If you know, you know. Those pleading hungry eyes, the constant following and the feeling there’s a furry crocodile under the table waiting to snap up any scraps that might fall their way. They’re all hallmarks of the hairiest member of the family being food obsessed.
So what can you do? Well, understanding why that 4 letter word has such a hold on them will help. And the reasons for the food addiction are often a shock. So here goes…
Cause #1. Anxiety
For a lot of dogs and cats (especially from shelters), food means security. A past where they’ve had to compete and beg for food can be hard to shake and so seeking out snacks is their way of calming themselves and feeling secure. Awww!
Cause #2. Attention
Every snack they score comes with a tasty side of attention. And that hit of affection…and dopamine (the feel good hormone) they get from you talking to them and patting them can be part of why they keep on coming back. Cats at 5am can really relate!
Cause #3. They believe they’re starving!
The hungry eyes aren’t lying. Repeated snacking with low quality treats or human food that are high GI and act like junk food can play around with their metabolism and cause a lot of insulin release all through the day. This makes them feel intensely hungry and often on edge and puts them at risk of obesity.
Cause #4. It’s in their genes
Just last year, scientists identified the POMC gene mutation that means lots of dogs (especially Retriever breeds) never feel full. In fact, that signal to stop eating is almost completely turned off.
SO HOW DO YOU FIGHT BACK AGAINST A FOOD OBSESSION?
First of all, make sure you're not seeing weight loss despite the increased appetite. This often means something medical is going on (like Diabetes, Thyroid problems or Cushing's Disease) and your vet may need to help.
If it’s only the food obsession you’re seeing then the key is finding ways to make them feel FULL in a healthy and manageable way.
- Splitting their meals into 2 or 3 sittings will help. But it’s the in-between meal times that are the hardest.
- I actually developed my Drool In-Betweeners for this very purpose. By giving them a specially formulated treat high in Aussie chicken breast protein and prebiotic fibre you can make them feel fuller for longer. And therefore more relaxed and free of the sad, hungry eyes. The prebiotic (green banana flour) also helps to normalise their wayward metabolism.
- Then, making them work for their snacks will help to remove that anxiety and attention addiction. Some obedience or play sessions (rolling the ball shaped Drool treats works perfectly here) gives them a task to do and distracts away from the intense food focus.
So easing that food obsession can be possible and pleasant. You don't have to be a prisoner to those pleading eyes. Even if they are adorable...