Why Dogs May Refuse Food
How to Get Your Dog's Appetite Back
Your dog has always been an avid eater. As a matter of fact, he has always gulped down his meal in seconds, and he has always made daily trips under your kitchen table just looking for a few crumbs. Yet, a day comes where he categorically refuses his food. Concerned, you start wondering if he may be sick or if he has suddenly become a fussy eater.
Some dogs can be extremely finicky. They may turn their nose away from foods they dislike. Dealing with such dogs may be annoying as owners find themselves continuously rotating between different dog food brands to satisfy their dog's special cravings.
However, in many cases, a loss of appetite may suggest a health ailment. This is why before considering your dog finicky, it is a good idea to have your vet rule out some conditions such as tooth problems, kidney or liver problems, or cancer.
Of course, there are many other health disorders that cause loss of appetite in dogs, this is why it is vital to rule out these conditions prior to simply considering your dog a finicky eater. Consider if there is a female dog in heat nearby, your male dog may no longer be interested in food. Below you may find some helpful tips that may shed some light on this mysterious case of "empty stomach syndrome."
Reasons Why Your Dog Stopped Eating
1. Has there been a sudden diet change?
Dogs may not readily accept new foods. If you just recently changed his food, he may be turning his nose up because the new food may not be as appealing as the previous. In this case, of course, the most obvious solution is to bring back the old food. However, if the old food is no longer good for him such as your dog is overweight and needs a food with less fat content, or your dog has turned out needing a new special diet, simply give him a few days. Sooner than later, his hunger will come back again and he will accept the new food.
2. Any signs of a tummy ache?
Dogs get tummy aches just as humans. It is quite normal for a dog with a stomach ache to refuse food for a day. In this case, respect his need for time. If your dog has been vomiting or has diarrhea, a 24-hour fast may benefit him. His upset stomach is just asking for some rest. Do not force feed. However, if you own a young puppy you do not want to fast him for more than 12 hours. Once the 12/24 hours are over, give your dog some boiled boneless and skinless chicken and rice for a few days to sooth his stomach. Gradually add the rice to his usual diet until it replaces the bland diet entirely.
3. What's going on in his life?
Have there been any recent changes? Has the dog moved to a new place, or is the dog with new owners? Stress may take a toll on a dog's appetite. A new environment can play a major role. Boarding kennels are very used to dogs not eating for 3-4 days because of the new place and the absence of their owners. Newly adopted dogs may not eat the first days as well. The appetite usually resumes once the dogs get back to his routine and gets more familiar with new places and new people. This only takes time.
4. Has he lost any close friends?
Dogs may get depressed and mourn the loss of a companion just as humans. Whether his best friend was a cat, another dog, or his beloved owner, dogs tend to lose their appetite when mourning. Some dogs have even refused food for long periods of time and even died from hunger. These cases may be hard to treat, but some exercise and environmental stimulus may bring part of his positive mood back and with that his appetite.
5. Is there love in the air?
On a merrier note, heat cycles are notorious appetite suppressants and it goes both ways for both bitches and studs. Unaltered female dogs may not eat when they have their estrus cycle and male dogs may be too distracted by the distinct "love potion odor" to concentrate on eating. In nature, dogs may not eat for various days when love is in the air. The same happens to domesticated dogs. Try to keep your dogs away from the sight of potential mates, but be aware that the smell of a female in heat may travel several miles.
6. Are you giving people food/canned food?
If you are feeding lots of table scraps routinely your dog may have decided that people food is tastier. Giving table scraps may be the recipe for a finicky dog. After all, if you were to eat rice every day and then you are offered potatoes, meatloaf, pastrami, and provolone, would you be happy to go back to your boring rice meal? Noooo . . . same case goes on with dogs that for some reason were given canned food and then had to be put back on dry.
