Why my dog doesn’t chew food but just swallows? Expert advice.
Your dog just swallowed a full bowl of food in one go?
No chewing was involved!
Just a couple of quick jaw snaps… and the bowl was empty.
So of course you want to know:
- Why my dog doesn’t chew food just swallows?
- Is it normal?
- Is it dangerous to my dog?
- And what can I do to make my dog chew its food?
So many questions.
The short answer is: Your dog doesn’t chew food but just swallows because of the dog’s instincts and biology. There may also be problems with your dog’s food. And there may be underlying health issues.
And yes, eating without chewing can lead to life-threatening situations.
This is why this article will tell you everything you need to know about:
- Main reasons for your dog not chewing food
- Dangers of gulping down food without chewing
- What you can do to help your dog chew its food
Let’s do this.
Dogs don’t chew their food for a number of potential reasons:
- Instinct (your dog evolved from wolves who need to eat fast to survive)
- Biology (your dog’s teeth are made more for tearing than chewing)
- Food (your dog’s food may be too easy to just gulp it down – too small or too soft)
- Health issues (your dog my suffer from anxiety or oral issues)
VIDEO: Tips to slow down your dog
Why my dog doesn’t chew food just swallows – MAIN REASONS
Here are the main potential reasons why your dog doesn’t chew its food.
Your dog evolved from wolves.
In the wild, a wolf has to eat fast to survive. It may even need to fight for food.
Also, when a pack of wolves descends on a prey carcass, no one is allocating equal meat portions for each wolf.
So the quicker each individual wolf gulps down food, the more food it gets.
And no, the alpha male doesn’t always eat first.
This is why your dog may (instinctively) feel it needs to gobble down food as soon as possible before someone else steals it.
Dogs have very different teeth compared to human teeth.
Humans have flat molars specifically designed for grinding food into a fine paste.
Dogs, on the other hand, have sharp teeth that are primarily designed to rip and tear meat.
Specifically, a dog has 42 teeth but only 4 teeth are for grinding (chewing). The other 36 teeth are for tearing.
But note that the 2 mandibular first molars (the largest molars in the dog’s mouth) are for both grinding and tearing.
Furthermore, unlike humans, dogs are not naturally interested in savoring their food. A dog’s primary urge is to eat food quickly and fill up its empty belly.
Still, a dog should chew at least 3 out of 7 meals.
If your dog does not chew any of its meals, there may be a problem.
Your dog’s throat can expand to gulp down a very large chunk of meal in one go.
Humans and dogs have a different chewing mechanism.
Humans have a complex jaw structure that allows them to chew their food from side to side. This helps humans grind their food into smaller pieces.
Dogs have a simpler jaw structure that allows them to only chew their food in an up-and-down motion. This prevents dogs from properly grinding their food.
If you have more than one dog in your house, each dog may feel it’s in competition for food. This can make each dog gulp their food as fast as possible. In this case, keep their food separate. Also, consider separate bowls and feeding locations for each dog.
Your dog can gulp down its meals without any chewing if the dog bowl is making metallic or glass noises against the floor. The sound can make your dog nervous and wanting to finish its meal as fast as possible. A plastic dog food bowl may solve this issue.
In humans, digestion starts when we chew food in our mouth. Our saliva helps break down food.
In dogs, saliva only helps moving the food down the throat and into the stomach, where the proper digestion can start.
Furthermore, the digestive tract is shorter in dogs than in humans. This helps dogs digest food way quicker and more efficiently compared to humans. This is why dogs can handle un-chewed or minimally-chewed food better than humans.
Dogs don’t produce amylase (enzyme) in their saliva, unlike humans. Without amylase, there is no chemical digestion in the dog’s mouth.
As mentioned earlier, dogs are not that interested in savoring each piece of food.
This is because dogs only have about 1,700 taste buds in their mouth, compared to around 9,000 taste buds in humans.
Still, dogs can taste food.
So if you give your pup food it doesn’t like, your doggy may refuse to chew it.
While dogs’ sense of taste is not as strong and refined as a sense of taste in humans, dogs can still experience all five of the main taste categories: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and savory.
If you give your dog very small pieces of food, your pup may just gulp it all down. No need to chew.
