Eating Disorders in Dogs

Eating Disorders in Dogs

Yesterday I learned of another story whereby one of our client’s puppies was on its way to the veterinarian for consuming non-eatable things.

PLEASE Read the following article and share it with your friends. Then read Paula’s testimony about her experience with her dog.

Thank You



Who Said You Shouldn’t Feed A Dog Human Food?

Copyright ã 2006 by Karyn Garvin

Variety is the spice of life.  When it comes to good nutrition, no one describes a need for variety better than Gwen Shamblin, who has her master’s degree in nutrition and is also a registered dietitian.  In a tape series entitled Rising Above The Magnetic Pull of the Refrigerator, she takes the listener through a mind exercise.  The exercise begins by having you first imagine your favorite food.  Let’s just say your response is Pizza, great.  Guess what you get for dinner tonight?  The answer is Pizza.  Guess what you get for breakfast tomorrow? The answer is Pizza.  Guess what you get for lunch tomorrow? The answer is pizza. Guess what you get for dinner tomorrow night? The point of this exercise is to help you experience and realize that in no time at all you would dread eating pizza.  She points out that people have a biological built in repulsion for a lack of variety.  This biological feedback ensures that you get a variety of foods, which in turn prevents any malnourish syndrome.

Ethology, is the science of animal behavior from a biological perspective.  Domesticated dogs arose from wolves that somehow became accustomed to living amongst people.  It makes sense to examine what a wolf’s diet would consist of when given free choice.  The answer is variety.  They do not select one source of food and eat that same source day in and day out day after day after day.  They naturally put variety into their diet.  Many dogs also have a built in repulsion for a lack of variety.  While a particular dog food may in and of itself be a well-balanced meal, it does not offer the dog the variety it seeks when the same meal is given day after day after day.  Not giving a dog variety in diet may lead to eating disorders which can be life threatening.

As a behavior specialist, I can tell you that 99% of the time when a client complains about their dog eating rocks which is a life threatening condition, that dog is on a strictly dry dog food diet and there is little if any variety given.  Oftentimes modifying the diet and giving the dog variety will clear up the rock- eating syndrome immediately.  In cases where the dog has been eating rocks for a long period of time, it becomes more complicated.  Adding variety to the diet at this point in time may be only part of the cure.

People who have bought into the old adage “Don’t give a dog human food,” are usually just trying to do what they have been told is best for their dog.  Many dog owners intuitively feel that they want to add variety to their dogs diet but they have been made to feel guilty and wrong about what their heart tells them is right.  If you are one of those people, let this article support you in following your intuition.  Please Give Your Dog Variety in Their Diet!!!

There are behavior problems that some professionals believe are a result of feeding a dog some of the same foods that the owner would eat.  The most common analogy is that the dog will be motivated to beg for food.   There are however just as many dogs who have never been given variety in their diet begging for food as there are dogs that do get variety.  A dog’s desire to eat, along with their sense of sight and smell will bring them to your side when your eating regardless whether or not you have ever shared your food.

ONLY IF … this is a concern of yours, then here are some solutions.

  1. Feed your dog it’s meal, prior to feeding yourself.  If the dog is full it will be less motivated to beg.
  2. Never reward your dog for begging by feeding it your food when you are eating.
  3. Teach your dog an alternative behavior such as to lay and stay during your mealtime
  4. Remove the dog from the environment and the temptation.

Professionals also suggest that obesity is another reason to discourage dog owners from giving their dog variety.  The true cause for obesity is overindulgence and lack of exercise.  This can happen with any food.  If your dog is obsessive about eating and has a tendency to overeat you need to control the quantity.  Typically feeding smaller amounts at least twice a day is better than a large amount once a day.

This article is not going to recommend any one particular dog food.  Dog’s have special needs and some need special diets.  The point of this article is to say that variety is the spice of life and that dog’s both need and like variety.  Human beings have been provided with a bountiful variety of foods.  Surely this bounty was meant to be shared by all of Gods creatures.  Enjoy life!

Paula and Koloa’s first day at school.

November 2, 2010-

Picked up our precious new puppy and brought her home.  Appeared  healthy although with a little new puppy diarrhea.

November 4, 2010

First vet exam with first vaccinations.

November 2010

Noticed in one of our early 3am morning outings that Koloa was squatting and urinating a LOT and it appeared to me to be a urinary tract infection. Stayed awake with her until the Veterinarian opened at 9 and rushed her to the office.  I also noticed she was eating a lot of small rocks from our landscaping. It was a substitute Vet as ours was on vacation but he confirmed she had a UTI and prescribed an antibiotic. I asked about the ingesting of rocks and he just laughed and said that was typical and nothing to be done. We had to cancel our Puppy Training that day as she had no concentration ability from the discomfort.

She continued to eat rocks. I did notice them in her stool…a lot. That cannot be healthy… or comfortable. We have over an acre of land and much of it is covered in the small decorative rock that I was envisioning we would be replacing…but with what???

December 6, 2010

Karyn came to my house for Pool Safety Training and we discussed the rock problem and she looked at the property. Karyn asked what Koloa was eating and how often. Karen noticed the amount of small rocks and also noted that our hedge that she was quite interested in was covered in red poisonous berries. She explained that this actually is an eating disorder and that it was a result of a lack of variety in her diet. She explained that dogs need variation in their diet as do we and that Koloa was eating rock and the berries to supplement her diet. I was surprised and a little skeptical, but I took her advice and changed up Koloa’s diet to include anything and everything from carrots, chicken, mashed potatoes, cottage cheese, celery, chicken and rice and even bananas. Koloa loved the variety. I was a little shocked and certainly surprised to find Koloa eating everything she was served. Also to my surprise one of the biggest benefits was that Koloa was NOT EATING ROCKSOR THE POISONOUS BERRIES!!

December 13, 2010

Koloa was re-checked at the vet and was diagnosed with either another or the same UTI. The vet changed the antibiotic and I was also instructed to only feed Koloa a no-protein dog food to flush out the infection. I was told that  Koloa should eat only one can of the food per day and nothing else. She lost weight, was hungry all the time. I also noted that she started eating and swallowing small rocks again and the poisonous berries.

She was losing weight and showing her ribs. She started throwing up the small rocks .We went to Karyn for puppy training and she appeared not only concerned but a little irritated at lack of weight gain and her physical appearance. When we discussed the diet plan Koloa was on Karyn was not happy.  I explained what the Vet had said and she replied “Not this dog”. It was touching….she really cared. So we went home and abandoned the bland diet and started back on meat and chicken and vegetables and Koloa was thrilled. She was so hungry. We continued the antibiotic but fed her the foods she needed and wanted.

I am so glad that we discovered the solution as a puppy and that Koloa had not yet established bad eating habits. Karyn told us that had we not discovered this until later that adding variety is harder at an older age. By adding the variety to Koloa’s diet we appear to have cured the eating disorder.


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