Why Does My Pet... Make a Mess When She Eats?

Dog eating messily
Whether it seems natural or abnormal, sloppy eating or drinking should always be brought to your vet's attention.

Dogs and cats are typically considered neat eaters. Unlike many other small mammals and  some birds, for example, our canine and feline house pets tend toward the tidy. Unfortunately, however, that’s not always the case.

A few dogs and cats simply seem sloppy by nature. When they eat or drink, food may drop out of their mouths. Drool-laced water may slobber up the floor. In these cases, the area around their food and water bowls might just seem like a wild animal made its way into your home.

Medical Causes

Sadly, messy eating is not always benign. Dogs and cats with breed-specific issues related to facial conformation (think Pugs and Persians) are especially predisposed to physical problems that prevent them from getting food in their mouths and keeping it in there long enough to chew it properly.

Due to other underlying medication conditions, cats and dogs may be unable to swallow normally without coughing, gagging or regurgitating food and/or water. Others may chew but the food will fall out of their mouths as they do so.

Overtly painful eating might even be identified when pets begin to develop a love-hate relationship with their bowls. They want to consume the contents but they’ll sit in front of their bowls until they’re profoundly hungry or thirsty before eating or drinking –– often messily. Some pets may eat very little, chew more slowly or swallow food without chewing, leaving no mess at all.

Here’s a list of some of the more commonly observed diseases and disorders that may lead to sloppy eating and drinking:

  • Brachycephalic syndrome (the short-headed conformation seen in Bulldog-type breeds)
  • Periodontal disease (including dental abscesses, resorptive cavity-like lesions in cats and severe bone loss)
  • Oral or facial trauma (including dental fractures)
  • Megaesophagus (an abnormally enlarged esophagus and other esophageal disorders like strictures and inflammation from reflux)
  • Oral ulceration (secondary to kidney disease, cancers and other oral disorders)
  • Oral cancers (these can progress very quickly and are often painful)


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