Pets

Dog is always hungry. Is there something wrong?

Q: Why is my dog always hungry? He’s not too overweight because I refuse to feed him any more than I already do but it’s killing me. He’s so hungry he stares at me nonstop and follows me around begging. Why is he like this?

A: Is there nothing as pathetic as a sad face mooning over an empty food bowl? Or as trying as the whining that follows you around the house at all hours of the day?

How can he want more after he just ate a big breakfast –– and stole his brother’s food? Am I not feeding him enough? Can it be that he’s somehow sick? Are other dogs always this hungry? Is this normal?

For most cases in which dogs appear unduly motivated by food, the behavior is normal. Dogs have been carrying on about getting food from humans for millennia. In fact, one leading theory about how dogs first became domesticated suggests that it all started by begging for leftovers.

Which begs the question: Is he truly hungry or is he just play-acting the starved dog because he’s learned it gets him results?

It should come as no surprise to every dog owner that canines can be expert manipulators of human behavior. There are plenty that know exactly what it’ll take to wheedle that last bit of batter from the bowl or a carrot off the cutting board.

Other observers of dog behavior attempt to apply a rationale for canine appetites based on biology. They suggest that dogs are simply listening to their gut the same way wild canidae do. After all, food is a limited resource. If you can get it you should make the most of it. Who knows where your next meal is coming from?

Then there’s the theory for “hungriness” that says some dogs are simply remembering starvation. Since plenty of our dogs came in as off-the-street rescues, who knows how much they suffered?

Then there’s the issue of disease: Some dogs can suffer ailments that lead to extreme appetites. Diabetes, Cushing disease, hyperthyroidism (rare in dogs) and certain pancreatic disorders are all potentially responsible for impressive appetites.

Nonetheless, a medical rationale for a “starving” dog is considered uncommon relative to the vast population of “hungry” dogs. Still, it never hurts to ask your veterinarian whether your hungry little hippo might be suffering from little more than a healthy appetite.

Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to khulyp@bellsouth.net.

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