When we think of eating disorders, we quickly think of anorexia and bulimia, but these are just two examples. An eating disorder is an umbrella term that covers all kinds of eating disorders that are far from being limited to starvation or purging. These debilitating disorders can sometimes take over people's lives and put them in danger... But did you know that dogs can also develop eating disorders?
Eating disorders in dogs can be caused by a number of reasons and can affect all breeds of dogs, regardless of age. They are more common than you might think!
What are eating disorders in dogs?
Pica is an eating disorder that involves eating indigestible food. It can be stones, clothes, glass, coins, batteries, bark, electrical wires or gravel etc.
It is important to note that this is very different from a puppy who is just teething and may chew on random objects to relieve teething discomfort.
Pica is very serious. If an adolescent or adult dog consumes non-digestible food, it can cause very serious damage that can result in many costly visits to the vet and even irreversible or fatal damage.
The causes of pica can be quite serious, including brain damage or abnormalities of the pancreas or bloodstream. It is most urgent to rule out these causes, and if a physical problem is not present, the psychological reason (such as stress or anxiety) must be identified as soon as possible to stop the pica.
Most vets agree that pica is not usually due to lack of food or hunger.
Overfeeding is a fairly common disorder but one that is more easily controlled by pet parents. Most dogs do not eat because they are hungry, but only because they can! So those beaten dog eyes after a meal are not due to the fact that they are not full... But purely because they can still eat, our pooches are gluttons! If a dog is overweight because he has eaten too much, he is more likely to suffer from joint problems and a number of serious health problems that can have a very significant impact on his quality of life and his mental state.
If you're not sure how much to feed your dog, talk to your vet who can reassure you and explain what your dog needs. Don't forget that treats contain calories too, so why not read our blog?
Canine anorexia, or refusing to eat or eating only small amounts, can be one of the first signs of a serious illness. Missing an occasional meal is not a cause for concern, but missing several consecutive meals over a period of several days requires veterinary attention as soon as possible. If a physical cause cannot be found, then it will be necessary to look at his stress and anxiety levels and determine why he is refusing to eat as quickly as possible. It is important that you get a qualified veterinarian to look at this problem quickly, as underfeeding in dogs is just as big a problem, if not bigger, than overfeeding.
Dogs with anorexia are more likely to develop conditions such as jaundice, organ shrinkage or failure, or distension of the abdomen. The causes of undernourishment can be very diverse, and many tests may be needed to identify the underlying problem.
If your dog's food disappears before it even touches the bottom of his bowl and he behaves more like a hoover than a dog at mealtime, this is mocking: another eating disorder in dogs.
Scoffing may be a habit that has been passed down from fighting for food with siblings as a puppy. It is also more common in dogs that share their home with other animals.
Inadequate nutrition or a parasitic infection can also be the cause of idleness. Your vet will be able to help you identify the problem, and you can do your part by making sure your dog gets enough food and is kept away from animals he may perceive as competition.
You can also help break the habit by buying specially designed bowls to stop him eating his food. If he eats kibble, you can also try hand-feeding him small amounts of food at a time.
This is a common eating disorder in dogs, but not a particularly tasty one... By eating his or other animals’ poop, they risk contracting worms and other unwanted bacteria that can make them ill.
If your dog eats poo, make sure he gets regular and reliable anti-parasite treatment to protect his health.
What causes his eating disorders?
A number of factors can cause a dog to have or develop a disordered relationship with food. These include the following
- Lack of exercise
- Lack of mental stimulation (boredom)
If you think your dog is suffering from an eating disorder, make an appointment with your dog's vet so that we can address the problem together.