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Key takeaways

Increased appetite (polyphagia) describes a condition in which a dog is excessively hungry. Most dogs will always eat if offered food, or “beg” for food, although some are able to self-regulate when free fed.

  • Polyphagia specifically describes a change in baseline appetite
  • This increase is often accompanied by other new symptoms such as increased thirst and urination, weight loss, haircoat changes, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Polyphagia can be caused by many diseases like diabetes, pancreatic insufficiency, gastrointestinal disease, Cushing’s disease, or cancer
  • It can also be a side effect of certain medications such as corticosteroids
  • Characterized by obvious desire to eat more food than usual, destructive behavior in an effort to find food, and vomiting or diarrhea due to overeating
  • Diagnostics include physical exam, blood work, urinalysis, fecal analysis, and diagnostic imaging
  • Treatment varies depending on the underlying cause but may include deworming, dietary trials, medications or surgery
  • Prognosis varies depending on the underlying cause
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A closer look: Increased Appetite in Dogs

Most dogs tend to overeat if given free access to food so a voracious appetite isn’t always a concern, especially if no other symptoms are present. This is especially true if the voracious appetite is nothing new.

Increased appetite may be a sign of a serious underlying condition warranting veterinary attention if accompanied by other symptoms.

Any dog experiencing a sudden, significant increase in appetite, especially if accompanied by other new symptoms, needs prompt veterinary attention. An increase in appetite can be very common for many disease processes. Dogs experiencing vomiting and diarrhea for over 24 hours require prompt veterinary assessment.

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Possible causes

Risk factors

Symptoms vary depending on the underlying cause and duration of disease.

Chronic diseases with secondary symptoms will progress until the underlying disease is treated. Examples are continued weight loss with diabetes mellitus and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, or continued weight gain with hyperadrenocorticism. Conditions such as cancer may cause severe, rapidly progressive symptoms.

A sudden change in appetite that is associated with more benign causes, and less severe secondary symptoms, may resolve spontaneously. Examples are an increase in appetite during pregnancy, during periods of heavy exercise which many working dogs experience, and THC toxicosis.

Testing and diagnosis

Diagnostics include physical exam, blood work, urinalysis, diagnostic imaging, and fecal analysis to screen for underlying disorders. Caloric analysis is also vital to ensure appropriate calories are being fed.

Broad-based therapeutic trials to rule out other conditions may be recommended before more aggressive diagnostics are suggested. These may include deworming, dietary trials, or dietary therapy.

Specific treatments depend on the underlying cause. Some underlying diseases are difficult or impossible to treat and palliative care is the goal.

Similar symptoms

Always seeming hungry may be normal for many dogs. Many dogs will eat as much food as they are allowed and will beg for more. Concern arises if there is a clear increase in appetite and if the change is accompanied by other symptoms.

Associated symptoms

Other symptoms vary widely and depend on the underlying disease present.


Malcolm Weir, DVM, MSc, MPHKrista Williams, BSc, DVM, CCRP; Kristiina Ruotsalo, DVM, DVSc, Dip ACVP & Margo S. Tant BSc, DVM, DVSc - Writing for VCA Animal Hospitals
PetMD Editorial - Writing for PetMD
Dr. Douglas Brum - Writing for PetPlace
Hannah Hollinger - Writing for Wag!
No Author - Writing for Canna-Pet®
CriticalCareDVM - Writing for Critical Care DVM

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