7. Are you giving too many treats?
You are training your dog and giving treats as he learns. However, it never crosses your mind that your dog may be ingesting so many treats that he is refusing food because he is already full. Just think how you feel after eating loads of junk food, got the picture? Why not use your dog's kibble instead for training? Kibble is great to use when you are training in low distraction environments such as at home or in the yard.
8. Do you make a big deal out of eating?
Dogs are smart and dogs are attention seekers. Your dog refuses his kibble one morning. You step closeby, pet your dog, and literally beg her to eat another kibble. Next, you are pleading her to eat on your knees. Your dog, at this point, feels like a star. It's like, "Wow, every time I refuse food my owner goes bonkers over me. If I want to get all the attention I am missing during the day, all I need to do is turn my nose from the food I am offered."
9. Does the food look and smell okay?
With the tainted food issues hopefully behind us, some owners confessed that their dogs categorically refused foods that were on the tainted food list but their owners fussed them to eat until they eventually did. Give your dog the benefit of doubt, and check if the dog food smells and looks okay. Also, search for any recent recalls and call your dog food dealer to check if anybody reported anything unusual.
10. Is your dog free fed?
Do you leave dog food out all the time? It is a fact that the most finicky dogs are those that have dog food available at all times. After all, would you find french fries interesting if they were always 24/7 available to you? Likely not. Rather, feed your dog only at certain times. Ideally, you want to feed your adult dog twice a day and puppy three times a day.
11. Are there any signs of dental problems?
Dogs can get toothaches. The first thing vets generally check when dogs are not eating is the mouth. Check for any abnormalities such as red gums, dental decay, bad breath, or even objects stuck in the mouth. Some dogs tend to salivate when they have oral pain, and others may drop kibbles of dry food out of their mouth. Be very careful when checking a dog's mouth, you can accidentally be bitten as your dog closes his jaw. Have a vet carefully inspect his mouth.
12. Are there too many distractions?
You feed your dog in the middle of the kitchen when the baby is crying, the phone rings, and your cats are jumping all over. Dogs need peace and quiet when they eat, and with too many distractions, your dog may lose his appetite. Try to feed in a quiet spot and keep other pets away. Some dogs refuse to eat if other pets are around.
How Can I Get My Dog to Eat Again?
Now that we have gone over some of the most common scenarios where dogs refuse food, it is time to find out what can be done to entice your dog back to normal eating. As mentioned previously, never force a dog that is acting sickly. If it is just a slight upset stomach, let it run its course. However, if your dog is refusing food for more than 24 hours or is acting lethargic, a vet visit is mandatory. A dog that has always been an avid eater sends out a bright red flag when he suddenly refuses his food and does not act right.
These tips are to entice dogs that are not acting sick. Some may work and some may not. If you are dealing with an obstinate case, play it safe and check with your veterinarian for an underlying cause.
1. Warm It Up
Sometimes all it takes is to add a few drops of warm water or broth (with no onion or garlic) to have a dog gain interest in food once again. The warm water or broth moistens the dry kibble and allows more smell to be released. If your dog has dental problems, a softer meal is well welcomed. If you are giving canned food, try to warm it up slightly in the microwave. Make sure it is not too hot by mixing it well and testing the temperature with your finger.
2. Change Food
In some cases, dogs need to change food. Dogs in nature have a variety of foods available and some dogs do better changing foods every now and then. Try to identify foods your dog likes a lot and that are good for him and then rotate them. Make sure though that your dog is not abruptly put on a new food. A dog's stomach needs time to adjust to a different food. Gradually over the course of one week, add the new food to the old until it replaces it entirely. Fail to do so and you may get a vomiting dog or a dog with diarrhea or worse both!
3. Pass Some Gravy
Some special gravies may be found at you local pet store. One, in particular, is made by Iams. They are tasty gravies that entice dogs to eat. Simply pour some on the dish and your dog will likely gulp it up. Be aware though: your dog may get addicted to it and refuse food if you do not have a bottle in stock!
