I heard a new reason for feeding raw commercial grinds (instead of DIY) recently from an owner who said she fed the former because her dog was a “gulper.” So, I thought this might be a good time to do a little scrutinizing of this problem of “gulping.”
Dogs are designed to eat much faster than we do. We humans are always wanting dogs to masticate their food, but they actually have limited need to chew. Their main reason for chewing is to break or tear the food into swallowable parts. Their digestion does not begin until the food reaches the stomach. Chewing serves the function of transporting it there by:
- breaking the food up.
- coating it with their very viscous saliva.
Dog saliva contains no digestive enzymes like ours does, and that’s why chewing is so important to us but not so important to them.
HOWEVER, there are dogs that truly do put themselves in danger by the manner in which they swallow food. There are behavioral and psychological components that probably go back to competition between littermates. For this reason, if you have a gulper, it’s best to separate him from other dogs at mealtimes.
With owners unreasonably expecting their dogs to masticate their food like we do, however, it’s hard to separate the normal ones from the ones who really are at risk for choking.
If your dog has ever gotten himself in trouble swallowing food of inappropriate size, or even if you reasonably suspect that he might, it’s probably wise to take precautions. That can mean a couple things that most definitely would NOT include feeding commercial foods of any kind.
An Ounce of Prevention
My last dog was not a gulper, but he tended to haul his food around the house if I didn’t cut it up for him. He was so stressed being in a crate that he would not eat if I tried feeding him there. So, for pretty much his whole life I cut up his food in bite sized pieces. The only negative consequence I could see that this caused was bad breath. I suspect that particles of food lodged between his teeth that would otherwise have been flossed out by chewing off his own bites. These will putrefy and cause the malodor. Other than that, his health was always perfect.
So, cutting up food is an option for a gulper as well, along with hand feeding and/or using a slowdown bowl. There are many innovative new products on the market nowadays to get dogs to eat slower. Hand feeding is something I did for a gulping Golden Retriever that used to stay with me often. When I let her eat on her own, she’d eat very fast, go outside and vomit the food with loads of white foam, and eat grass. If I very slowly hand fed her, none of that would happen. I never fed her any kind of commercial food.
Cutting Food Up Takes Away the Main Reason for Chewing…
So bear in mind if you’re feeding your dog bite sized pieces, there will be no need for him to do anything except swallow. And that’s ok! You may notice that when food is forthcoming, dogs secrete enormous amounts of saliva in preparation for the food’s transport to the stomach. It’s not necessary for them to chew in order to lubricate the food.
If you feel that too much food is still ending up in his stomach all at once, you can feed small amounts with a few breaks in between. I used to feed that Golden’s meal in thirds, with a 10–minute break in between. Really the only indication you might get that your hand feeding is too fast is noticeable gastric discomfort after the meal.
A Test for Gulping
When you begin RMF or any kind of DIY raw feeding, it’s helpful to know your dog. If a dog is brand new to you, you can test him by putting a large hunk of meat down to see what s/he does with it. The hunk must be MUCH larger than the dog could physically swallow. A chicken leg would work for a tiny dog but not for a small or medium sized dog because many dogs can easily swallow a chicken leg. For a medium sized dog, a Cornish game hen would work, and a large dog may require an entire mature chicken, or half a chicken.
If this test gives you any reason to be worried, there’s little to be lost and much to be gained by being cautious. So, cut the food up, feed in a slowdown bowl, and/or hand feed. But you should definitely avoid the feeding of commercial foods for reasons explained thoroughly in other blog articles here and also in the book. And bear in mind that if you do have a gulper and you have to cut up food and feed it slowly, the dog will STILL be getting all the nutritional benefits of RMF that keep vital organs and all systems running smoothly.
The moral of the story is that even “gulpers” can and SHOULD be DIY raw fed.