Friday, July 8, 2011

Training Animals to Readily Eat

About two years ago, I woke up to Blaze vomiting. He did not eat food offered to him.  It could have just been a bad day.  He has always been a dog to eat right away when food is presented. If he had vomited from eating something bad...he most likely would have still eaten his meal when offered. I knew something was very wrong and immediately contacted our vet.  The vet thought my initial concern of an obstruction was a bit hasty, but the next day Blaze was in surgery. It was an obstruction....from eating a clump of wild animal hair.

At the vet conference this year, both Kathy Sdao and Ken Ramirez talked about the importance of training animals to eat readily when food is presented.  In their lines of work, with exotic animals, a missed meal may be the first sign that something isn't right.  Early vet intervention can be crucial and especially as many animals do not display discomfort until the condition fairly serious.

With our dogs and even cats, provided everything else seems normal, we get told that not eating isn't a huge deal, offer food later and don't worry. And in reality it's often not an issue.

But think of the advantage you have with a reliable eater.  One missed meal and you're very attentive for anything else abnormal.  If your pet doesn't eat well?   Only bigger signs will stand out and get your attention....probably when things are more serious.  

Blaze is very enthusiastic about eating when fed.  Luna hasn't always  been, but currently will eat within 10-15 minutes. I don't know when she last missed a meal.   Griffin is not so great.  It's nice that he will stop eating when he is full, it's also really annoying. If we don't have our usual activity level, he won't be as hungry, he won't eat much.  If we have more than the usual activity level, he gets very, very hungry and a bit noisy and wild.

A few things we think about to get better eaters:
- Check with your vet to rule out any medical complications.
- Be sure you are feeding your pet the proper amount. Many animals who do not eat readily are getting more food than they should have.
- For a period of 2-3+ weeks, have your pet work for all his food through training or food toys.  By training, I don't mean, "Sit" and put down the bowl.  I have the dog do a behavior for a few pieces of food...and work through the meals.  We get HUGE improvement this way.
- For meals fed in a bowl, divide meals into smaller portions so that the animal does eat everything offered.
- During the training period, up the exercise 25+% or more (if your vet okay's it).  This will make it a bit harder to determine the amount of food for your pet, but it can help get your pet eating more readily.
- Have your pet eat a small amount of food from a bowl. When the bowl is empty (of the 5-10 pieces or whatnot), give a great treat or play ball or whatever else your pet loves.
-  Do not have food freely available.

No comments: