Dog Not Eating? We Can Tell You Why…

By Jennifer Dempsey / July 27, 2018

We all know how important proper nutrition is for ourselves and our pets. A well-balanced diet is not only important to keep your pup energized but it’s also critical in disease prevention and healing. Due to the fact that dogs typically aren’t timid eaters, when a dog starts avoiding their food, it’s often a cause for concern. In this article, we hope to shed light on why your pup maybe not eating and provide possible solutions to get your pup back on the food train.

Dog Not Eating

What Causes a Loss of Appetite

There are several reasons behind why Fido may be refusing to eat. In order to solve the issue at hand, it’s important to get to the bottom of the underlying reason behind the anorexia since each one has a different treatment method.

Not Hungry

Perhaps the simplest reason why some dogs are not eating is that they just aren’t hungry. Pet owners should take into consideration whether their dogs may be getting too many treats or if they are overfeeding them when it comes to their daily food intake. If this is the case, simply cut back. A lack of appetite for this reason is the best-case scenario when it comes to your dog not eating.

Picky Eater

It’s also entirely possible that you have a picky eater on your hands. You may want to try mixing their standard kibble or dry food with something new and exciting on top such as canned food. Some dogs are similar to people in that they need some variety from time to time.

Upset Stomach

Another common reason for a loss of appetite is an upset stomach. Generally, disinterest in food is paired with vomiting or diarrhea. Typically, a bland diet, such as boiled chicken with plain, white rice can help do the trick and ease an upset stomach. However, if you don’t see improvements within two days it is recommended to take your pup to the vet so that they don’t lose too much fluid.

Dog Not Eating

Dental Issues

We don’t have to tell you how awful a toothache feels. Unfortunately, dogs aren’t exactly able to tell us that they are in pain. Therefore, if your pup has seems to have a loss of appetite, dental issues may very well be the culprit. Other signs may include bad breath, drooling and eating on one side of the mouth.

Recent Vaccinations

Vaccinations, as well as new medications, may also affect your dog’s desire to eat. The love for all things edible should return within a day or two, but if it doesn’t, seek veterinary intervention. Fido might be having a reaction to the medication or to the vaccines.

Pain

As you can imagine, generalized pain can also cause your beloved four-legged friend to pass up on food opportunities. Unfortunately, when our pets are healing they need all the nutrients they can get. We’ll get into ways to get your dog to eat momentarily.

Dog Not Eating

Environmental Changes

Certain environmental differences such as moving or a change in routine may also be at the root of your dog’s lack of appetite due to the associated stress that comes along with the new changes. Loss of another pet in the household can also lead to a short-term lack of appetite due to grieving.

Another Dog

Additionally, another pet (new or not) in the house may be an underlying cause for your dog not eating. A dominant dog can cause a submissive dog to fear going near the food bowl. If you think this may be the case, simply separate the pets during feeding time.

Age

Comparable to many humans, as dogs get older their appetite decreases. Additionally, senior dogs tend to have trouble chewing their food and once they begin to lose their sense of smell the desire for food also starts fading. It’s best to consult with your vet in order to ensure that your pup is getting the necessary nutrients needed to sustain a healthy life during the senior years. With that being said, the fix may be as simple as adding canned food or gradually switching to a new food, such as a raw diet.

Other Possibilities To Consider

As you may have gathered, the aforementioned conditions all have relatively simple fixes. However, the troubling part about a dog not eating is that it may be a sign of a much more serious underlying condition.

The following ailments all have ‘lack of appetite’ as a symptom. You’ll quickly see why it is so important to receive an accurate veterinary diagnosis if the anorexia continues for more than 24 hours.

  • Infection (bacterial, viral, parasitic)
  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Gastrointestinal disease or blockage
  • Pancreatitis 
  • Kidney disease/failure 
  • Endocrine disorder
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Respiratory illness
  • Neurological disease
  • Addison’s Disease

Additionally, if you for any reason suspect that your dog’s anorexia is due to poisoning, it is imperative that you contact an emergency veterinarian straight away.

How You Can Help A Dog Not Eating

First and foremost, the number one way to help dogs who aren’t eating is to get to the bottom of exactly why they aren’t currently interested in their food. The last thing that you want to do is discover an “easy fix” that will simply mask the problem.

Once you determine the root of the issue, you can then work to help Fido regain their love for food.

Remedies for an Upset Stomach

Most dogs seem to love eating just about everything, even things that aren’t considered food. If your dog is suffering from an upset stomach due to eating something they shouldn’t have or due to stress, there are a few things that tend to ease any stomach discomfort and help dogs get their appetite back.

