Why do Labs eat everything? It’s well known that most Labs love their food, but most people don’t realise that Labradors are willing to eat just about anything and everything they get their paws on.
Excessive eating can be caused by hunger, nutritional deficiencies, illness, boredom, and more.
It can become a problem when your Lab eats something harmful, or when it’s a sign of a deeper health issue.
So, let’s take a look at the main reasons why Labs eat everything and what solutions are available to you.
My Dog Eats Anything and Everything!
Domestic dogs, including the Labrador, are classed as omnivores. So, they can eat and get nutrients from a large variety of foods, including meat and plant based foods.
Dogs are also often opportunistic eaters, meaning they’ll eat what they can, whenever they can!
Labs are known to eat lots and quickly. But, this doesn’t just mean their own food.
Many Labradors will eat anything they’re given. And, some might even eat things they shouldn’t, like sneaking food from your counters and the trash.
They may also eat things they shouldn’t, like household items, toys, socks, stones, poop, and dead things they find on walks.
So, eating everything can become a problem. And to find a solution, we need to understand the cause of the problem.
Why Do Labs Eat Everything?
There are a number of reasons that can explain why Labs like to eat so much. It’s best to consider all of them when you’re trying to figure out which one applies to your dog.
Some are more serious than others.
- They are hungry.
- Their current food doesn’t offer a complete balance of nutrients.
- They’re sick.
- It’s a genetic thing.
- They’re bored.
- They’re stressed or anxious.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these reasons first, and then think about the best ways to solve the problem of a Lab that eats everything.
They Are Hungry
One of the most obvious reasons that your Lab might seem to constantly want more food is because they’re hungry!
If your Lab isn’t getting enough to eat at his regular meals, he may try to find food elsewhere.
He might eat things he shouldn’t, that are bad for him, or he might simply surf the counters in your kitchen to find tasty snacks there.
If you can feel but not see your Lab’s ribs, they’re usually a healthy weight. But, it’s a good idea to check with your vet if you’re worried that your dog is underweight.
They may advise that you increase the amount of food you’re giving your dog at mealtimes.
They’re Not Getting the Right Nutrients
If your dog isn’t getting the right nutrients in his diet, he may try to supplement it with other food that he can find.
These foods might not always deal with the deficiency. But, it means your dog may continue to eat scraps and other food until he gets the nutrients he needs.
It’s a good idea to take a look at the ingredients in the food that your dog is eating.
If you aren’t sure that your dog is getting everything they need, take the food in with you to speak to your vet about it.
They can help you transition to a better food for your dog if there’s something missing from your dog’s current diet.
Sometimes, eating everything they can find is a sign that your Lab is sick.
Labradors are prone to a health issue called hypothyroidism, which can lead to hunger and weight gain.
If your dog is excessively eating, particularly trying to eat things that aren’t food, you should take them to see the vet.
There may be an underlying problem causing your lab to seek out other things to eat. And, it’s better to be safe rather than sorry when it comes to your dog’s health.
It’s a Genetic Thing
Many people suspect that obesity in Labradors is a genetic thing, since it seems to be so common among all dogs of the breed.
A 2016 study found that Labrador Retrievers commonly have a POMC gene mutation.
This mutation is associated with higher body weight levels and increased food motivation.
So, it’s possible that Labradors eat everything because they’re genetically programmed to.
This reason makes it harder for us to solve excessive eating in Labs.
It’s still worth checking with your vet that there are no underlying health issues causing the problem.
Another reason that your Labrador may be eating so much is that they’re bored.
Just like people, dogs may eat things they shouldn’t because they are bored.
If your dog isn’t getting enough mental stimulation, or even enough exercise, they may try to fill their time by eating whatever they can find.
This may not just be food. You may find that your Lab starts chewing his toys and bedding.
Ingesting non-food items like this can be very dangerous for dogs. So, if you suspect that boredom is the cause of your dog’s excessive eating, you’ll need to try and fix the problem.
A final potential cause for Labs eating everything that we will look at today is the emotional cause, including stress and anxiety.
In a survey on owner perceptions, many dog owners believed that emotional eating in dogs was more common in unhappy dogs, or those who were more dependent on their owners.