So try serving your doggy larger pieces of food. This may force your dog to tear the food into smaller bites and chew it.
Why my doesn’t chew food just swallows – HEALTH REASONS
Your dog may swallow food whole without any chewing for the following health reasons.
A dog can suffer from oral trauma following a dog fight.
Getting hit by a hard object, such as a car, baseball bat, or gulf club can also cause oral trauma. A dog can also self-injure when chewing on a crate due to anxiety.
Types of oral trauma include oral lacerations, facial lacerations, fractured teeth, and fractured jaws.
Oral inflammation can cause pain and can lead to halitosis arising from plaque (biofilm) and tartar build-up.
Oral inflammation can be prevented with proper dental care.
A dog that suffers from anxiety can start displaying unusual eating habits.
Anxiety in dogs can be caused by factors such as a new or strange environment, separation, fear, loud noises, new people or animals, and a sudden appearance of new objects like hats and umbrellas.
Stressed out dogs may refuse to eat their food or will only eat a small amount of food.
Some dogs may also eat too much and too fast (without any chewing) when they’re anxious.
Furthermore, anxious dogs may start chewing on shoes, furniture, and other household items. An anxious dog can also bark, whine, pace, urinate, and defecate more than usually.
It goes without saying that eating too quickly may lead to serious health issues.
If you think your dog suffers from anxiety, try feeding your poor doggy smaller meals and more frequently. You can also try dog food puzzle feeders. Feeding your dog in a separate room away from distractions can also help with anxiety.
A dog’s mouth is an area where tumors can commonly occur.
Oral tumors in dogs include:
- Benign tumors
- Metastatic tumors
Benign tumors can continue grow in a certain location but won’t spread to other areas of the dog’s body. But benign locally aggressive tumors can continue to grow and will destroy other types of tissue surrounding the tumor.
Metastatic tumors can continue to grow and can spread to other areas of the dog’s body. These tumors usually spread to the lymph nodes and other major organs.
Both benign and metastatic tumors can cause pain and oral bleeding.
Periodontal disease is an inflammation of the dog’s gums, tooth socket, and jaw bone.
It’s important to note that the symptoms of periodontal disease can get worse as your dog gets older.
Periodontal disease stage 1 to stage 2 can usually occur within the first few years of your pup’s life. Periodontal disease stage 1 manifests as redness and swelling of gums.
Periodontal disease stage 3 to stage 4 typically affects middle-aged to elderly dogs. Periodontal disease stage 4 shows as gum loss, bone loss, and increased tooth mobility.
Younger dogs can also contract periodontal disease stage 3 or 4. The only option for treating periodontal disease stage 4 is extraction of the affected tooth. Treatment of periodontal disease stage 3 involves either tooth extraction or periodontal surgery.
Endodontic disease is an inflammation of the dog’s tooth pulp.
In a dog suffering from endodontic disease, bacteria invade the pulp of the tooth causing the tooth to die and a subsequent infection to the surrounding bone of the jaw.
Treatment of endodontic diseases includes root canal therapy or extraction of the tooth.
Is eating too fast bad for your dog?
If your adult dog has never chewed its food and there are no signs of bad breath, plague, or gingivitis, then your dog is most likely fine. Your pup simply can’t be bothered to chew its food.
But if your adult dog suddenly stopped chewing its food, there may be a problem.
Also, dogs vary in their eating habits:
- Some dogs chew their food while others gulp down big chunks
- Some dogs eat fast while others eat slowly
- Some dogs finish the entire meal at once while others eat small amounts, bit by bit
So no, it usually doesn’t matter how your dog eats.
What matters is whether your dog’s eating behavior suddenly changes.
A sudden change in your dog’s eating behavior can indicate that your dog is in pain.
Common signs of pain include swallowing of food without any chewing, dropping food, or refusing to eat.
Dangers of gulping down food
Dogs are natural food gulpers. A dog’s strong stomach acids can handle un-chewed food just fine.
Still, there are some dangers of gulping down food.
Gulping down food can sometimes lead to life-threatening health problems, such as gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV).
GDV occurs when the dog’s stomach bloats and twists around itself. Once the stomach twists, it quickly starts to fill with gas, leading to severe and life-threatening bloat.
