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Q: We got our dog from a rescue group. I know she was starved by her previous owners because she inhales her meals. Do you have any idea how to slow down the vacuum act? — via e-mail
A: Your pet's history may have nothing to do with the behavior. The instinct to eat as much as possible, as quickly as possible, is so strong in some breeds (and some individual dogs) that they can make themselves ill. These are dogs that will "counter surf" and "garbage dive" for any scrap of food they can scrounge.
Labrador retrievers, Beagles, Bassets, Cocker Spaniels, Corgis, Dachshunds and Pugs (as well as mixes with these breeds) are particularly prone to wolfing. Not coincidentally, these are also the dogs who most often lumber into my veterinary office looking as if they need to lose a pound — or 10.
Eating too quickly is a bigger problem than just eating too much: Wolfing can lead to excessive gassiness and may contribute to a life-threatening emergency commonly known as bloat. In that scenario, a dog's stomach enlarges with air. If the stomach then twists, a fast surgical response is required for survival.
1. To slow down a wolfer, choose a couple of smooth stones (make sure they are too big for your dog to swallow), wash them and put them in your dog's dish with his food. Arrange the food so the dog will have to move things around to get to his meal — thus making him take his time.
2. You can also find bowls already designed to slow down the speed of the food's availability, such as the Brake-Fast or Le Bistro food dispensers.
3. Another option includes food puzzles, which are toys that make a dog work to get food out.
4. One last easy solution? Scatter your dog's meal in the grass or on the vinyl flooring and let him "graze."
This article was written by a Veterinarian.
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