Does your puppy seem to have a cavernous hole for a stomach—a hole that just can’t seem to be filled no matter what you do?
Are you worried that the type of food you are giving your puppy, or the way in which you are feeding him, is leading to this excess and almost insatiable hunger?
If you answered yes to either of these two questions, you certainly are not alone.
There are literally thousands of new puppy owners who regularly share the same worry as you.
While the problem can certainly, yet rarely, signal a serious health problem that needs to be addressed in your new dog, more often than not the situation is absolutely normal and can be rectified just by making a few changes to the type of training you institute in your new dog and the feeding schedule you had previously established.
To help you identify and hopefully fix the problem of excessive hunger with your puppy, below we have listed and explained a number of reasons why your dog may always be hungry—both benign and some of the more serious problems that can cause this issue.
We will also provide, for each of these causes, tips to manage the problem and some expert advice on how you can better satiate your pup’s appetite while also keeping him healthy, strong and energetic.
Reasons Your Puppy May Always Be Hungry
There are many reasons your dog may appear to be always hungry.
Sometimes this can be due to a lack of food or the improper quantity, but once you have ruled that out as a cause, you’ll have to dig a little deeper into the issue to see what is driving this ravenous behavior.
As we said at the outset, sometimes the problem can stem from something as innocuous as a new feeding schedule, but in rare cases there may be something medically wrong your puppy—a treatable condition of some kind that is causing these always-hungry signs and symptoms.
Excessive hunger can have many root causes, including the type of training and feeding schedule you employ; instinctual behavior; past experiences and bad habits; and a variety of medical conditions, including diabetes, parasitic infection, poor nutrient absorption and even Cushing’s disease.
To help you make better sense of it all, here is a bit more information on these top reasons why your puppy may always seem hungry.
New Feeding Schedule
So, if you just brought your new puppy home, you may be wondering how a “new feeding schedule” could be behind these hungry tendencies.
After all, this is the only feeding schedule your brand new dog has ever been on, right?
Well, not really—you may have overlooked one.
When considering the feeding schedule you have established, you must keep in mind your puppy’s very first food source: his mother’s milk.
This is the very first way puppies are taught to eat, and with this type of feeding, the “buffet is always open.”
During this stage of development, your puppy got to make the decision about when to eat, not you.
And believe it or not, it can be difficult for a new puppy to adjust once that free-for-all source of nutrition is taken away.
When a new puppy is brought home, it can be very scary.
You are taking them away from everything they once knew, and it will take some time for them to adapt.
This brand new phase of their life is the perfect time to begin important training with them, which many new owners do.
Unfortunately, some fail to recognize that “feeding” is also a very important part of that training.
And for your puppy, it is the most important part, since they literally must eat on the schedule you determine just to survive.
Think about it like this, before puppies are weaned off their mother’s milk, they depended on that mother for everything, especially food.
They were taught by their mothers to eat whenever they are hungry, and when that is taken away, it can throw off their systems.
What you need to do as a new owner is establish a feeding schedule that best benefits your pup, and in the early few months of their development, that means feeding them about four times a day—at the same times every day.
This feeding schedule has to be consistent, because your new puppy will quickly learn to depend on it.
And when they get a sense of just when—and where—they will be eating each day, your consistent feeding schedule should cut back on your pup’s hungry tendencies between feedings.
Note: Once you have established your 4x-a day feeding schedule, give your pup only about 30 minutes to complete his meal at each sitting—and then take the food away.
Leaving kibble out all day will only encourage your pup to snack unnecessarily, and may lead to premature obesity and all the health problems that go with it.
Even though your new puppy may be far removed from any wild roots or habitat, he will still have some of the same instincts as wild canines, such as foxes, coyotes and, of course, wolves.
And what do wild canines do in the wild?
They hunt, hunt and then hunt some more until they capture and kill a food source.
For some wild canines, this hunting process can be a very long one, causing them to go days upon days without food.
So when they finally have the opportunity to eat, they do so ravenously, as if this were their last meal.
Naturally, your puppy (and probably his parents) will never have to hunt in the wild for its next meal.
However, your dog still possesses those instincts and shares a mindset with his ancestors.
As a result, when food is offered, many dogs—and puppies—will eat as much as they can, as fast as they can, because deep down they worry this will be their last meal.
They may engage in other similar behaviors, such as hiding food for later and scavenging through trash cans.
It’s in their blood.
Fortunately, a proper feeding schedule, one in which your dog gets a predetermined amount of food at roughly the same times each day, will help him overcome these instincts.
It may take a week or two, but with consistency and a thoughtful approach it can be done.
Past Experiences and Bad Habits
If you adopted your puppy immediately or soon after he was weaned from his mother’s milk, chances are he is yet to have developed any uncomfortable past experiences or bad habits.
On the other hand, if you are adopting a slightly older puppy or newly mature dog from another owner, those are things you should definitely watch out for.
For example, the last owner may have been a pushover, giving in with a treat every time the dog stared and whimpered.
Your puppy may have also been starved for long periods of time, causing him to gulp food when it is available now.
When you take into account any bad habits or traumatic experiences your new dog may have been subjected to, it is even more important that you develop a comprehensive training program—one that includes feeding at regular intervals and a standard, pre-measured amount of food.
Dogs like and will respond to consistency, but when that trust is broken it can take a long time to get it back.
Along with the behavioral reasons for a seemingly bottomless pit of a stomach, there are also a few medical conditions that can lead to increased hunger and food cravings.
- Diabetes. Although diabetes usually targets older dogs, this is not always the case. Diabetes can cause increased hunger and thirst, frequent urination, eye problems and more.
- Parasitic Infection. Parasites (worms) are common in dogs and can be picked up in a variety of ways. Puppies are especially susceptible to these parasites, as a mother can pass them to her pups through her milk. Parasites like tape worms cling to the walls of the small and large intestines and feed on blood and undigested food. This can leave your puppy always feeling hungry.
- Malnutrition. Malnutrition in puppies is caused by poor food/nutrient absorption. Many conditions can lead to malabsorption and malnutrition, including bacterial infections, a lack of digestive enzymes and more.
- Cushing’s Disease. Also referred to medically as hyperadrenocorticism, Cushing’s disease causes a dog to produce an overabundance of the stress hormone glucocorticoid. When too much of this hormone is present in your dog’s system, it can cause them to feel hungry constantly.
Each of these medical issues can be very serious without prompt and regular treatment.
If you feel your new puppy may be experiencing the signs and symptoms of any of these medical conditions, be sure to make an appointment with your trusted veterinarian as soon as possible.
While serious for sure, each of these diseases and conditions are treatable with medication and lifestyle changes—therapeutics that can have your pup feeling happy and healthy in no time.