Fasting

We know that this may sound counterintuitive considering the end goal is to get Fido eating more. However, fasting is sometimes the easiest, most effective answer. Stomach sensitivity causes discomfort in the gastrointestinal system. This inflammation makes it difficult to digest food. Giving the GI tract a break to recover will likely help the dog feel comfortable eating again.

Withholding food should be for a period of 12-24 hours and pet owners must ensure that Fido is staying hydrated during the fasting.

Canned Pumpkin

Canned pumpkin is great at relieving upset stomachs. Pumpkin has a low glycemic index which allows it to slowly absorb in the body making it a great remedy for both constipation and diarrhea.

(P.S. Canned pumpkin is NOT pumpkin pie mix! Be sure you are purchasing the right product.)

Ginger

Ginger is very powerful in supporting digestive health. Additionally, ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that can help fight nausea, bloat, and arthritis. By decreasing pain and inflammation, your dog will likely feel more comfortable eating.

As with all new supplements, it’s important to consult with your vet before self-administering. Ginger can be a blood thinner so it should not be given with aspirin or given to dogs that are about to have surgery.

Bone Broth

Bone broth is a wonderful option for easing an upset stomach while simultaneously hydrating the dog. It’s very common for a loss of appetite to be accompanied by an unwillingness to drink water. Dehydration will only exacerbate the present issue and should be avoided at all cost.

Pet owners can purchase or make the bone broth ahead of time and freeze it for in case of emergency situations. Bone broth can be made surprisingly easily. Simply simmer a whole chicken in a mixture of water and apple cider vinegar in a Crock-Pot until the meat falls off the bone. If you are purchasing bone broth, we recommend purchasing a brand that is specifically formulated for dogs. This way you’ll be able to ensure that there are no additives and nothing included that could cause further irritation.

Herbal Remedies

There are many herbs that make for wonderful natural ways for treating an upset stomach. Herbs such as chamomile, aloe vera, and nettle provide relief and promote healthy gut health. Additionally, herbs such as goldenseal, dandelion, and cornsilk act as powerful anti-inflammatories and can reduce painful inflammation while simultaneously supporting the immune system.

We want to make sure that our readers understand that just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s always safe for long-term use. In some cases, specific herbs are safe enough to give on a daily basis. However, other herbs should only be given for short periods of time on a treatment basis. Always consult with your holistic vet in terms of what is appropriate and the best way to ensure that your dog is benefitting from alternative, natural medicine.

Additionally, knowing the food product and how it affects your dog is also very important. Some meats such as venison, buffalo, and fish are less likely to cause inflammation whereas meat like lamb, chicken, and beef are known to cause sensitivities. An easy experiment is to simply switch out your dog’s chicken-based food for venison or salmon options and see if their stomach reacts differently.

Although it is more common for dogs to have allergies to the meat source versus grains, some dogs may be allergic to wheat. Also, consider avoiding foods that contain grains like corn, rice, wheat, and soy. We recommend looking for low glycemic foods such as millet. These foods can be beneficial as they take more time to digest.

Illness-Induced Anorexia Solutions

If your dog hasn’t eaten in over 24 hours, we highly recommend contacting your veterinarian. While many dogs can easily go without eating for longer than a day and not have any adverse reactions, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, particularly when it comes to your beloved pet. Furthermore, if your dog is a puppy or has preexisting health conditions a timely diagnosis from your vet is even more important.

If your dog hasn’t eaten in more than three days, the veterinarian will likely have to administer IV fluids and even may even resort to syringe-feeding in severe cases. It is important for the dog to stay as hydrated as possible while the vet diagnoses the underlying cause of the anorexia.

Once the cause of anorexia is determined, the vet will likely recommend a specialized diet for your dog’s specific needs. A refeeding program will likely be recommended to ease the dog back into their regular diet. The refeeding program typically consists of bland foods like boiled chicken and white rice. The food should be fed in small portions, two to three times a day. Again, every dog is different. It is important to follow your vet’s specific guidelines.

If your dog still doesn’t regain their appetite 24-48 hours following treatment, contact your vet straight away.

Environmental-Induced Anorexia Solutions

We likely don’t have to tell you that dogs are highly sensitive animals. It is entirely possible for an anxious or unknown situation to cause your dog’s loss of appetite. If you feel this is the case there are a few things to try. Dog owners should ensure that they develop a specific routine for their pets. Feeding at regular times will help take out the uncertainties of the eating process. Also, do whatever you can to create a safe, quiet space that is free of stress and distractions. This involves knowing your pet well enough to be aware of what causes stress in order to be able to reduce it.

Whenever possible, if you know change is coming, gradually introduce your anxious pup into it, whatever it may be. After all, you don’t want something that could be wonderful and exciting to turn into a stressful situation that ultimately leads to a trip to the vet.

