When it comes to mealtime for pets, some eat too fast, a few eat too slow and some are just right. Just right and too slow are rarely a problem. Fast-eating can be dangerous for your pet, so let’s explore some strategies for getting your pet to slow down.

When pets eat, chewing performs a vital function; it physically breaks up food, increasing its surface area for more complete digestion. Unlike people, dog and cat saliva does not contain enzymes to begin the digestion process. However, chewing and mixing food with saliva, softens it, and aids in swallowing. Finally, chewing helps to physically remove some of the plaque from teeth before it can harden into tartar.

For those that eat too fast there can also be dangers. Some can choke, gag and/or vomit. On occasion gagging or vomiting can lead to aspiration of food particles and pneumonia. Dogs that eat too fast or gulp their food can also swallow air. This can contribute to a medical condition called bloat where the stomach can become distended with air. In some dogs, especially deep chested breeds, gas distension can lead to a twisting of the stomach. This is a life-threatening condition called Gastric Dilation and Volvulus (GDV).

  • Consider Smaller Meals:  For those who work at home, feeding 4-6 smaller meals a day, rather than one or two, can reduce rapid eating by never allowing a pet to become too hungry.
KONG® Classic Wobbler

KONG® Classic Wobbler – food dispensing toy

  • Try Object Barriers:  One of the simplest ways of slowing down eating is to provide a physical barrier in the feeding bowl.  For dogs, place large stones that they cannot possibly swallow in the bowl with the food.  For cats, stones or large glass marbles work well.
  • Baking Pans have also proven to be effective: Cookie sheets or muffin pans work well.  Food can be spread out on a cookie sheet or placed in the muffin cups.  This forces pets to eat pieces individually, lowering their eating speed and eliminating gulping.
  • For those who have the time, try hand feeding: it’s a good way to slow down eating. Mealtimes can be combined with training sessions, using the kibble from the meal portion as a reward.
  • Look into using a slow feeder bowl:  These are bowls that have plastic projections or “fingers” that extend up from the bottom.  The idea being that the dogs or cats must slow down and use their tongues more to get the food and cannot gulp.  Various types are available, and they all work well.
  • Another idea is to try food puzzles:  These feeding games contain nooks, crannies and slots for food to fit into.  Some lay flat and some dispense food while dogs and cats play with them.  It makes it impossible for pets to gulp food and provides mental stimulation to your pet.
  • Similar to this, you can try “Hide and Seek”:  This is done by hiding small amounts of food in different places in a fenced backyard for dogs or in the house for dogs and cats.  This appeals to their hunting instinct as well as slowing down their eating.

Some of these techniques also work well for pets that eat canned food, but it is important to wash containers well after each feeding.

Check out Nutrenaworld.com for these and other tips to help out with your pet’s nutrition. Make sure to visit your local Runnings for nutritional Nutrena Pet and Puppy Food and products.