My Dog Doesn’t Eat All Its Food At Once (Solving The Great Mealtime Mystery)

dog doesn't eat all its food at once

If you enter a dog in a food eating competition against humans, it will probably emerge victorious. Dogs are known to gobble down their food in the blink of an eye and still remain hungry.

However, there could be times when your dog doesn’t eat all its food at once. It could start grazing like a cow or only finish part of it.

As pet parents, such behavior could appear worrisome. But is it a cause of concern if your dog doesn’t finish all its food in one go?

Even though most dogs tend to finish their food all at once, there are dogs that prefer to eat small amounts at a time. There are other reasons that can also affect your dog’s eating habits such as medical issues, being distracted, getting bored with its food or just being plain fussy.

In this article, we will take a more thorough look at the possible reasons that could cause your dog to eat this way and what you can do about it.

Should My Dog Eat All His Food At Once?

To further appreciate the natural eating habits of your dog, we will need to understand how dogs evolved in the past.

Our modern dogs are the direct descendants of wolves or the gray wolf in particular. They do share many similarities in their DNA and behavior.

In fact, these two species have close to 99% in common DNA.

Wolves are endurance hunters.

Unlike cats that rely on stealth and a burst of speed to take down their they prey, wolves aren’t shy about letting their victim know about their presence.

They are capable of chasing and wearing down their prey over a few days until it gives up due to exhaustion.

Talk about being persistent.

After catching their prey, wolves will make it a point to gorge themselves with as much food as possible.

Up to 20% of their bodyweight.

They do this because there’s no telling when the next meal will be hence it’s time to ‘stock up’.

Back to your dog.

Even though it doesn’t have to hunt for its food or worry about its next meal, it is in-built into your dog to eat as much as possible when given the chance.

Why Is My Dog Only Eating Part Of Its Food?

One thing that I’ve learned in life is that they are exceptions to every rule. Not all dogs enjoy finishing their food within 5 minutes of being fed.

I call such dogs dainty eaters.

But outside of a dog’s natural eating habit, there could be other reasons that could be causing it.

Your Dog Is Distracted

Cats aren’t the only ones that can be easily distracted by their curiosity.

Dogs too.

Your dog’s sense of smell and hearing are able to pick up odors and sounds that you didn’t even know existed.

To put things into perspective, your dog’s nose is 1,000x – 10,000x more sensitive than a human’s. And it can hear over twice as many frequencies and 4x further away.

If you live near a busy junction or a forested area, your dog could be distracted by all the strange sounds and smells that are enticing its senses.

Don’t be surprised to see your dog forego its food to try and investigate what’s happening.

Doesn’t Like Its Food

dog staring at food bowl

Do you know that your dog is an opportunistic scavenger?

This gives it the ability to eat almost all types of food when resources are scarce.

But there can also be dogs who will turn their noses up when fed food they do not like.

If your dog isn’t too enthusiastic about its meal, it could be that your dog might not like its current diet.

Have you recently changed your dog’s diet or added something to its food such as a health supplement?

Your dog’s nose is sensitive enough to pick up the most subtle of changes in its food bowl.

Dental Issues

We have been taught from young that having strong healthy teeth is important. Which is why we brush our teeth a few times a day.

However, too many pet owners don’t give their dog’s dental health the same attention.

More than 80% of dogs suffer from some sort of dental disease by the time they reach 3 years old.

Many dental diseases are caused by bacteria that is found in plague. Plague is a soft and slimy film that accumulates and sticks to your dog’s tooth.

When the plague starts to harden over time, it will harden into a substance called tartar.

The two most common dental diseases in dogs are gingivitis and periodontitis.

When tartar starts to go below the gun line, it will cause your dog’s gum to become swollen and inflamed. This condition is called gingivitis.

In more serious cases, it can cause bleeding which makes your dog’s mouth smells like metal.

Periodontitis is a more severe version of gingivitis that affects the tissue that supports the teeth. It can lead to the tooth being damaged in the long run which requires extraction.

All these dental issues can cause your dog to feel a lot of pain and discomfort in its mouth. it can even be more painful when your dog eats which is why its needs to eat in small amounts each time.


Many dog owners tend to overfeed their dogs out of fear that they might not have enough to eat. But it could be that you are feeding your dog too much food than it needs at each meal time.

There are calorie calculators for your dog that you can use to determine the exact calories that your dog needs daily. The number isn’t meant to be taken as the be all end all but it makes a good starting point.