GDV is always an emergency and always requires an immediate intervention from a vet.
Note that deep-chested dogs, such as Great Danes and St. Bernards, are especially prone to GDV.
Gulping down food can also cause choking in dogs.
Choking is a serious event and usually requires immediate attention.
To prevent choking, encourage your dog to eat slowly and to chew his food.
You can try feeding your pup smaller meals throughout the day.
You can also try specialized feeding bowls that slow down their eating pace.
Also, avoid giving your dog bones and other hard objects. These items can break into sharp pieces that can get lodged in your dog’s throat, causing choking.
When a dog eats too quickly, it may swallow large amounts of air. This can lead to vomiting and upset stomach. Dogs with sensitive stomachs may be especially vulnerable.
Here, you’ll be glad to know that there are dog food companies that make high-quality food specifically designed for dogs with sensitive stomachs. One such brand is Hill’s, whose food we recently rated as the best dog food for Poodles with sensitive stomachs. Note that this particular food is also suitable for many other dog breeds.
What you can do if your dog doesn’t chew food
Yes, it may be in your dog’s nature to gulp down rather than chew food.
But gulping down food can cause health issues, including life-threatening situations.
Here are some tips on what you can do if your dog refuses to chew food.
Smaller meals but more frequently
Rather than feeding your doggy big meals once or twice a day, give your pup several small meals, several times a day.
More frequent feeding will help your dog stop worrying about the next meal. So it won’t gulp it down the moment it sees it.
But note that serving your pup more frequent meals can be a challenge if you need to leave your house during the day. To solve this problem, you can try PetSafe Smart Feeder, which will let you control food portion size and meal times remotely by phone.
Calm your dog
If your dog feels that someone may steal its food, the pup may just gulp down the meal.
To train your dog to eat slowly and take time to chew, provide your dog with a safe and calm feeding environment.
For example, if you have more than one dog in your house, consider feeding each dog in a different room, if possible.
Hand feeding can encourage dogs to chew their food.
Here are some of the main benefits of hand feeding your pup:
- Increased interest in food, which can promote chewing
- Better control of food gulping impulse
- Reduced over-feeding
More wet food
In general, dogs chew wet food more than they chew dry food.
So add some water to the kibble to moisten it.
You can also try adding to kibble a small amount of wet food or low-sodium broth as a topper.
If you’re switching your dog to a new food entirely, make sure to change your dog’s diet gradually.
For example, every dog owner should follow these rules when switching a puppy into adult food:
- Day 1: 10% new food and 90% old food
- Day 5: 50% new food and 50% old food
- Day 10: 100% new food
Fortunately, there are dog food brands that make outstanding wet food. One such brand is JustFoodForDogs, whose food we recently rated as the best wet food for German Shorthaired Pointers. Note that this particular food is also suitable for many other dog breeds.
Slow feeders (puzzle feeders) make dogs work for their food.
In fact, a slow feeder will not only slow your dog when eating but will make mealtime more interesting for your pup. A slow feeder may also encourage your doggy to chew food, rather than just gulp it down.
Put a ball in the bowl
For my German Shepherd (Max), I often place a squeaker ball in the middle of my pup’s bowl.
This makes my hungry doggy work around the ball.
This slows down my dog and forces it to take small bites, rather than just gulp down large chunks at the speed of an industrial vacuum cleaner.
Just make sure that the ball you put in your dog’s bowl can’t be swallowed by your hungry pup.
A puppy has unique nutritional needs and so requires special considerations when it comes to chewing food.
So make sure to feed your puppy food specifically designed for puppies. For example, we recently rated Open Farm as the best dog food for Dalmatian puppies, which is also suitable for puppies from many other dog breeds.
Not too dry
A puppy may struggle to chew dry food.
This is why a small breed puppy may need moistened food until the dog is 12 or 13 weeks old. A large breed puppy needs moistened food until the pup is 9 or 10 weeks old.
As you may have already noticed, a puppy has a natural urge to chew.
So ensure to give your puppy (appropriate) chew toys. This will not only promote healthy chewing habits but will also help alleviate teething pain.
But remember to pick chew toys that are appropriate for your puppy’s size. Also, avoid chew toys that can be easily broken into small pieces or swallowed whole.
