One of the hallmarks of a first-time greyhound owner is that he is astounded at how fast his greyhound eats. If your dog does so, should you be concerned?
If your greyhound eats too fast, you can keep him safe by making sure he does not choke or bloat, which is often fatal. Many greyhounds eat fast without any problems. If, however, yours tends to choke, cough, spit up, or burp excessively during or after eating, he may be swallowing air. In this case, slow him down with a different feeding system and a calmer environment.
Here you will learn how fast is TOO fast, and what to do about it.
My greyhound, Shannon, used to wolf down his food in two minutes flat. One could actually see the outline of each unchewed mouthful, rolling down his gullet in tennis-ball sized lumps. Then, he’d lie down on his bed, gaze at me gratefully, let out a modest burp, and stretch out for a good nap. He was a very low-key dog, so none of this was done with any frenzy. It was all very methodical, and we never had a problem.
So, the first thing you want to do is assess whether your dog is eating in a rush, or is merely the model of efficiency, like our Shannon. Above all, make sure your greyhound relaxes for an hour after eating.
NEVER release him into the yard or allow him to play right after eating.
Hazards to a Greyhound Who Eats Too Fast
Choking and vomiting are the most obvious concerns here. A lesser concern with greyhounds is that the unchewed food won’t absorb as well, and he will miss out on important nutrients. This last one, though a problem for many breeds, does not tend to present itself with greyhounds.
The two things which are more problematic are taking in too much food at once, and swallowing air. These are the two chief things that can lead to bloat, a fast-paced medical emergency where the stomach twists inside the greyhound’s big rib cage.
Typically, swallowing air is harmless. Most greyhounds, if they do swallow air, will do like my Shannon – Lumber to his bed, lay down gently, and release that air in one easy burp. If he is active, however, a stomach full of air and food is a bloat hazard.
I want to stress that bloat is not common in greyhounds. It is, however, extremely dangerous and often fatal; which is why every greyhound owner should know how to prevent it and what its symptoms are.
Symptoms of Bloat in a Greyhound
The chief symptoms to watch for are …
…According to the AKC, “a dog with true GDV will retch and vomit mostly foam, rarely food.” ***CALL VET AT THIS SYMPTOM***DO NOT WAIT TO SEE IF HE IMPROVES***
…back may arch, while head goes down,
…stomach is distended and painful.
How to Deal with a Dog Who Eats too Fast
It’s important to keep in mind that this is not “a retired racer thing.” Dr. Marty Becker DVM states that “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.” Eating too fast can be a hazardous behavior for any deep-chested dog.
Just Add Water!
Far and away, the healthiest solution for slowing down the wolfing is to add 8 oz. of water to your greyhound’s food. This wil keep him from getting those huge mouthfuls of food. He will have to lap it up, which will slow him down naturally. It also has the side-benefit of adding water to his diet, which can be difficult for this breed, who are notoriously poor drinkers.
Smaller, More Frequent Feedings
Years ago, our vet advised me to break Peaches’ meal into two daily feedings, because she had trouble with her digestion. This really helped a lot; and I have done this with my greyhounds ever since.
If I need to crate my dog, because I am going to be away for the day, I will break it into three even smaller feedings, so she won’t be laying around with a full tummy or a lot of food pushing on her bowels.
Try a Change in the Bowl
This could mean – literally – IN the bowl! A very popular solution to slow down a speed-eater is to place a couple of large stones in the dog’s bowl. Having to work around the stones will slow him down and make him take smaller bites, as well.
Be sure to choose stones that are definitely too big for him to swallow, and give them a thorough cleaning before (and after) using them. They may even be dishwasher-safe! Speaking of cleaning, some owners use tennis balls, instead, which I think is a rather unhygenic idea – How would you keep them sanitary?
You can also change to a new type bowl. Many owners use a spiral slow-feeder bowl. This bowl comes in several patterns, but the spiral seems to be the favorite among greyhound owners. It is a plastic bowl with a raised structure, around which the dog has to eat. Same idea as the rocks, basically.
There are two problems with the spiral bowl. First, they cost about $17 each, and who wants to have just one bowl? Second, the bowl is made out of plastic, an inferior choice for any pet’s bowl. Plastic is prone to scratches, which can harbor dangerous bacteria.
If you’d like to learn more about what’s lurking in those scratches, and how it could harm your greyhound, check out this article. It’s a large resource about preventing UTI’s. Scroll down to the 2nd part, about Hydration:
My final issue with the spiral bowl is that, if you use a feeding stand, it won’t fit!
Raised Feeding: Good or Bad?
Speaking of feeding stands, I ran into an interesting tidbit of info, while researching this article – There is, apparently, some controversy as to whether it’s helpful or harmful! Yes, you read that right. What was once considered the gold standard in feeding our greyhounds has now been called into question. The only problem is, nobody seems to know by whom, or by what source! I ran into this quote, over and over, that “current/recent research shows raised feeding to be more, not less of a choking hazard to your dog.’
I’ve been using a feeding stand for over 20 years. My first greyhound seemed uncomfortable eating from floor-level, so I bought one. Peaches was always a bit of a picky eater, and this did help, somewhat.
Gravity would dictate that having a deep-chested dog pitched forward and down would be more of a problem. This logic, and the fact that the “findings” are nowhere to be found, are the reason that I will be keeping my feeding stand, thank you.
For arthritic or older greyhounds, raised feeding is clearly more comfortable. If you’ve ever seen your greyhound’s front legs quiver when they bend to the floor, this is obvious.
Better Dining Environment for the Nervous Greyhound
Dr. Laura Sullivan MRCVS says that “stressed, nervous or very excitable dogs are more prone. In particular ensure meal times are as calm as possible and try to avoid competition between dogs when eating.”
My last two greyhounds have been fast eaters simply because they really enjoy their food. Peaches, however, was an entirely different story. She was a spook (a greyhound who is, genetically, of fearful disposition). She hated eating in front of people, and would blast through her food, and skitter away as quickly as possible. In her case, the solution was to find for her a quiet, little nook, where she could dine, undisturbed.
This worked very well for Peaches. It’s also recommended if you have multiple dogs creating a chaotic eating situation.
When to Call the Vet
As mentioned before, call right away if you ever suspect bloat. Your vet will ABSOLUTELY make time for you, if there is a possibility of bloat. Better safe than sorry.
Another case in which you should call your vet is if your dog has eaten a very large quantity at once, especially of any type of dry food. Dry foods, such as kibble, can expand dangerously in his stomach.
If this is the case, your vet may tell you to use hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting. If he does, ask him to recommend the amount, and break out the turkey baster.
Resources for More Info
More from the AKC on speed-eaters –
Dr. Marty Becker –
Dr Laura Sullivan MRCVS –