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How Dog Food Can Create Anxiety In Your Dog

Did you know that the dog food you are feeding and the amount of it may cause anxiety issues and other behavior problems in your dog?

You may have heard about the fact that feeding your dog a healthy diet can expand their life expectance and reduce other medical issues such as cancer, obesity and more.

But did you know that feeding the right dog food, and the right amount, can also reduce behavioral issues such as anxiety and reactivity?

When I evaluate dogs with behavior issues, one of my questions is always, what type and brand of dog food does your dog eat and how much.

Sometimes I’m faced with answers that point to an extremely unhealthy diet that causes the dogs to be obese and grumpy which you could point to the same reasons of why you may be grumpy and obese if you would eat fast food all the time.

Fact is, that most people over feed their dogs even when on a healthy diet. The dog food bag in general suggests more than what is actually needed because they want to sell their food (who can blame them…it’s simple marketing and we need to educate ourselves).

Healthy amounts of food vary from dog to dog. But as an example: I have a very high energy 46lb dog that eats ONLY 1.5 cups a day of high quality dog food and he is in great shape.

Most people feed that amount to their 30lb dog.

When you over feed your dog, there are several things that can happen:

  • Your dog can get obese

  • Your dog may poop more than normal, even may have diarrhea (hey, the extra food needs to go somewhere)

  • Your dog’s anxiety level may rise or always be high

You would think those things only happen on a unhealthy diet right?

Truth is, I get plenty of owners that feed their dogs an extremely high value dog food and their dog has major anxiety. When I ask them how much they feed, they may say a certain amount that is actually above what’s recommended (or may be the recommended amount on the bag) but they mention that the dog is still skinny no matter how much they feed. I will then often try to educate these well-meaning owners that their feeding protocol may be part of their dog’s anxiety.

How is the food and the amount of food affecting their dog’s anxiety?

Many processed foods contain either a high amount of sugar or high amount of protein. While the sugar definitely is unhealthy and often part of low quality diets, protein on the other side is not, but both can create the same symptoms.

ENERGY! Food = Energy

Energy needs to go somewhere and often with a lack of sufficient exercise to burn the amount of calories this particular dog has taken in, the energy shows in form of anxiety (if it is not getting obese). Anxiety will burn calories and therefore not create obesity. So the spike in anxiety cause the dogs not to gain weight but create more and more anxiety the more you feed even though your dog may appear skinny. It’s like a kid on a sugar high that goes a little crazy. Talk to parents of children, they will tell you all about that!

While I’m not saying that reducing your dog’s food together with more appropriate exercise will solve your dog’s anxiety, both may play a role in the root cause and it’s something you want to consider.

Ask yourself:

  • Am I feeding a high quality dog food?

If in doubt, talk to a pet nutritionist (not a Vet…sorry Veterinarians, I love you but you don’t all give the best advice in this topic). Strive to feed your dog the highest quality food for your personal budget. Often higher quality foods allow you to feed less, which makes them actually more affordable than you think.

  • Is my dog over weight?

If yes, please talk to your Veterinarian to rule out other medical issues. If your dog is medically clear, please talk to your Vet or dog professional on how to put your dog on a diet.

If in doubt, look at the chart below or talk to your vet to determine your dog’s ideal weight and then go from there.

  • Am I feeding the right amount of food?

If your dog is overweight, your dog may have medical issues or may eat too much food. Please talk to your Vet to figure out the root cause.

If your dog is not overweight but has anxiety or other behavior issues, please talk to a professional that may be able to help you determine if the amount of food you are feeding affects your dog.

  • Is my dog at a healthy weight or too skinny but has anxiety?

If yes and you are feeding a good quality dog food, we recommend cutting the dog’s food back a little over time while monitoring his weight. If your dog keeps his ideal weight even though you reduce his food amount, you may be on the right track of helping to lower his anxiety.

Whenever you are considering making changes to your dog’s diet that may affect his behavior or healthy, please talk to a professional to ensure the well being of your dog.


About the author:

Simone Krebser - CPDT: Owner and head dog trainer of K9 Possible Dog Training serving the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia from Osoyoos to Penticton and Kelowna with result based dog training. Certified dog trainer, certified pet first aid instructor, member of the IACP, dog crazy and chocolate/cheese addict. “My life revolves around dog’s day in and out and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is my goal to help enhance the lives of as many dogs (and their owners) as possible. Your dog is my priority and I’m as committed to your dog as you are. But I can only help those who sincerely want to help their dogs and not only themselves.”

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