Loss of appetite in dogs can take many forms. They could refuse their food outright, eat less than normal, or regularly leave their food unfinished.
Most dogs can survive for a few days without eating anything at all. In fact, it can help them heal if they are sick.
Nonetheless, whichever variety of starvation you’ve noticed in your dog, you’ll want to get to the bottom of it quickly.
These are the reasons for a dog not eating and what you should do about it.
Health Reasons for a Dog Not Eating
The health of your pet should always be your first concern when a dog will not eat. Loss of appetite occurs in many dog illnesses.
The moment they refuse to eat, the first thing to do is to check for signs of illness or discomfort.
Does your dog appear to be in pain? Are they drooling more than usual or seem dull and listless? Is their nose cool and wet to the touch? Are they panting more than usual?
The first indicator of infection or ill health is fever. Take your dog’s temperature using a rectal thermometer or an ear thermometer. The normal range for a dog is 99°F to 103°F.
Anything above or below that is a reason for concern and you should get your dog to a veterinarian as soon as you can.
Some of the maladies that can cause your dog to go off their food include:
Kidney failure can be fatal, but the good news is that you can treat it relatively easily. Your vet may recommend a specialized home-cooked dog food diet to help your pet recover.
Many liver diseases present with a range of symptoms like high fever, blood in the dog’s excrement, increased urination, and unstable movement. It’s often caused by tick-borne bacteria or viruses.
These kinds of infections can cause your dog to become very ill very fast and ultimately kill them. Often a shot is all that’s needed to set things right, but you need to get your pet to the vet immediately.
Symptoms of distemper include appetite loss, vomiting, diarrhea, and a thick yellow discharge from the eyes and nose.
If your dog’s vaccinations are up to date, they won’t get distemper. If not and they do contract this disease, they have a slim chance of survival.
Canine parvovirus is highly contagious and often affects puppies. It rarely attacks adult dogs as it needs rapidly dividing cells to spread effectively. The initial signs of this disease include depression, lethargy, and poor appetite.
Vets can vaccinate puppies as young as 6 weeks old against this deadly disease. Again if your dog’s vaccinations are current they won’t contract parvo.
This is a sudden onset type of bloat that most often affects deep-chested dogs. The symptoms of torsion are lack of appetite, discomfort, difficulty breathing, and hypersalivation.
If your dog has developed gastric torsion it needs immediate veterinary attention or it will die. Even with surgery, the chances of surviving torsion increase to 70%.
Prevention is far preferable to cure in the case of dog breeds who are prone to this condition. These include large breeds like German Shepherds, Great Danes, Setters, Boxers, and Wolfhounds.
One of the main things that can cause torsion in dogs is feeding them a diet of low-quality, dry kibble.
It’s preferable to soak their kibble in water before feeding it to your dog. Alternatively, stick to feeding moist foods to these kinds of dogs.
In rare instances, tooth problems could be the reason for dogs refusing to eat. Dogs are very good at hiding pain, so unless you check their teeth regularly, your pet could develop serious tooth issues before you notice.
One of the most serious consequences of doggie dental neglect is periodontal disease. This can lead to further complications such as heart and liver weakness and decreased immunity.
By the time your dog stops eating they could have serious problems. Get your vet to check and clean their teeth at least once a year to avoid problems.
Ageing Dogs Eat Less
As dogs get older, their appetites may decrease and it’s nothing to worry about if your dog appears healthy in all other respects.
It’s common for older dogs to eat less due to normal cognitive changes and reduced activity. If you notice changes in sleep habits, strange behaviors and unusual vocalizations in your elderly dog, take them to the vet.
Often a supplement or special diet can help them to live longer, happier lives.
Encouraging a Sick Dog to Eat
Once your dog’s been to the vet and started on the road to recovery, chances are they still may not eat properly while they recover. While you should never force a dog to eat while it’s unwell, you can do a few things to try and encourage then to eat.
Add some gravy to their food. You can use clam juice, tuna water, beef or chicken broth to add appeal to their meals. Pouring warm water over dry kibble makes it softer, easier to chew and more digestible. Switching to wet food instead of dry, or vice versa, can sometimes motivate them to eat out of curiosity.
You can also try feeding your dog small pieces of food by hand or talk to your vet about an appetite-stimulating tonic for your dog.
If your dog isn’t showing any signs of illness or discomfort but they still won’t eat, you can put off a trip to the vet and try alternatives.
