It's natural for a healthy dog to be playful, energetic and curious. But a dog incapable of relaxing or constantly in a state of mental arousal may be exhibiting signs of hyperactivity. Another sign is a rapid resting heart rate. Among the possible causes for hyperactivity is diet: The food you give your dog may be causing the behavior. Rule it out with a vet's guidance; otherwise, make small tweaks to his diet to determine which ingredients are causing problem.
Help From Your Vet
Always consult a vet if your dog's behavior is out of the ordinary. Your vet will typically attempt to rule out psychological causes, such as phobias, boredom and anxiety, before addressing dietary issues. Once the vet is sure food is the cause, he or she will work with you to choose a suitable diet. Your vet may ask you to monitor your dog's progress on one type of diet before coming back for another consultation. The only way to determine if the diet is working is to monitor your dog's energy levels and reaction to stimuli, or the food you feed. A notable change may take weeks.
Commercial canned diets tend to be the root of diet-based hyperactivity and allergies. What constitutes “all natural” varies according to interpretation, but so-called natural diets are typically based on emulating that of a wild dog by feeding cooked or raw organic meat and vegetables. Dr. Megan Tremelling asserts that a cooked natural diet is healthier, as cooking kills harmful bacteria and parasites. The wider benefits of feeding an all-natural raw diet are yet to be scientifically established, and debate is heavy. Regardless of preparation style, an all-natural diet has zero additives, preservatives or colorings, meaning Lucky will no longer consume chemicals that might be causing his hyperactivity.
Low Carb Diet
According to the Animal Medical Center for Southern California, carbohydrates can cause spikes in blood sugar that result in hyperactivity. The main source of carbohydrates in a dog’s diet typically come from the grain in kibble, but rice and potatoes also contain carbs. By eliminating carbs from his diet you may notice that Lucky calms down. You may see results before a week or two pass.
Low Protein Diet
Protein delivers energy, but too much of it can result in hyperactivity. Protein is typically delivered in the form of meat, though some commercial dog foods also contain soy protein. Try switching Lucky to a low-protein diet, either by reducing the amount of meat you feed him or by feeding a commercially available canned variety. If you notice, though, that he goes from hyperactive to lethargic, it’s probable that the switch has resulted in his getting too little protein. Gradually increase the amount of protein he gets by adding a little extra chicken to his food and monitor his energy levels. Delivering the optimum nutrition is something of a balancing act.
Life Stage Diet
Life-stage foods are typically commercial pet foods designed to deliver the optimum level of nutrition specific to a dog’s age and activity level. A dog’s energy requirements vary according to age; for example, a growing puppy requires more protein than an adult dog; a sedentary bulldog needs less than a working Lab. If your dog has too much energy, talk to your vet about the benefits of feeding a life-stage food. A balance of nutrients better tailored to a dog's requirements at any specific stage in his life may be the tweak yours needs to overcome a food-based hyperactivity problem.
Sugar causes hyperactivity in dogs. It's unlikely your dog's food contains enough -- if any -- sugar to cause hyperactivity, but the treats you buy for him may. Feed only sugar-free treats, and don't give your dog table scraps, as human food can contain more sugar than you realize. A piece of cooked turkey or sausage may seem like a healthy treat, but if it's from your plate there's a chance you're also giving your dog sugar with the meat, especially if you like cranberry sauce with your honey-glazed turkey or ketchup with your hotdog.
- VetInfo: Reducing Dog Behavior Problems Through Proper Diet
- Pet Food Manufacturers' Association: Life Stage Nutrition for Pets
- Healthy Pets: Getting Your Hyper Dog to Relax
- Cesar's Way: Choosing the Right Dog Food
- Animal Medican Center: The Influence of Nutrition on Aggression
- Healthy Pets: If Your Dog Is Bouncing Off the Walls, This Could Be Why
- Fetch Magazine: Raw vs. Cooked Dog Food Diet
- Healthy Pets: Why Are Pet Food Giants Suddenly Adding Sugar to Pet Treats?
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.