But as a general rule of thumb, a good measurement would be 20-25 calories for every pound of body weight. A 50-pound dog would require close to 1250 calories daily.

Overfeeding your dog isn’t healthy as well as it can lead to health problems like canine bloat and obesity

Feeding Too Many Treats

You could be on point with your dog’s calorie intake but are you giving your dog too many tasty treats, unhealthy human food or table scraps?

Anything outside of your dog’s man diet like dog treats should only account for up to 10% of its total daily calorie intake.

Otherwise, your dog would be too full to eat its usual food when it comes to meal times.

Underlying Medical Conditions

dog is ill and in pain

There are many health issues that can affect your dog’s appetite and it isn’t possible to cover of all them.

But if there’s a sudden change in your dog’s eating habits, it isn’t really a cause for concern unless you notice other symptoms as well such as:

  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Hiding
  • Unprovoked aggression
  • Drooling
  • Whining and whimpering

If you do notice one or more of the above symptoms, it might be a good idea to take your dog to the vet for a physical examination.

How Do I Get My Dog To Finish Its Food?

There are a couple of things that you can do to help your dog focus on its food or make it more appetizing.

When feeding your dog, try to do it in an area that is quiet and away from any distractions. This would mean placing the food bowl away from a door or window.

Feeding your dog in a room is a good idea.

Clear the area of any distractions such as toys if you have a puppy as they have very short attention spans.

If you have a dog that is a fussy eater, you can try to add some variety to the food by mixing in some chicken broth. Chicken broth has some health benefits and it can definitely help make your dog food taste better.

Take a good look at your dog’s mouth to see if there’s any onset of dental disease. If you can see redness on your dog’s gum and its breath smells like death, it’s time to pay the vet a visit for dental treatment.

If your dog’s teeth and gums are in good shape, you can help to keep it that way by brushing your dog’s teeth and gums regularly.

Please do not use human grade toothpaste as it contains artificial sweeteners that are very toxic to dogs.

Do Dogs Get Bored Of Their Food?

My friends say that I have the ‘gift of the gab’.

Not because I can speak like a politician but because I can eat the same food day in and day out without getting bored.

It isn’t really a thing for your dog to get bored of its food but it can happen out of the blue.

Dogs only have 1700 tastebuds as compared to 9000 in a human so the taste isn’t really a big deal breaker for them.

You can choose to rotate a variety of meats or food brands for your dog to keep its nose and palate guessing.

If you have been feeding your dog dry food for a while, change it to canned food or wet dog food.

How Long Can You Leave Dog Food Out For?

dog eating wet food

When dogs don’t finish all their food at one time, dog owners need to be mindful of how long to leave the food out.

Dry food can easily last a few hours as it’s so dry and the risk of contamination is lower. But if the weather is hot and humid, I wouldn’t leave it out for more than 2 hours as dry dog food can go bad in the heat.

This is why I don’t encourage free feeding your dog with dry food as the food will be sitting out in the open for hours.

Furthermore, you don’t want your dog to gorge on dry food which can cause canine bloat and become life-threatening.

For wet dog food or dogs on a raw meat diet, they can’t last as long in the open as dry food. There’s more moisture in them which makes it more conducive for bacteria to grow.

If your dog doesn’t finish its food within 1.5 hours, it’s better to throw it away or replace it with a fresh serving.

When Should I Worry About My Dog Not Eating?

If your dog has not been eating for more than 24 hours, I would consider taking it to the vet. This is too long for a healthy dog to not be eating.

However, if your dog has just gone through an operation, it is normal for it to not have much of a thirst for water or the desire to eat much  for a day or two.

It will be busy sleeping from the effects of the pain meds and anesthesia.

Is Eating A Little At A Time Normal For Dogs?

Even though dogs have evolved from wolves, they are unique individuals with their own personalities and habits.

You might have a dog that enjoys eating a little at a time and savoring its food.

Nothing wrong with that.

Some dog owners suggest removing the dog food after 15 minutes if the dog doesn’t finish everything. This is to train the dog to eat faster.

I’m not sure if I agree with this form of training as it doesn’t do the dog any good. Eating slowly can help prevent canine bloat especially when your dog eats a large amount of kibbles and drinks water after.

The kibbles can easily expand to twice their volume in your dog’s stomach.

If you have a dog that prefers to eat slowly, feed it smaller and more frequent meals to prevent wastage.

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