Why Do Dogs Like to Eat Anything at Any Time?

by Jodi L. Hartley
    Even though Fifi just had a meal fit for a queen, she'll eat your food and more.

    Even though Fifi just had a meal fit for a queen, she'll eat your food and more.

    John Howard/Lifesize/Getty Images

    You just fed Fifi a very generous dinner, but she is still waiting by your feet hoping you’ll drop some morsels of yours. It seems as if she would eat until she explodes, and the things she’ll eat, well, let’s not mention them. Lots of dogs will eat anything at any time mostly due to instinctive behaviors.

    Dogs are natural scavengers. As Fifi’s ancestors roamed wild before becoming members of the household, they would eat just about anything they could find. Their ability to adapt and eat whatever was available allowed them to survive and flourish. Many feral dogs throughout the world today still survive by scavenging. It is much easier and requires less energy for them to eat someone’s leftover hamburger than to hunt, catch and kill their own meals.

    When on their own, dogs grew accustomed to the “feast or famine” lifestyle. When they successfully hunted and killed a meal, they knew to eat as much of it as possible. It could be days or even weeks until they would have another good meal, and if they left any food behind it wouldn't be there later. In the meantime they could supplement with whatever other little bits they found. Even though Fifi gets regular meals and treats, she may still get a thrill out of “hunting” for food—even if it means catching the scent of a cracker and sniffing it out under a park bench.

    Just like lots of humans, dogs eat when they are bored. If no food is readily available, Fifi will find something to munch on, even if it’s not something you would ever put in your mouth. Dogs love to sniff and investigate new things. They are curious and use their mouths to figure out what they’ve found. A garbage can raid is like a scavenger hunt for a bored dog. Not only does she get to sniff and find stuff, she gets to eat it.

    If Fifi isn’t getting enough protein, fat and nutrients in her diet, she may eat anything she can find as a way to satiate her body’s cravings. This is a common explanation especially for eating feces, a behavior called coprophagia. Since feces contain some remnants of the food digested, dogs will eat them for those nutrients.

    Hypothyroidism and malabsorption condition can cause increased or even insatiable appetites, according to Joe the Vet. Your veterinarian can test Fifi for these issues. Pica, a medical condition where dogs eat nonfood items, is especially dangerous, as the objects ingested can cause blockages or tears in the digestive system or be toxic. If Fifi is eating nonfood items or her scavenging behavior is out of control, work with your vet to rule out any medical or nutritional issues and contact a certified trainer or animal behaviorist to help eliminate the behavior.

    Photo Credits

    • John Howard/Lifesize/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Jodi L. Hartley has been a writer and public relations professional since 1992. Her experience includes public relations and marketing for a pet service/retail business, as well as volunteer work with animal rescue organizations. Hartley holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and an M.B.A.

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