Most common feeding behaviour disorders

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The dog does not eat

© Diffomédia/Royal Canin

Dogs suffer from anorexia for many different behavioural or medical reasons. Behavioural causes in healthy dogs include sexual excitement in males in the presence of a female on heat, and competition at mealtimes when a dominant dog does not allow another dog to eat from its bowl. As we have seen, dominant dogs eat what they want, when they want.

Dogs that consider themselves to be at the top of the hierarchy in the home are often not big eaters, despite being otherwise normally active and not manifesting any other behavioural disorders. Anorexia is a factor in many diseases. If the dog is not eating and seems not to be itself, it should be taken to see a veterinarian.

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Why do dogs eat grass?

No one knows why dogs eat grass. Some dogs seem to simply enjoy the taste, while others will consume grass when they feel sick. It is fine if your dog likes to eat grass, but ensure that the grass has not been treated with herbicides or other chemicals, and that only a small amount is eaten. If your dog seems ill, see your veterinarian.


Jennifer Larsen,
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine,
University of California,
Davis Nutrition Department,

It eats too much

In this case, the owner should be most concerned if the dog’s feeding behaviour changes. A dog that eats too much without putting on weight (and especially if it loses weight), despite being otherwise normally active, must be checked by a veterinarian. Some diseases stimulate the appetite at the beginning of their development, including diabetes mellitus. Regular worming is also important, as is quantifying what the animal eats, weighing the dog regularly, and checking the faeces to verify that they are the right colour and consistency.

It eats anything it comes across

Pica is a tendency or craving to eat non-food substances such as wood or plastic. The consumption of grass, sometimes followed by vomiting, is not related to a psychological disorder or a nutritional deficiency. While dogs with digestive problems do tend to eat grass more (some say it is a form of purging), the precise significance is unknown.

 Dogs tend to explore their environment with their mouth, although this behaviour can become excessive. Due to the risk of the bowels being blocked by a foreign object, it is advisable to contact a veterinarian if this behaviour is observed at any time in the dog’s life.

It eats excrement

Coprophagia is the act of consuming excrement. It is natural behaviour in bitches, who clean their puppies and stimulate their digestive functions by licking their anus.

 The consumption of the excrement of herbivores (horse dung, cow pats) is also quite natural, as it contains flavours that dogs find palatable. The same will go for cat excrement.

On the other hand, a dog that eats its own or another dog’s excrement should be examined. Behavioural problems and medical disorders need to be differentiated. Puppies that lack stimulation in their environment often play with the only “toys” they have – their own faeces, which they ultimately consume. In general, this behaviour will clear up fairly easily, but if faecal matter contains undigested nutrients – especially fat – it can be attractive. In that case, there may be a digestive assimilation disorder and the faeces will have to be examined to find out whether they contain undigested fat, starch or parasites.

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My puppy continuously asks for food, what should I do?

One must learn to feed the puppy according to its weight evolution, not each time the pup begs for food.

For optimal digestion, meals are best rationed as follows:

- 3 meals per day until the age of 6 months

- 2 meals per day from the age of 6 months

“Free service” is to be avoided since this encourages nibbling and makes the puppy capricious! Pups that have free access to food at all times, may eventually suffer obesity or experience growth problems...


Bénédicte Flament,
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

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Is chocolate good for dogs?

Chocolate is not good for dogs. It is even toxic for dogs.

Chocolate is a mixture of cocoa beans and cocoa butter. It contains theobromine and caffeine, which are both classified as methylxanthines. Unfortunately dogs are sensitive to the effects of methylxanthines. The amount of methylxanthines present in chocolate varies with the type.

Depending on the dose, methylxathines can cause hyperactivity, increased heart rate, tremors and potentially death. Other effects seen with chocolate overdose include vomiting, diarrhoea, increased thirst, increased urination and lethargy. Early treatment including decontamination procedures is extremely helpful with chocolate poisoning.


Karin Holler,
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

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