Is your dog not eating their food anymore even though they used to down it the minute it was in the bowl? There are many reasons why a dog doesn’t want to eat. The causes can range from misbehavior to serious health issues but a dog refusing food requires action. Without the right nutrition, your pet can get very sick, so you should tackle the issue as soon as it emerges. Here are a few things you can do.
Why Won't My Dog Eat
The loss of appetite in dogs is called inappetence or anorexia. Anorexia in dogs is not the same condition as anorexia in humans. Doggy anorexia can be partial or complete. If your dog is only eating some types of food, but not enough to stay healthy, it’s partial anorexia. If they won’t eat anything at all, you’re dealing with complete dog anorexia. Pseudo-anorexia in dogs is a condition when a dog wants to eat but can’t because of another problem.
First, you need to determine the causes of why your dog won’t eat and here is how to do it.
5 steps to find out why your dog is not eating
If it’s been two days or more since your pooch ate, take it seriously and determine the reasons why your dog won’t eat.
1) Observe their behavior
2) Check their teeth and body
3) See if there are any issues with their food
4) Check the environment
5) Re-examine your actions
Step 1 - Observing the dog’s behavior
When observing the dog’s behavior, check if your dog won’t eat anything or won’t eat some type(s) of food. You can monitor your pet’s water bowl through Petcube. If your pet won’t drink water either, make an appointment with your vet.
See if your dog is behaving as usual or there are other changes in their daily routine. Also, pay attention to their stool and urine. If all is normal, you can let your them skip a meal or two. If your dog is vomiting, has diarrhea, is lethargic and dehydrated, talk to a vet.
Step 2 - Checking your dog’s teeth and body
If you notice broken, loose or bad teeth, or inflamed gums, this can be a cause behind why your dog is not eating. When checking your pet’s body, look for parasites, changes in their fur and skin, and any lumps or injuries. If you find something suspicious, don’t hesitate to call a vet.
Step 3 - Checking for issues with the food
If your dog won’t eat their food, make sure there isn’t something wrong with it. Check the label for the expiry date, check the color and the smell. If you suspect the food is spoiled, get rid of it and offer your dog something else.
Step 4 - Checking the environment
If your dog stopped eating, it might be because they ate something they shouldn’t have. Check your houseplants, carpets, their toys, and any items your four-legged friend has access to. Be extra careful if there are medications or chemicals within your dog’s reach. If anything is missing, and your dog is vomiting or has diarrhea, take them to the vet right away.
If your puppy or a new dog won’t eat, maybe it’s due to a new environment. The same goes if you have moved recently.
If your pet has been spending time with other people during the day, find out if they have been fed already.
Step 5 - Examining your actions
Have you been feeding your dog table scraps or giving them a lot of treats? If you have, they might not be hungry. Or maybe they are waiting for something tastier like chunks of your dinner or doggy treats.
Common Reasons For Loss Of Appetite In Dogs
The list of reasons for loss of appetite in dogs is long. It includes medical issues, behavioral problems, environmental problems, separation anxiety, and problems with the food itself.
Medical conditions that can cause a loss of appetite in dogs include:
- Upset stomach
- Problems with teeth, gums, or tongue
- Autoimmune diseases and neurological diseases
- Problems with internal organs (heart, liver, kidneys, lungs)
- Recent vaccination
What to do? - Consult a vet immediately!
Behavioral and environmental reasons
Behavioral reasons are separation anxiety, your dog is used to getting lots of treats and table scraps, your dog likes to eat alone or only when there’s someone else in the room, or your pooch is used to being hand-fed.
Changes in the environment include a recent move or traveling, absence of a family member or another pet, weather changes, recent stress, or a change in the feeding schedule.
My dog refused to eat for two and a half days when she got a new food bowl. Maybe it’s a dachshund thing. The point is, you should consider every change in the environment and habits.
What to do? - Read about "↓ Treating environmental and behavioral loss of appetite in dogs"
Dog Separation Anxiety
Is your dog not eating when left home alone? Most dogs won’t eat when they are home alone. One reason could be separation anxiety. Keep tabs on your pet’s behavior with Petcube pet cam. If your furry friend goes crazy every time they're left alone, you should learn about ways to treat separation anxiety. Another reason can be that the dog feels like they have to guard the house until you get back. So, they think there’s no time to eat.
Of course, it’s possible that your dog is just not used to eating when left home alone. Or they’re a little bit sad when you’re gone.
What to do? - Learn about → How to treat separation anxiety in dogs
There are some food issues you should consider if your dog refuses to eat. First and foremost, check if the food is spoiled. If it’s not, consider if you recently introduced new food that tastes or smells differently than the old food. Also, dogs will often refuse to eat when you go from home-cooked meals or wet dog food to kibble.
Another thing you should consider is the food's ingredients. If your pooch is sensitive to one or more of them, they may refuse to eat. There’s also a chance that you have a picky pet or that you’re overfeeding them. Also, note the temperature of the food you’re serving, whether it is too hot or too cold food, which might be causing your doggo to skip dinner.
What to do? - Read about "↓ Solving food-related loss of appetite in dogs
Were there any changes to your dog’s diet recently? If you switched foods, your dog might not like what you’re offering now.
Finally, if you haven’t changed anything in your dog’s diet for a long time, this can be an issue too. Dogs can get bored with food if they’re eating the same thing every day for months. After all, who wouldn’t get bored?
