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Why Is My Dog Always Hungry?

If your dog always seems hungry, it could be a sign of a more serious issue that requires attention from a veterinarian. Dogs may naturally have a strong interest in food, but excessive appetite, known as polyphagia or hyperphagia, warrants investigation.

Polyphagia could indicate a metabolic problem causing abnormal hunger, leading to behaviors like begging or whining even after eating. Distinguishing between a keen interest in food and an underlying problem is essential for your dog’s well-being.

Here are key indicators to watch for, potential causes, and when to seek veterinary care:

Not sure if your dog needs a vet? Our vet-designed Symptom Checker can help. Just answer a few questions about your pet’s symptoms, and it will provide likely causes and recommended next steps.

What to Check For if Your Dog Is Always Hungry

If your dog constantly craves food but doesn’t exhibit any other symptoms and seems otherwise healthy, it’s advisable to schedule a vet appointment within 1-2 weeks or at the earliest available opportunity.

Dogs experiencing a sudden increase in appetite often display other symptoms. As a general guideline, any alterations in eating or bathroom patterns warrant a trip to the veterinarian.

Contact your vet if you notice any of the following:

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Changes in weight (either gain or loss)
  • Alterations in body shape, such as a protruding belly and loss of muscle tone
  • Attempts to consume non-food items

Causes of Increased Appetite in Dogs

The reasons behind a dog’s heightened appetite are not always straightforward. It could result from psychological factors like stress or learned behaviors, as well as medical issues such as nutritional deficiencies or underlying health conditions.

To pinpoint the underlying cause, it’s crucial to consult your vet. They can conduct tests and ask pertinent questions to eliminate certain possibilities. Here are some common triggers of increased appetite in dogs:

  • Psychological factors like anxiety or stress
  • Learned behavior stemming from inadequate nutrition (either overfeeding or underfeeding)
  • Aging process, as some dogs may develop a stronger craving for food as they age
  • Medications like prednisone
  • Metabolic disorders such as diabetes mellitus and hypoglycemia
  • Conditions like Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism)
  • Gastrointestinal disorders that hinder nutrient absorption, including:
    • Inflammatory bowel syndrome
    • Cancer
    • Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency
  • Parasites or infections that disrupt nutrient absorption

How Vets Find the Cause for Increased Appetite in Dogs

To identify the cause behind a dog’s increased appetite, veterinarians typically initiate a series of tests, starting with the least invasive ones to eliminate potential factors. Here are some diagnostic procedures your vet may perform:

  • Comprehensive review of the medical history and physical examination
  • Blood panels, including a complete blood count
  • Urinalysis
  • Parasite tests like fecal flotation and Giardia tests
  • Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) stimulation test or low-dose dexamethasone suppression test (LDDS) to detect Cushing’s disease
  • Imaging tests like ultrasound
  • Serum trypsin-like immunoreactivity test (TLI) to identify exocrine pancreatic insufficiency
  • Endoscopic examination (considered after completing additional testing)

These tests help vets gather valuable information to pinpoint the underlying cause of the dog’s increased appetite and formulate an appropriate treatment plan.

Treatment of Increased Appetite in Dogs

If your dog exhibits signs of constant hunger, it’s crucial to promptly seek veterinary examination and treatment. Management will involve addressing the symptom of polyphagia and tackling any underlying conditions:

  • Behavioral-related causes may be managed by feeding smaller, more frequent meals and closely monitoring your dog’s food intake.
  • Metabolic issues like diabetes mellitus may necessitate daily insulin injections and dietary adjustments.
  • If Cushing’s disease is diagnosed, medication may be prescribed to manage the condition.
  • Infections or parasites will be treated with appropriate medications and deworming procedures.
  • For exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, your vet may recommend dietary modifications and medications.
  • Treatment for cancer can involve various approaches including chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation treatments.

Prompt veterinary care ensures appropriate management of your dog’s increased appetite and any underlying health issues.

Increased Appetite in Dogs FAQs

Do dogs tend to eat more as they age?

Yes, sometimes. This increase in appetite in older dogs could be linked to underlying health issues like diabetes mellitus or Cushing’s disease, or it might be due to medications such as prednisone.

Why does my dog eat as if he's always starving?

There are various reasons behind a dog’s constant hunger. It could be learned behavior due to improper feeding, anxiety about food, or indicative of a metabolic condition, infection, or parasite infestation. Your vet will conduct an examination, ask pertinent questions, and perform tests to eliminate certain causes.

When should overeating become a concern for dogs?

If you observe a sudden and significant change in your dog’s eating habits, it’s advisable to contact your vet promptly to investigate the underlying cause.

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