4. Invest in Smelly Dog Foods
Usually the smellier the dog food the better. You do not want to buy a dog food that appeals to you but rather a dog food that appeals to your dog. Stinky foods with a strong odor look like are the most appealing to dogs.
5. Take the Dish Away
Every time your dog refuses food for more than 20 minutes remove the dish. Dogs learn quickly. Next mealtime he may eagerly eat fearing you might take the dish away again. As a general rule, therefore, do not let food sit in the dish for more than 20 minutes.
6. Remove Canned Gradually
If your dog was on canned food and now is refusing dry. Mix some canned to the dry and decrease the canned gradually over time. Sooner than later he will be eating only dry once again.
7. Keep Food Fresh
Is the dog food bag open all the time? Is it placed in a damp area and prone to humidity? If this is the case, the flavor may have gone out the window. Invest in a nice plastic storage container. Nobody likes food that has lost most of its taste or worse has mold.
Dogs that are slightly depressed or inactive may get a nice bout of appetite back if they are properly exercised. Go for a long walk, or entice your dog in a nice game of fetch. Once back inside, he may have restored some of his good old appetite.
9. Do Not Give In
If your dog is finicky, do not give in and offer other foods. Rather, show firmly that that's all he gets. Some dogs are good at manipulating owners to offer different foods. All it takes is that special look to make owners give in. Stay firm, if your dog is without food for a day or two, it is not a big deal. After all, in the wild, there are some days when no prey is around.
10. Add Some Interesting Stuff
Sometimes all it takes is to add a few baby carrots or some string beans to make your dog's meal interesting again. These can be healthy additions too!
Dealing with a finicky dog can be a challenging issue to deal with. However, in the wild, there was never a history of finicky dogs. A finicky dog in the wild was usually either sick or in heat. We are the cause of finicky dogs and as the source of the problem, we must solve the problem. Always rule out potential sicknesses first with your veterinarian and then start a "finicky feeding plan."
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
My dog's food that he's been on since birth suddenly gives him diarrhea. Why would he suddenly not tolerate his normal food? He'll eat it, but it makes him sick. He's eating chicken and rice now, and I worry he's not getting what he needs nutritionally.
The first thing to do is to see whether there were any recent recalls. Google the name of the food and put the word recall at the end. Sometimes, you won't find recalls, but there may be changes in the food. Giving the company a call to and asking whether they have recently changed their formulation can sometimes be insightful. Sometimes, they make minimal changes that can upset the GI system of sensitive dogs.
If all this isn't productive, you may want to see the vet and see whether there's something going on with your dog. Some dogs develop sensitivities to certain ingredients as they age. On top of that, sometimes we think it's the food when there may be other causes such as parasites like intestinal worms or protozoans or other health ailments.
You are right to be concerned about keeping your dog long-term on a diet of chicken and rice. It's not nutritionally complete, and therefore it's meant to be given only for brief periods. It's important to sort out the underlying issue, so that your dog can go back on the food or be switched to another type altogether, based on what your vet suggests.Helpful 27
How can I get my Bichon to eat fresh veggies? She eats the meat and separates the veggies.
Some dog owners have success pureeing the veggies and then mixing it up with the meat.Helpful 6
What can I feed my 8 lb Pomapoo when she refuses all her food and acts sick but still begs to eat?
If you haven't already, please see your vet to address the underlying cause of not eating. Your dog may require treatment for an underlying medical cause. If your dog has nausea, your vet may also prescribe antinausea meds. Generally, there are various foods that may help, but things can get risky as she may develop an upset tummy. Meat-based baby food with no onion or garlic may be an option. Boiled chicken with no fat or bones. Boiled skinless and boneless fish. Ground cooked turkey. Some dogs love canned tripe. Sometimes adding a bit of grated cheese to kibble will entice dogs to eat. Nutrical can help provide extra calories temporarily if she is not eating enough.Helpful 6
© 2008 Adrienne Farricelli