What to do? - Read about "↓ Solving food-related loss of appetite in dogs
Solutions For Loss of Appetite in Dogs
For medical issues, consult a vet. Otherwise, things can go very wrong very fast.
Solving Food-Related Loss Of Appetite In Dogs
When it comes to food-related reasons for a loss of appetite in dogs, some solutions can be quite simple to implement.
|New food||Switch gradually to new food/go back to old food|
|Lower quality food||Try to get better food|
|Different food taste/smell||Find out what taste and smell your dog likes|
|Less/more fatty food||When switching food, choose an option with similar nutritional value|
|Switch from home-cooked food to kibble or other pet food||Mix new food with home-cooked food and slowly make the transition or go back to home cooked if possible|
|Kibble without dressing||Add dressing over kibble and mix it up|
|Spoiled food||Replace spoiled food|
|Sensitive to a food ingredient||Choose food without the ingredient your dog is sensitive to|
|Same food for a long time/dog is bored||Mix things up every once in a while|
|Hot/cold food||Make sure the food is the right temperature for your dog|
Treating Environmental And Behavioral Loss Of Appetite In Dogs
When it comes to behavioral and environmental reasons your dog won’t eat, the process can be a little more stressful and time-consuming. Sometimes, you may need to consult a pet behavior expert or a trainer.
Here are some general tips for getting your dog to eat regularly:
- Get your pet enough exercise and attention
- Invest some time and/or money in training
- Don’t punish your dog for not eating, be patient and supportive
- Only give treats as a reward
- Avoid giving table scraps
New Puppy Won't Eat
Puppies are usually crazy about food and will eat anything and everything. If your new puppy won’t eat, be patient with them and try different types of food. Just like the puppy is new to you, they are with new people, in a new environment, and introduced to new types of food.
Here’s what you can do when your new puppy won’t eat:
- Make sure there’s no medical issue
- Try different types of food
- Don’t give too many treats
- Take the puppy out for regular walks
- Establish a feeding schedule
- Fill a toy with food
- Change where you’re putting the food bowl
- Figure out if the puppy prefers you being present or away during feeding
Bonus Tip: Monitor Water Intake When Your Dog Won’t Eat
When your dog won’t eat, it’s important to note if they're drinking water. Dogs shouldn’t even go a day without drinking water. Your pooch should drink at least an ounce of water per pound of weight per day to prevent dehydration.
Your Dog Won’t Eat But Drinks Water
If your dog won’t eat but drinks water, give them a day or two and watch their behavior. It’s possible that they merely have an upset stomach. If you notice other issues in behavior, you should call a vet.
Dog Not Eating and Drinking
Your dog not eating and drinking water is a serious issue. There can be a medical problem and you should take your pooch to the vet. Check for signs of dehydration, as well as vomiting and diarrhea. If all three are present, consider it an emergency.
Your Dog Eats But Won't Drink Water
If your dog eats but won’t drink water, he might have diabetes, a bladder infection, urinary tract infection, or kidney disease. These conditions call for a veterinary visit.
But if you gave your buddy some soup with their meal, this might be a reason they're not drinking water.
How long can a dog go without eating?
Most dogs can go three to five days without food, while in some cases they can survive seven days or more. However, if your dog won’t eat for more than two days, we recommend that you talk to a vet.
A bigger issue is water intake. Dogs can go far less without water than without food. While a dog MIGHT survive for up to 2-3 days without water, don’t try it! If you notice that your pet hasn’t been drinking water all day, check for dehydration and consult a vet ASAP!
How do you stimulate a dog's appetite?
You can naturally stimulate a dog’s appetite, or you can use pharmaceuticals. You should only do this after consulting a vet. Natural options include offering their favorite food, rotisserie chicken, or trying acupuncture.
What can I feed my sick dog that won’t eat?
For feeding a sick dog that won’t eat, most vets recommend bland chicken with white rice or white meat from a rotisserie chicken. Other options are sweet potatoes, unseasoned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling!), bone broth, and meat-based baby food.
My dog isn’t eating but acting normal
If your dog isn’t eating but is acting normal and drinking water, you can wait it out. Sometimes a dog's loss of appetite is the result of weather changes. If this lasts longer than two days, you should consider other reasons.
Why is my dog not eating and drinking a lot of water?
If you think your dog is drinking too much water, take him/her to a vet. Excessive drinking is usually caused by a medical conditions. It can be kidney failure, diabetes, Cushing's disease, Addison’s disease, liver disease, infection, or hypercalcemia.
How to force-feed a dog?
If your dog won’t eat, don’t try to shove kibble down their throat. If you must force-feed a dog to stimulate their appetite, take some baby food and smear it on their lips so they’ll lick it.
Some people force feed their pets using a syringe without a needle. Be careful and only inject small portions of food at a time into your dog’s mouth. Let the dog swallow it instead of spraying it into their throat.
Why won't my dog eat food but will eat treats?
Chances are, your furbaby is spoiled or picky about their food. If they're skipping meals and waiting for treats, they might just prefer the taste of treats.
How can I get a picky dog to eat their food?
There are many ways to get a picky dog to eat their food. Try one of the following:
- Give highly palatable and nutritious food
- Make sure the food smells right
- If you’re feeding your dog kibble, add some warm water, bone broth, or wet food
- Offer home-cooked food
- Cut down on treats and avoid feeding off the table
- Praise the dog for eating their food
- Take your pet for a walk or a run before feeding time