Offering them a treat is a good test. If they eat it, then the cause of their sudden anorexia could lie elsewhere.
What could it be? Let’s find out.
Veterinary Treatment Can Cause Dog Loss of Appetite
Some types of medication and veterinary care can cause your dog to go off their food.
Often, dog medications disrupt their digestive system and may cause nausea or stomach ache. In these instances, your dog will avoid eating to avoid the pain associated with it.
Chemotherapy, antibiotics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are the usual culprits.
Sometimes, their annual booster shots or other vaccinations can cause appetite loss and worming treatments may upset their gut health for a few days.
In these instances, a call to your veterinarian will soon put your mind at ease.
You’re Not There for Them
Does your dog refuse to eat unless you’re there with them? Some dogs take loyalty to the next level and stop eating as soon as you leave the room.
This can turn into a huge problem if you ever want to go on vacation without them or need to leave town on business.
These dogs need specialized training to ease their fears. Until they learn to be more independent, you’ll need to make sure you’re home at mealtimes.
Dogs Can Be Creatures of Habit
While most dogs will scarf down anything that’s placed in front of them. You can trust others to eat ad lib – although these kinds of dogs are rare.
Others prefer to eat at specific times of the day. If you change your dog’s mealtime, they may refuse their food at first.
This isn’t usually a reason for concern. If you take the bowl away and offer it later, they’ll probably eat. Rather change their meal times gradually so they don’t notice the difference as easily.
Emotional Reactions to Change
Have you moved to a new home recently? Is there a new pet in the house? Factors like these can cause anxiety in dogs which affects their appetite.
Emotional upheaval sometimes affects dogs in the same way it affects us. If you’re going through a break-up or a major life change, chances are, you could either eat too much or too little.
The same applies to your pets. Try to reassure them, offer them some of their favorite foods and be patient. Once they’re accustomed to their new lot in life, they’ll start eating again.
If you’ve changed to a new brand of dog food, and your dog won’t eat it, chances are they simply don’t like it.
Kibble’s sprayed with palatants when it comes off the production line. These substances are what give the dog food it’s distinct taste.
Some dogs might not like the particular taste of the palatants coating the new type of food.
Dogs find high fiber foods less attractive too, which can be a problem if you need to feed them diet dog food. They prefer richly flavored fresh, canned or raw foods. After all these meals look more like people’s food and are full of delicious fats and oils.
No change? Perhaps the manufacturer has a ”new-and-improved” formula. Check the ingredients on the side of the bag, there’s probably something that’s putting your pet off.
While you’re at it, take a peek at the expiry date. It could be that the food is stale and musty, or even gone off.
The only way to get around this is to make sure your dog’s accustomed to eating at least two different brands of dog food. That way, if they suddenly refuse to eat one kind, you’ve got a backup.
It’s a bad idea to store dog food for long periods of time. If you have a small dog, buy smaller bags of food. Kibble becomes dry and tasteless when it’s exposed to the air for too long.
Be aware of what your dog’s food usually smells and looks like. If something doesn’t seem right, rather throw it away and buy a new bag.
While we’re on that topic, do you know what’s in your dog’s food? If you found out what cheap commercial dog food‘s really made of, you wouldn’t eat it either!
Rather change your dog over to a healthy home-cooked diet that’s good enough for you to eat.
Dogs can be supremely manipulative animals and they learn how to get their own way quickly when we indulge them.
Some dogs won’t eat their dog meals, no matter how healthy and delicious they are, if they know they can hold out for something better.
This is what to do if you have a picky pet:
- Wait it out for a few days to see if they change their mind
- Stick to a regular feeding schedule
- Make mealtimes fun by adding a food-dispensing toy or feeding them by hand as a reward for doing a trick.
- Cut out all in-between-meal treats
- Take them for a walk before food time
- Try a different flavor or type of food
Dogs don’t get bored with eating the same food day after day, especially if they’re unaware of other options.
If you’ve spoiled your pet to the degree that they think they can decide when and what to eat, you’ve got your work cut out for you.
A good start is to change to a type of feed that’s as tasty as the human food they’ve become used to.
Promoting a Healthy Appetite and a Healthy Dog
The best cure for a dog not eating is to provide them wholesome delicious food made from 100% human-edible ingredients.
Chances are you don’t have time to research what’s best for your dog, never mind source and prepare nutritious, healthy, safe meals for them.
Fortunately, there’s a simple solution. Enroll your dog in our premium feeding plan and we’ll do all the work for you.