Furthermore, feeding your pup in the same area as other dogs or pets can quickly encourage aggressive behavior as well as anxiety around the food. If your dog refuses to eat, it may very likely be because they feel threatened and scared. Again, this is a relatively easy fix. Feeding your pets separately will allow them to feel safe while eating. It will also reduce the need for aggressive eating which can cause other gastrointestinal issues.

Behavioral-Related Anorexia Solutions

If Fido is used to being fed human food from the dinner table, it’s possible that they have decided they prefer your chicken feast over their own.

The vast majority of the time, feeding Fido table scraps only leads to more issues. More so than creating a fussy eater, feeding table scraps also leads to obesity and weight gain. Fatty foods can also lead to pancreatitis and gastrointestinal upset.  Furthermore, chances are, the foods that you enjoy are not giving your dog the proper nutrition that they need. Our bodies need very different things and your dog’s system needs a meal that was specifically formulated for them. 

In order to get your dog back on track, plan to have 2 measured meals a day. Giving your dog an allotted time to finish the food and then removing it (even if unfinished) will also help to develop a routine. When there is always food available dogs will likely graze throughout the day which is typically fine. However, when you notice your dog isn’t eating properly, it is necessary to keep a close eye on their actual intake until they get back on a solid routine.

Table scraps should be eliminated entirely and treats should be spaced out appropriately. We understand that your pups are the loves of your life, but if you give them non-stop treats, they may refuse to eat the well-balanced meal that their bodies need.

Another great tip is giving your dog a long walk before mealtime. The exercise will stimulate your dog’s stomach. This will also help develop a routine and have your dog begin to associate a walk with food (both of which they tend to enjoy) and get their eating habits back on track.

Dog Not Eating

Fussy Eater

Speaking of fussy eaters, there are a few things that pet owners should be aware of when changing up their dog’s food. Switching up brands and types of meat is totally fine, but be sure to slowly integrate the new food by mixing the old food with the new over the course of several days to a week. Canned food, and most wet food in general, can upset your dog’s stomach if it isn’t slowly transitioned.

Additionally, always ensure that you’re feeding Fido a well-balanced diet that is full of nutrients. At Honest Paws, we always recommend a species appropriate, raw food diet whenever possible. Raw food diets provide your dog with plenty of protein and all the essential vitamins and minerals that they need.

Furthermore, another reason that your dog may turn their nose up at their food is that it has gone bad. Always check the expiration date to make sure that it isn’t spoiled or past the recommended date. In particular, wet food tends to go bad much faster than dry food and should be consumed right away. Any canned food that is left in the dog’s bowl for over four hours should be thrown away in order to eliminate the chance of stomach upset. Opened cans of wet food can be stored in the refrigerator for 5-7 days.

If you feel that your dog may be bored with the idea of eating, you can try switching it up by putting dry food in a food-dispensing toy. These toys are also great for mental and physical stimulation. *Note: These toys should be used with dry dog food. As you can imagine, wet food will cause quite a mess.

If none of these tips work, you’ll likely have to meet with a board-certified veterinary behaviorist in order to develop a plan of attack for your fussy eater.

CBD

If you enjoy staying up on the latest trends in holistic wellness, you’ve likely heard of CBD. CBD has been making incredible progress when it comes to all natural ways to supplement your health. Thankfully, studies now show that CBD can also benefit our dogs. 

CBD Treats

Once your dog’s appetite returns, dog owners can integrate CBD treats. The treats are wonderful because they provide a tasty way to not only manage current ailments but also prevent new ones from developing.

Dog Not Eating: The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, we understand how scary it can be when your dog seems to suddenly lose all interest in food. The main thing that we want to stress is the importance of getting to the bottom of what is causing the disinterest.

Yes, at times the lack of interest is something as simple as overfeeding or boredom with the food. However, anorexia can also be a symptom of a much more serious condition such as cancer or an autoimmune disease (among many others).

The first step is recognizing the issue and then seeking immediate veterinary care. A proper diagnosis is imperative for a full recovery.

We sincerely hope that your dog feels better soon.

Sources

https://simplewag.com/dog-not-eating/#Medical_Causes

https://www.dailydogstuff.com/dog-wont-eat/

https://wagwalking.com/condition/loss-of-appetite

 

About the author

Jennifer Dempsey

Dr. Jennifer Dempsey is a small animal veterinarian and freelance medical writer. She received her Bachelor of Science from the University of Central Florida and her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Florida (Go Gators!) She has resided in the Orlando area since graduation and has gained years of experience helping cats and dogs live happier and longer lives. As a general practitioner, she has found client education to be one of the most important aspects of day to day life in veterinary medicine. Medical writing has helped her to connect with a larger audience and make sure that pet owners are fully aware of their loved one’s medical condition. She currently shares her home with two rescued mixed breed dogs named Primo and Morgan.


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