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Why Are Dogs Always Hungry

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Some dog breeds have a greater appetite than others due to specific genes.
  • Dogs with high energy requirements, such as growing puppies or hunting dogs may eat more.
  • Concerning hunger, or polyphagia, could be caused by learned behavior, stress, anxiety, boredom, or medical issues such as worms, Cushing's syndrome, diabetes mellitus, and others.
  • A dog's body condition is a great indicator of whether they are eating enough or not, and it's best to consult with a vet for guidance on feeding schedules and amounts.
  • Healthy adult dogs will usually eat once or twice a day on a regular schedule.
Written by Jay
BsC (Hons) Animal Behaviour & Welfare graduate with a passion for advocating for misunderstood animals.
Zoo and wildlife doctor in veterinary medicine passionate about animal welfare and preventive medicine.
Published on
Saturday 29 January 2022
Last updated on
Friday 12 May 2023
dog that is hungry
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As a pet owner, you may have noticed that no matter how much your furry friend eats, they always seem to crave more treats and scraps from the table. But is this behavior normal? This question often leads to the inquiry, “Why are dogs always hungry?”

To answer this question, we need to understand what is typical for dogs and what isn’t. Certain dog breeds may have a genetic predisposition to a ravenous appetite due to specific genes. Other factors such as stress, boredom, or underlying medical conditions may also increase a dog’s appetite. If you’re curious to learn more about your dog’s eating habits, keep reading!

Why Are Dogs Always Hungry

Some dogs only eat when they are hungry. Other dogs will eat whenever food is on offer. But just as you can be full and still find space for a favorite snack, your dog seems to always have room for table scraps. Most dogs will “know” when they are full, though, and will stop eating once they have had enough, or until they feel nauseous. Most healthy adult dogs will eat once or twice a day on a regular schedule. By eating to a schedule, a dog’s appetite tends to follow the same timing, growing around the time they expect to be fed. For dogs without a regular schedule, their appetite may come and go during the day, leading to them begging for food at several points in the day.

Some dog breeds are known for having a greater appetite than others. These breeds include the Beagle, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, and Rottweiler. These breeds, among many others, have a higher level of food motivation. In fact, research shows that many Rottweilers and Labrador Retrievers possess a “food motivation gene” in their DNA.

This specific mutation of the POMC gene is linked to increased body weight, increased food motivation, and increased body fat. According to a 2016 study, about 25% of Labrador Retrievers carry this POMC mutation. Interestingly, this mutation often means that these dogs are easier to train thanks to their high treat motivation!

When To Be Concerned

As a pet owner, you know your furry friend better than anyone else. It’s important to pay attention when your pup is acting differently than usual, especially when it comes to their eating habits. If your dog is eating more than usual, there may be a few reasons why.

It’s normal for some dogs to have a bigger appetite than others. Some breeds are just more food-motivated, and certain life stages, like pregnancy or puppyhood, can also increase hunger levels. As long as your dog is within a healthy weight range, it’s okay for them to eat one or two meals per day.

However, if your dog is eating significantly more than usual, it might be a sign of a condition called “polyphagia.” There are many reasons why your dog might be experiencing this, including stress, anxiety, boredom, or an underlying medical condition.

Some medical conditions that can cause polyphagia include worms, Cushing’s syndrome, diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, and pancreatic exocrine insufficiency. Additionally, certain medications like prednisone and thyroid supplements can increase your dog’s appetite.

If you notice a significant change in your dog’s appetite, it’s important to talk to your vet. They can help you identify the underlying cause and recommend an appropriate course of action. Don’t hesitate to seek advice if you’re concerned about your furry friend’s health

Normal Hunger

A dog wanting more food is not a cause for concern on its own. Many dogs are very food-motivated and will work for their food. Several dog breeds are known for having greater appetites than other breeds, too. Your dog should eat one or two meals per day, and they should eat a suitable amount for their size, age, and health condition. It’s also normal for dogs with high energy requirements to eat more, such as pregnant dogs, growing puppies, and hunting dogs.

Concerning Hunger

When your dog is hungrier than normal, your vet might call their condition “polyphagia.” Several things can cause polyphagia in dogs, ranging from behavioral issues to any number of medical conditions. Firstly, your dog might develop polyphagia as a learned behavior – if they are overfed or underfed, they might change their eating habits to match. A dog might also develop polyphagia due to stress and anxiety. While some dogs will eat less when under stress, others may find that their appetite actually increases. This is because the stress response causes several hormones to be released. One example is endogenous corticosteroids, which can stimulate your dog’s appetite. And, lastly, boredom may also contribute to polyphagia, but its role is not fully understood.

On the medical side of things, there are several conditions that can cause polyphagia in dogs. Your dog’s appetite might increase if they have worms, for example, as worms steal nutrients from your pup. Cushing’s syndrome can also cause your dog’s appetite to skyrocket, as can diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, and pancreatic exocrine insufficiency. Lastly, some medications can cause your dog’s appetite to increase. Two common medications that can cause a greater appetite are prednisone and thyroid supplements. If your dog’s medicines are negatively impacting their health and body condition, speak to your vet for advice.

dog increased appetiteSome of the health issues that may lead to insatiable appetite, or polyphagia, include diabetes.

Why Are Dogs Always Hungry: FAQ

Are you curious about why your furry friend always seems to be hungry? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions for more information. If you’re unsure about your dog’s eating habits, it’s always best to consult with your vet.

How do I know if my dog is eating enough?

Your dog’s body condition is a good indicator of whether they’re getting enough food. You should be able to feel your dog’s ribs easily but with a thin layer of fat covering them. They should also have a slight tuck at their waistline. If your dog is underweight, their ribs, backbone, and hip bones will be visible without any layer of fat.

How much should I feed my dog?

The amount of food you should give your dog depends on various factors, such as their body weight, the type of food, and their metabolism. Typically, you should feed your dog around 1/3 cup of food for every 10 pounds of body weight, using an 8 oz. measuring cup. For instance, a 3 lb toy breed might only require 1/3 cup per day, while a large breed weighing 100 lbs might need 4 1/2 cups per day. If you’re unsure how much to feed your dog, ask your vet for guidance.

How often should I feed my dog?

The frequency of feeding your dog depends on their age. Most puppies can be fed three to four times a day at eight weeks old, but by 12 to 16 weeks, it should be two to three times a day. By six months of age and into adulthood, two feedings a day are adequate.

How long can a dog survive without eating?

A healthy dog can go three to five days without food, but it’s not recommended. If your dog hasn’t eaten in over 48 hours, it’s time to take them to the vet.
Can I establish a feeding schedule for my dog? Most dogs thrive on a regular feeding schedule, and they might even remind you when it’s time to eat! Start feeding your dog at consistent times to establish a routine.

Can I train my dog to follow a scheduled mealtime?

Several factors could contribute to a dog’s increased appetite, such as boredom, anxiety, genetic mutations, or underlying health issues. If you’re worried about your dog’s eating habits, contact your vet for advice.

So, why are dogs always hungry? For some dogs, their hunger stems from anxiety or boredom. For others, a genetic mutation could be at play. And, lastly, some health problems can lead to a bigger appetite than normal. If you have any concerns about your dog’s eating habits, always ask your vet for advice right away.

One comment on “Why Are Dogs Always Hungry”

  1. Esther Short

    Thank you. This was a helpful article.

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