If your Lab is showing any other signs of stress or anxiety, such as pacing, panting, and trembling, you should speak to your vet.
Helping your dog overcome anxiety, stress, or separation anxiety may help you to overcome excessive eating.
How to Stop My Lab Eating Everything
It’s important that you find the reason why your Lab is trying to eat everything in your house, before trying to deal with the problem.
This is because eating excessively can be a sign of a deeper, underlying health issue.
It’s not a good idea to just leave the issue alone. Obesity is an increasing problem amongst pets over the world. And, it can lead to further health issues down the line.
Try to identify when your dog started trying to eat everything. Did it happen suddenly, or has it always been this way?
Once you know this, speak to your vet. They’ll likely want to check your dog for any common health issues like hypothyroidism.
Make sure your dog is eating a healthy amount at mealtimes, and getting a completely balanced food. They must be getting all nutrients required.
Most of the causes above can be dealt with easily. If your dog is hungry or not receiving the proper nutrients, you can change the type or amount of food they eat at mealtimes.
If they’re bored, you can take steps to fill their days with entertainment. And, if they’re stressed, you can speak to your vet to find healthy solutions.
My Lab Eats Things It Shouldn’t
Sometimes, the problem of Labs eating everything extends to non-food items. This can be problematic and dangerous for our dogs.
Some labs may dig through your trash can for smelly treats, or eat old food they find on walks. And some may even try to snack on dead things they find when you’re outside.
This is problematic for obvious reasons. There’s no telling what your dog is ingesting when they eat something from the street. Old food can be moldy, and dead things can carry any number of diseases.
This is a sure-fire path to a very sick Lab.
There are a few ways that you can go about dealing with a Lab that eats things he shouldn’t.
Stopping Your Lab
If your Lab eats things like plastic when he gets the chance, it’s best to remove any opportunity for this to happen. Choose only indestructible toys and monitor playtime so you can remove any toys that start to break.
Invest in a trash can with a locking lid. This way, your Lab will really struggle to get inside to its smelly contents.
Make sure your counters and surfaces are completely clear of anything that your Lab might try to eat.
On walks, you may choose to invest in a muzzle, so that your Lab can’t eat poop, stones, or worse.
And, you can spend time working on training your dog to leave things alone and to drop things that it shouldn’t have in its mouth.
This can be a long process. But, it will be worth it in the end if your dog stops swallowing things that could hurt him.
Dealing With An Overweight Lab
Having a Lab that eats everything can easily lead to an overweight Lab.
If you struggle to feel your Labrador’s ribs, they may be overweight. It’s important to speak to your vet if you’re concerned that your Lab is overweight or obese.
They can help you find a healthy diet plan for your dog, and guide you on the right amount of exercise to slowly help your dog return to a normal weight.
You can find out more about how to help a fat Labrador here, if you’re dealing with this problem.
Why Do Labs Eat Everything
There are a number of reasons why Labs and other dogs may try to eat everything they can find.
But, luckily, there are steps you can take to stop this habit from becoming a problem or a threat to your dog’s health.
Make sure you speak to your vet if the problem has arisen suddenly. It may be an indicator of a serious health problem.
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References and Resources
- Lemons, C. ‘The Canine Diet: A Look into the Evolution and Current State of Diet in the Dog’, The University of Arizona (2020)
- Luno, I. (et al), ‘Emotional Eating in Companion Dogs: Owners’ Perception and Relation with Feeding Habits, Eating Behavior, and Emotional State’, Journal of Veterinary Behavior (2018)
- Bhatt, S. (et al), ‘Diagnosis and Therapeutic Management of Hypothyroidism in a Labrador Retriever Dog’, Journal of Entomology and Zoology Studies (2018)
- Raffan, E. (et al), ‘A Deletion in the Canine POMC Gene is Associated with Weight Gain and Appetite in Obesity-Prone Labrador Retriever Dogs’, Cell Metabolism (2016)
- Bland, I. (et al), ‘Dog Obesity: Veterinary Practices’ and Owners’ Perceptions on Cause and Management’, Preventive Veterinary Medicine (2010)
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
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