Contact your vet
If you notice that your dog gulps down every meal without ever bothering to chew, contact your vet to rule out underlying health issues.
VIDEO: Best bowls to slow down your dog
Type of food and its affect on chewing
The type of food can have a significant impact on eating behavior of your dog.
This is because a dog’s chewing habits often depend on the type of food you’re serving.
Dogs tend to chew kibble more thoroughly than they chew wet food.
This is because kibble requires more chewing in order to break down the hard and crunchy kibble pieces.
Still, some dogs gulp down kibble without any chewing, especially if the kibble pieces are too small.
Yes, some dog food brands sell larger kibble that require more chewing.
Also, larger kibble can be beneficial for your dog’s dental health, as it helps remove plaque and tartar from your pup’s teeth.
Unfortunately, some dogs may struggle to chew larger kibble. This is especially true for older dogs and dogs with dental issues.
Luckily, there are dog food manufacturers that make excellent food specifically designed for older dogs. One such brand is Orijen, whose food we recently rated as the best dog food for senior Dobermans. But note that this particular food is also suitable for many other dog breeds.
Dogs tend to eat wet food without much chewing.
This is because wet food is soft and easy to just gulp down.
Still, some dogs may still chew wet food, especially if it contains larger pieces of meat or vegies.
Some ingredients in your dog’s food can also impact your pup’s chewing behavior.
For example, large pieces of meat or vegetables in your pup’s food will require more chewing than foods with small food pieces.
Your dog may not bother to chew food that is mostly ground up and has a mushy texture.
Frequently asked questions
How can I get my dog to chew its food?
Try placing chew toys or squeaker balls in your dog’s food bowl.
This should slow down your pup’s eating speed and will promote chewing food.
Does my dog need a slow feeder?
If your dog always gulps down its meals without bothering to chew, you should consider a slow feeder. The same goes for dogs who frequently choke on their food.
What can I put in a bowl to slow down my dog’s eating?
Any object you put to dogs’ bowl will make it more difficult for them to quickly swallow their food.
I recommend chew toys and squeaker balls. They work wonders for my German Shepherd.
For best results, make sure the object takes about one-quarter of the space in the bowl.
Can I use a muffin pan to slow down my dog’s eating?
Yes, I often use a muffin pan to slow down my German Shepherd’s eating.
A muffin pan doesn’t allow a dog to open its jaws wide. This forces the dog to take smaller portions of food. Muffin pans are especially effective for soft food.
Why are slow feeders good for dogs?
In addition to slowing down your dog’s eating, a slow feeder can provide tons of fun and mental stimulation for your hungry pup.
Why my dog doesn’t chew his food even with a slow feeder?
There may be several reasons why dogs don’t chew their food despite eating it from a slow feeder.
For example, the food is too small or too soft. So consider feeding your pup larger kibble.
But note that gulping down meals without any chewing may also be a sign of underlying health issues (check the above article for more details on this).
If you think your dog is not chewing for health reasons, consider contacting your vet.
By the way, I have extensive experience in dealing with a dog that suddenly stopped chewing its food.
I watched with horror as my German Shepherd (Max) started swallowing giant chunks of wet food and kibble without bothering to chew it first.
So I took my dog to a vet.
It turned out that my pup had a fractured tooth.
This is why my dog was quickly gulping down food without chewing to avoid more pain coming from its troubled tooth.
Long story short, Max no longer devours its meals without chewing!
To ensure my dog continuous chewing food, I regularly use slow feeders (more on this in the article).
So yes, this article in not only based on scientific research and expert opinions, but also on my extensive personal experience in helping my poor dog to resume chewing its food.
You wanted to know: Why my dog doesn’t chew food just swallows?
As you learned in this article, there may be various reasons for this behavior:
- The dog’s instincts and biology
- The dog’s environment
- Problems with your dog’s food
- Underlying health issues
You also found that that eating without chewing can lead to life-threatening situations.
This is why this article told you everything you need to know about:
- Main reasons for your dog not chewing food
- Dangers of gulping down food without chewing
- What you can do to help your dog chew its food
I hope that all this information will help your dog enjoy a healthy and happy life!
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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of illness, pain, or distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.