by fleas, tapeworms feed on blood and other nutrients in your dog’s body. They can cause blockages, intestinal problems, and bloating. They can reproduce asexually, which means once they are in your dog’s system, they can continue to multiply inside your dog’s gut indefinitely.
According to Your Old Dog:
“[Hypothyroidism] is a disorder where the thyroid glands are underactive and consequently don’t discharge enough hormones. This slows the dog’s metabolism because the thyroid gland regulates it.
Symptoms include depression, energy deficiency, low tolerance for cold weather, chronic infections, and even weight gain. This disorder is more common in medium to large dogs, with some breeds like Irish setters, Dobermans, and Greyhounds genetically predisposed to it.”
4 – Other causes
There are many possible explanations for an increase in hunger in your dog. Some more causes include:
-Bacterial overgrowth in the intestines
-Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency
-Hyperthyroidism (where your dog’s thyroid is overactive, instead of the underactive thyroid found in hypothyroidism)
If your dog’s sudden appetite change can’t be attributed to stress, or the source of possible stress has been addressed but your dog is still hungrier than usual, it’s probably time for a trip to the vet.